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Man Utd pile on agony for Wenger

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Phil McNulty | 01:32 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were inches apart but heading in opposite directions - one pondering fresh possibilities to make history and the other starting a critical period of soul-searching.

Manchester United had brushed Arsenal aside with a savagery, speed and ruthlessness that had plenty of observers at the Emirates labelling it as this sport's equivalent of Manny Pacquiao's demolition of Ricky Hatton.

So while Ferguson was presented with the possibility of making Manchester United the first club to successfully defend the Champions League, Wenger was dealing with the pain of four years without a trophy and the problem of how to bridge the gaping chasm between these two clubs.

The scale of this defeat was etched on the lines of Wenger's face as he attempted to come to terms with the blow he and Arsenal had just suffered in the aftermath of what might be a pivotal night for his club.

Wenger boldly promised those gathering at the Emirates that they would see "a magnificent performance". They saw one all right - but they saw it from Manchester United.

Ferguson, in a masterpiece of understatement, reacted to what was effectively a 3-1 thrashing by annoucing that his team "has got a lot going for it".

Manchester United's players applaud their fans after the crushing win at the Emirates

He was not kidding. It has Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo going for it, plus the real chance of winning the Premier League and Champions League for the second successive season.

And Ferguson was as unforgiving as his team as he sat in the Emirates media theatre reciting the list of qualities exemplified by this Manchester United performance: "Ambition... hunger... drive... ability to play under pressure... when the chips are down they don't let me down."

And so it went on. It would not have made happy listening for Wenger as he waited in the wings for Ferguson to finish. Verbal blows were being layered on top of the footballing beating that had just been handed out to Arsenal.

Of course Wenger rightly highlighted young Kieran Gibbs' early slip that gifted United's first goal to Ji-Sung Park, the moment when a cacophony of sound swirling around the Emirates was silenced after only eight minutes and a few thousand feet were added to Arsenal's already mountainous task.

Manuel Almunia's case to become England's number one keeper - and this particular bandwagon should stop rolling now on a matter of principle as well as ability - suffered a blow with his a slow-motion reaction to a 41-yard free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Only 11 minutes gone. United two up. Arsenal were shell-shocked and the thousands of flags distributed around the Emirates to crank up the atmosphere were being quietly tucked away under seats.

The rest was merely a question of bearing witness to United's procession to the final in Rome against either Chelsea or Barcelona - but it was a procession decorated by a goal that ranks alongside any in this or any other season.

Even in places where praise for Manchester United and Ferguson is always grudging, United's third goal must be beyond dispute as a thing of footballing beauty. It was a portrait of the game at its finest.

United struck from an Arsenal corner after 61 minutes when Ronaldo - 20 yards from his own goal - found Ji-Sung Park with an audacious flick, who in turn played in Rooney.

Rooney then passed on an open invitation for someone to score, and that someone turned out to be Ronaldo, who had raced 70 yards at blinding speed and still retained enough composure to lift his finish over Almunia.

It takes almost as long to describe it as it did to score it. It was that fast, that clinical, that good.

This was more than some Arsenal fans could take as the exits suddenly got busy, but it was an illustration of Ronaldo's importance to United on a day when he was once again touted as a summer depature.

United would be as foolish to sell him as he would be to sign for Real Madrid. And fine player though his alleged replacement Franck Ribery might be, I do not recall him producing a performance as all-encompassing and defining as this.

We have all raged at Ronaldo's posturing at stages this season, Manchester United fans included, but here he was at the top of his game. Arsenal sought him here, there and everywhere as he played as a lone striker with Rooney handed a left-flank role.

They sought him in vain as he operated with pace, poise and a deadly finishing touch that made a mockery of the old allegations that he was never able to shape the biggest games in the Champions League.

Darren Fletcher's undeserved red card was United's only moment of discomfort - but for Wenger the painful process of assessment and rebuilding must now begin.

Wenger was uncharacteristically upbeat after Arsenal were outplayed at Old Trafford last week and was equally bullish in the verbal exchanges before this game.

None of what he said about how Arsenal would turn this tie around was backed up by anything seen in the first leg. Why the positive message? Did he know something?

Maybe he did. Maybe he knew he had to be positive for his Arsenal team because they were having trouble being positive for themselves - it could be an argument with merit because they never carried a sense of belief with them in either of these games.

Cesc Fabregas' body language says it all as Manchester United dominate

Arsenal's season is effectively over and they are exactly what they are. They are the fourth best team in the Premier League and a club that, in its current guise, will make the later stages of the Champions League but never win it.

The Carling Cup and the FA Cup will always be realistic targets for Arsenal, at least this version of Arsenal, but the Premier League and the Champions League? No. Sorry.

Arsenal are currently behind United (obviously) but also Liverpool and Chelsea and Wenger will need to work the markets with the expertise of old to stop the gap widening to an unmanageable level.

Wenger admitted this night ranked alongside the most disappointing of his career - but the wounds were too fresh to consider the long-term future for Arsenal's team.

He did hint at change, however, when he said: "We were on a consistent run, but recently in games the games where it mattered like the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and tonight we couldn't win and that, of course, needs thinking."

The body language was that of a manager who had been cruelly and closely acquainted with the vast superiority of the team he must overhaul if he is to cure his obsession with bringing the Champions League to Arsenal.

It would have been a hard heart that did not feel sympathy for Wenger, a manager full of the finest football principles who has produced great teams and loves to pack them full of young players with potential.

But when does unfulfilled potential simply become a substitute phrase for failure? Four seasons without a trophy comes pretty close and Arsenal will continue to come up short unless Wenger takes decisive action this summer.

A midfielder of presence and authority is needed to go alongside Cesc Fabregas in midfield, while a central defender in a similar mould must also be a priority. And that is just the start - while also ensuring his best players stay in north London.

This was a chastening night for Wenger and Arsenal. The Gunners are empty-handed again. Almost but not quite - again. The hurt may well linger through the summer until the start of next season.

No such worries for United. They have become turbo-charged almost from the moment Howard Webb awarded them that dubious penalty against Spurs.

It acted as a reviving force for them and history is now ready to embrace Manchester United and Ferguson in again in Rome.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    first comment?

    well done united, i hope they get Barca in the final.

    And Arsenal, i really hope they show that promise in the next few years and don't lose their best players.

    Sorry for Fletcher though, he didn't deserve to go and maybe the ref could have used a bit of common sense

  • Comment number 2.

    As a manchester united fan, yesterday was a special night. the gulf in class between the two teams was there for everyone to see. most importantly however, is whether Arsene wenger learned something from that game
    1. The depth of a squad is really important if you are to challenge for english and european honours (Man u won with giggs, scholes, tevez and berbatov all out off the starting eleven)
    2. Pretty football with no goals takes you nowhere
    3. Will it is okay to develop young talent, it is equally important to retain then when they hit their peak. case in point hleb and flamini

  • Comment number 3.

    Utd played well, but it was a large slice of good fortune that turned the game heavily in their favour. A slip by a defender from a nothing cross and a soft free kick, though magnificently dispatched.


    They never really looked like losing this semi even in the 1st leg.

    I do agree with Phil that the penalty decision seems to have restarted Utd as I (as a Liverpool fan) feared it would. There was something different about the comeback vs Spurs to the one vs Villa. You felt that once they got the lucky pen they thought "we have been given our last chance" and they have taken it.

    I wouldnt like to call who will win the final. I said yesterday that I wanted Arsenal and Barca as they play the best football. On last nights performance Utd vs Barca would be best. Though I think Utd will have more chance of beating Barca than Chelsea. Hiddink is a master at these sort of competitions and it will be all Chelsea have to play for, were as Utd will have to fight off Liverpool for the league title as well.

    I do worry for Arsenal. Often in the past when they have played poor they have shown glimses of their potential and natural talent. It didnt look there at all last night. The players simply didnt look good enough. And that wasnt aided by the fact that Van Persie clearly wasnt fit and Fabregas and Walcott have not fully rediscovered their form since their injuries.

  • Comment number 4.

    I imagine there will be articles written in some of the newspapers suggesting Wenger can take Arsenal no further, and it is now time for a new manager. I must admit he cut a very uninspirational looking figure on the bench last night, and that should be a concern to Arsenal fans.

    But unless Arsenal suddenly decide to become a big spending club, then surely they have to persevere with Wenger, who is still one of the best operators in the transfer market, and still one of the few managers that can build and develop a team to compete at the top level, but on a limited budget.

  • Comment number 5.

    The difference in class between the two teams was obvious over the two legs. Arsenal fans might want to talk about slips and goalkeeping howlers, but United were just too good overall.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Manuel Almunia's case to become England's number one keeper...this particular bandwagon should stop rolling now on a matter of principle as well as ability"

    Name a keeper who doesn't make mistakes?

    Cech, Van Der Sar, Reina have all made high profile errors this season - as the last line of defence keeper errors are easily noticed. You're wrong to use this as a case to question Alumina's ability, he's had another fantastic season. Besides it was an excellent free-kick from Ronaldo.

    As for your "matter of principle"...as the likes of France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Germany (all rivals to England) use naturalised players to improve their sides it's high time the FA got with the times. We have no recognised number 1 keeper so giving Almunia a chance makes a lot of sense.

    But no, let's stick with the sentimental argument shall we?

    I guess you also once believed the England manager must be English too?

  • Comment number 7.

    Arsenal were clearly beaten by a better team. The clubs failure for 4 seasons running is down to its Directors who for reasons known to them have refused to bring in the much needed funds to buy quality players.

    hope their open courting of stan kreonke will gift arsenal some funds. Wenger needs quality strikers, a world class defender and midfileder. In his defence injuries to Clichy and Gallas killed them. But it's a squad game, isn't it?

    Credit to united, would like to see them meet Barca in final. Will be a cracker

  • Comment number 8.

    good Morning Phil and Fellow Gunners.

    Not a bad piece and sums up Arsenal this season. Again we are the nearly boys!.

    Firstly, no one can blame Gibbs for his slip! that was most unfortunate and gifted man u the perfect start. However what followed can and should be critisised.

    Just how did the free kick get past the keeper? answer lack of concentration ! and its not the first time keepers playing for Arsenal have been caught out by speculative long range efforts. I can think of many times in crucial games our keepers have cost us dearly.
    Was the opinion oh ok lets line up the wall, he wont hit from there? if so what stupidity and arrogance, its well known Arsenal keepers are half asleep when it comes to long range kicks and any player will now take a pop from distance as they have also done in the PL this season.
    Its disgracefull keeping and angers me greatly, that they cant concentrate for the full 90 mins although in Lenham and now Alumini the first 12 mins of play. absolutley shocking keeping and Wenger needs to sort this definate problem.

    There is no point in saying Alumini has kept us in games, then waste all that work by getting us knocked out of competitions in crucial games.
    I am not happy with him at all as I was not happy with Lenhams total blunder in the final against Barca which COST US THE GAME!!

    Moving on, having conceded 2 it was then heads down! and yes we wont win nothing with such a dire attitude from a team of so called professional players playing for a prestigous club. The heads dropped and no one, no one, not even AW was able to to motivate them to go for it.

    The game was not over at 0-2 the players just thought it was and never even bothered to try! a pitifull performance from most of them to be honest and the hype about this side is now wearing very thin. No more excuses please, this team is not good enough to win anything. To much money ! to much Yap ! and not enough DO ! when it matters.

    Forth spot is scant consolation.

    Its not the loss that is hard to take, its the manner in which we lost !
    we gave up! simple as that, no excuses just threw in the towl.

    I have some advice for AW: We have again finished the season empty handed and just about scraped 4th spot. We have to go to man u in the PL by then they may well have the league sown up, I suggest you field the youngsters and i mean the youngsters. The lot that played in this game will be so demoralised they could be in for another drubbing! and even if we won it would be a meaningless and pointless excersise. I am certainly no longer enthused by anything the players or manager say before any game now. Its all hot air! so I think most of those in this game should be laid of for the rest of the season and let them go and yap to thier agents about " not being happy " or " i want to win trophys " so " i think i want to leave for another club but im not sure "

    Some of these players should realise you dont get given silverware just because you have signed for Arsenal, you need to work hard to WIN THEM!
    many in this team are incapable of doing that as thier minds are obviously elsewhere! if they want to leave then show them the door! if they dont put in a good effort then drop them! simple as.

    end of rant:

    One very very very miffed of Arsenal surporter.

    PS: NO I am not a teenage plastic fan iv'e been following Arsenal since the days of Bertie Mee and I am appauled at such a result and no ammount of spin,hype, will convince me, this team as it is will win anything of any note for many years.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a total neutral, I have to say that Manchester United performance yesterday was quite amazing. I did expect more of Arsenal and they were unlucky with the first two goals but the third really was class. I have always wondered why Park had been at Man Utd so long as I only saw him as a signing to gain asian fans but he was all over the field last night and his deft pass in the build up to the third goal showed that the guy has class.
    Well done Man Utd, Chin up Arsenal you have some very good players that are probably 2 or 3 years away from being experienced enough to be class. Now lets have a Man Utd - Chelsea final and show that the Premier League is the best in europe. Oh last point --- EUFA relook at the rules around appealing dodgy reffing decisions, with Fletcher clearly playing the ball the ref has to put his hands up and say it was wrong to send him off, be able to recind the red card and allow Fletcher to play in the final, ok it is not going to happen this season but make the changes and dont let a similar thing happen next season to someone else.

  • Comment number 10.

    Gross exaggeration, Phil. On their day this Arsenal side is as good as any in the world. Tonight was not their day.
    The main problem for Wenger has been the inability to play his best players together with any consistency. Fabregas, Adebayor, van Persie, Eduardo, Walcott, Clichy, Gallas have all been long-term absentees this season, plus just about all the rest from time to time - not to mention Rosicky hasn't been available for 18 months.
    Given a break from such bad luck, the inclusion of the excellent Arshavin who was cup-tied for the latter stages of Arsenal's CL campaign ... and, hopefully, one or two quality central defenders, Arsenal will be in genuine contention for everything again next season.
    If I have a criticism of Wenger it has to be his caution in signing new players. A couple of seasons ago Ribery was top of my Arsenal wish list, but he went to Germany for peanuts. What a bargain that would have been given the £60m being touted this week!

  • Comment number 11.

    Arsene Wenger is in denial. Why can't he see the bleeding obvious, as stated by Phil here:

    "A midfielder of presence and authority is needed to go alongside Cesc Fabregas in midfield, while a central defender in a similar mould must also be a priority."

    Marcos Senna and Fabio Cannavaro anyone? Way past the Wenger age limit but the man needs to stop being so stubborn and break with his own tradition.

    Sadly, if it was up to Wenger he would play a team of 11 attacking midfielders.

    Arsene: wake up and smell the coffee and spend some money please.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't think Arsenal are the 4th best team, I see them as a bigger threat in the league than Liverpool and Chelsea, last season they were on fire 'til injuries caught up to them, this season they've had ALOT of players out for months at a time yet managed 2 semi finals and 4th place in the league, players such as Gallas, Silvestre, Rosicky, Fabregas, Adebayor, Van Persie, Clichy etc... have been out for months at a time. In the league they've yet to lose to any of the other "big 3". Arsenal were always going to go out against us simply 'cuz I didn't see them scoring but they looked very good but Ronaldos pace, Gibbs slip and Park being at the right place at the right time, our only two players who went forward, it was desperately unlucky as they had all the possession and crossed the ball dangerously a few times before then, but after that goal they lost all will. Next season I sort of expect Arsenal to win the league and I believe they will.

  • Comment number 13.

    People keep going on about Hleb and Flamini like some kind of Mantra, Both WANTED to leave! There is no point forcing players to stay. Arshavin has replaced Hleb and is a better replacement, AW wanted Flamini to stay but couldn't persuade him.

    Granted we need a proper DM and more of a physical presence in the back 4 but the gulf isn't that bit between the two or are you forgetting how Arsenal comfortably won back at the Emirates in the PL?

    We were very unlucky with the first goal, three goalkeepers wouldn't have stopped that second free kick it was that fast. After that the team were facing an impossible task. However they did try and didn't just roll over and give up like some people are suggesting.

    And the ref was terrible which didn't help for both teams.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well done United, poetry in motion-bring on Rome! However the main reason I have come here is not to gloat to Arsenal fans but to rant about the Fletcher decision. By the letter of the law he should have been sent off, a tackle from behind,denying a goal scoring opportunity etcetc. But I think last night has to be the final straw and for UEFA to bring the modern era of football forward once more, or else honest players such as Fletcher will miss out on more footballing glory. Surely if in a sport such as tennis a decision can be overturned, then in the most viewed sport in the world a decision should be over ruled? Im not saying that video should be used at this moment in time (simple due to the speed of the game and the disruption it would cause) however teams should surely be aloud to appeal decisions such as the one last night when the referee has made the wrong decision.

    However the football on display last night was fantastic. Heres to, fingers crossed, another succesful year for United both at home and in europe! (Y)

  • Comment number 15.

    United were amazing. However, as a United fan I was thoroughly disappointed by Arsenal's performance. The rivalry that built up over the years made any fixture between the two tantalising to watch. I prefer Arsenal as a rival to Chelsea because as we saw against Barcelona, Chelsea's skill seems to be stopping good teams play their football. Arsenal vs United games have often inspired spectacular play from both sides. It's disappointing to watch Arsenal fall by the wayside. I'm glad Arsenal didn't draw Barca in these semi's as Henry would have fully witnessed the devastating impact of his departure.

  • Comment number 16.

    An excellent performance from United perfectly executed.
    Can't understand why managers bang the drum predicting massive performances, even as a motivational tool for their own players as they often are even more motivational for the opposition.

    United won't be concerned as to who they will play in the final.


    On another note, I wonder how many ABU's will mention how unfortunate Fletcher was to be sent off for the penalty that wasn't.. after all they are still going on about the penalty utd got against Spurs. Thats football for you some you win, some you lose.

    Fletcher will have a massive part to play in Uniteds quest to regain the premier league and I have a funny feeling the feelgood factor will take them to the 7 points they require from the last 4 games.

    Looking forward to tonights game. Good luck to chelski and barca. See you in Rome.

  • Comment number 17.

    " Given a break from such bad luck, the inclusion of the excellent Arshavin who was cup-tied for the latter stages of Arsenal's CL campaign "

    sorry this is hogwash!

    We had an opportunity to buy Arshavin before he was cup tied !

    whilst i agree the guy has defo given a lift to the side he needs to be with players that show the same desire and commitment no matter how tuff the going gets!

    So why didnt the Board buy him at the 1st instance? he may of made a huge difference in the CL and why he was absent from the Chelsea game is mind boggling.

    as i say as a Gooner im sick and tired of the excuses now. and also the pre and post match comments by players and manager alike. Hot air the lot of it. Season is over thats a fact, injuries or no injuries, as for playing for pride? ermmm leave that out as well. They had the opportunity to do that last night they chose not to.

    I would say roll on next season, but i have a feeling we will all be back here saying the same things about Arsenal next term what a very boring prospect that is going to be!



  • Comment number 18.

    So it could be another tedious drab European Cup final with Man U v Chelsea, what a shame if it is, two teams playing each other looking for one goal and then sticking nine defenders in front of their onion bag hoping to scrape the win. Its got to be Barca to win tonight for the sake of football and football fans.

  • Comment number 19.

    To Chris_Wheatley, I think Phil is totally right! As a Liverpool fan since 1980 , I must admit that United fully deserves to be in the Final Of the CL...THEY DEMOLISHED Arsenal over 2 games .PERIOD. Regarding Arsenal being able to beat anyone ON THEIR DAY, it is clear that they had 2 different days to prove it and they failed miserably....It also looks like Arsenal needs some discerning to choose their important days!!!!If 2 CL semi finals is not a good bet , what is???
    finally. setting our differences aside ,I hope that United wins the BIG prize,,,after all they were the most consistent side so far and they deserve to be crowned .....

  • Comment number 20.

    The two games really did illustrate the difference in quality between Manchester United and Arsenal. But I think you have it wrong in saying "Verbal blows were being layered on top of the footballing beating that had just been handed out to Arsenal."

    Real Arsenal fans would have to admit that Sir Alex has been quite respectful of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal of late and I for one admire his attitude towards the club now. There was some bad blood in years past but that seems to have given way to a new found respect and almost friendly demeanour on Sir Alex's part towards his old adversary.

    There was no verbal blows being delivered by Sir Alex, just truisms that were about his own team, rather than insults or taunts toward Arsenal. In this business there is such a thing as a bad winner and he certainly was not that. I thought he was respectful and admirable in his post match comments.

    Arsenal were completely out-played and out-classed for 180 minutes of football by Man Utd, and that hurts a great deal, but any long time Arsenal fan must have known that it was on the cards from the moment the draw was announced. Arsenal have a good record against Man Utd, but the deficencies of our side are there for all to see, and have been there for about 3 and a half seasons.

    But realistically the point where Arsenal as a club failed in their quest to match Man Utd over the decade was when Arsenal shot themselves in the foot in 2002/2003 season. After the winning the double in 2001/02 the catastrophy and capitulation of 2002/03 was glossed over by the 2003/04 undefeated season which really only happened thanks to a certain Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty that struck the crossbar in the dying moments of that spiteful game at Old Trafford back in the days of Vieira and Keane.

    True, Arsenal still did an absolutely amazing thing by going unbeaten that season, but the wheels were getting wobbly after 2002/03 which did untold damage to the Arsenal clubs confidence when things got tough.

    The FA Cup Semi Final of 2003/04 was the beginning of the chasm opening up which was followed by the capitulation to Chelsea in the CL Semi at Highbury where Wayne Bridge drove a dagger into Arsenal hearts. And with the game which would have given Arsenal 50 unbeaten league matches, it ended up being a signal of the bad things to come.

    Sure we have had some glimmers of hope, winning the 2005 FA Cup against Man Utd on penalties after being embarrasingly out played, the 1-0 wins at Old Trafford in the league, and one of the finest displays of entertaining football in history at the start of this season, but they are really just a few highlights in increasingly disappointing seasons where Arsenal just fall further and further behind.

    It is well past the point where I believe we can actually win the big trophies with the current players, because when the chips are down, they do let us down, time and time again. And it has become a club problem as the players have changed but the lack of confidence remains. Arsene must take some responsibility for that, as he is the common denominator, and it must now surely be time that he addresses this problem and spends some cash to fix it. The purchase of Andriy Arshavin shows what sort of quality players are needed if this massive gap has any chance of closing.

    I just hope that Arsene does know now.

  • Comment number 21.

    Although I ought to root for another all-English final, I would (shamefully) prefer Barcelona to go through. Chelsea are hungrier and vengeful. The consolation is that Manchester United seem ready for any comers.

  • Comment number 22.

    It seems to me that there are two main elements that contribute to victories in modern football. First is the innate talent of the players. Both Man U and Arsenal players have immense talent and when their team is connected and playing well the team will win games and when the "team" players are off-colour or injured then it is difficult for Man U or Arsenal or whoever to win even against less talented teams.

    But the big element in modern football seems to be the overall psychological set up. In these two games, Arsenal went to the first match thinking that an away goal on the break would be brilliant. United went thinking, lets play going forward and with our strong defence lets see if we can get anything to take to the Emirates. They got the goal. Therefore the psychological pressure on Arsenal was immense. One goal was not enough for Arsenal, they had to score two and yet not concede. Under these circumstances Arsenal's position whilst more adventurous last night than last Wednesday was fundamentally weaker than Man U's and when the poor lad slipped it was game over.

    It's the same in the domestic season, a team like United go to games knowing that on the whole their opponents are usually already beaten psychologically, they crowd their defence and United usually pick their way through and score one goal. It's not easy for their opponents because they know that if they go on the attack they have to get past United's defence and worse still leave their own defence exposed to the kind of breaks that resulted in the third goal. So the two alternatives for a lesser team against a club like United (or Liverpool of Chelsea or Arsenal)are to defend and hope to draw 0 -0 or only lose by one...or attack and compete (if you have the right types of players. By attacking you hope that you don't get slaughtered and if you are lucky you may a)expose overconfidence - i.e. Liverpool against United last match, where Liverpool have the right players or b) Fulham v United....where I think Fulham were not taken seriously enough by United's Defence and Midfield.....But on the whole which approach would you choose......?

  • Comment number 23.

    Been saying this for weeks now, perhap[s months! Arsenal need an expewrienced CB (a Vidic or Skrtle type player but with experience) and above all this player must be tall. They should ship out Adebayor and Gallas asap.
    Next they need a defensive MF like a Mascherano (could it have been Arsenal enquiring about him?). Wenger needs to wake up from his obsession with pretty football. No team wins the top prizes without ugly players in their ranks as well. Look at Barca -the Spanish equivalent of Arsenal, they will founder tonight cos thyey dont have anyone over 5 ft 10 and they dont have bruisers in their MF. Arshavin was a bad buy in the context of baloance in the team -they needed a defensive MF more.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re: Post 16

    I wonder if Fergie will just say these decisions even out like he did with the Spurs pen?

  • Comment number 25.

    Got to agree with post 17.

    No point bleating on about Arshavin being cup tied. Arsenal knew that when they purchased him, possibly cos he was cheaper because he was cup tied. It is after all a squad game and you should be able to cope with injuries as they are part and parcel of the game.

    Arsenal were simply out played and out fought. I feel for Gibbs and hope it doesn't shatter his confidence as it is only one game, and he wasn't to blame for the second goal. I would like to think that Wenger had planned on needing 3 goals anyway but Utd taking that opportunity knocked the stuffing out of the Emirates.

  • Comment number 26.

    In all honesty and in my opinion Arsenal never realistically had a chance of making the final in rome after the first leg against United. But in all fairness i think the possible chance of seeing an evenly balanced game last night that could well have been entertaining on both sides was ruined by 1) a Gibbs slip and 2) a very lazy attempted save from Almunia. The third goal from was United was quick and clinical and tore apart the already demolished Arsenal defence but those first two things had a massive baring on last nites game more so than how well United played and before any United fan says im getting at United i am not because they did play really well.

    Gibbs' slip was very unfortunate but at the same time in European football things that are very unfortunate like that will cost you very badly and it did all but end last nights tie. As for Ronaldo's goal i still will never accept it as a great free kick as Almunia was laxidasical in attempting to save it at best. The ball didnt swerve at all and although it was driven very hard it should never have beaten Almunia and after that his heroics in the first leg meant sweet fa.

    It could have been a spectacle of great football on both sides but any chance of that was ruined by two errors and with Arsenal's confidence and self belief destroyed United strolled through the rest of the game and easily outplayed their counterparts. As for Fletcher's red card i believe in common sense terms he should not have been sent off but what can you say thats European football and players in Spain and Italy are sent off for such challenges week in week out.

    Hopefully Arsenal will be riled up by last nite and do the Liverpool a favour at Old Trafford in a couple of weeks and cum'on City this weekend! Lol

    YNWA!

  • Comment number 27.

    A well deserved win for United and the final should be a very entertaing game, whether it's Chelsea or Barcelona. As for the Fletcher red card, I don't understand the furore - the tackle on Fabregas was clearly from behind (Fletcher's standing foot is clearly behind Fabregas and his right leg makes contact with Fabregas before making contact with the ball) and the challenge denied Fabregas a clear goal scoring opportunity. So clearly a penalty for the tackle and a red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity. A little tough on Fletcher but those are the rules and I believe the ref got it spot on. The only one to make an error was Darren Fletcher for making a challenge he didn't even need to make

  • Comment number 28.

    To a certain extent Arsenal have been undone by injuries to key players this season. It would not have made a difference yesterday as Utd were too good,and it is not really a a valid excuse as it is a squad game, all it proves is our back-up players are not up to the task. The defence has gone to pot - that started as soon as Gallas got injured.(bear in mind he was public enemy number 1 at the Emirates earlier in the season- how we could do with him now!!).
    I am the last person who thinks Arsenal should get rid of Wenger - without him we would never be in the Champions League let alone reaching the semi finals - but he needs to realise that changes need to be made if Arsenal are going to improve. These payers may well be world class, but how many will still be at Arsenal when that happens?
    We are desparately in need of an experienced physical midfielder and a top drawer centre half.
    I agree with the poster who said Wenger should rest a lot of the players who played last night for the rest of the season - pick a team based around Arshavin for the last few games. They may show hunger and desire.

  • Comment number 29.

    Chris_Wheatley wrote:
    Gross exaggeration, Phil. On their day this Arsenal side is as good as any in the world. Tonight was not their day.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    That's a weak argument and just doe not cut it

    It hasn't been Arsenal's day for four seasons, and this seasons's Arsenal team has to be the most ordinary of all under Wenger's tenure. The midfield is just average at best.

  • Comment number 30.

    24. At 08:17am on 06 May 2009, TalksRubbish-Clooneys a clone wrote:
    Re: Post 16

    I wonder if Fergie will just say these decisions even out like he did with the Spurs pen
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Quote taken from Utd's Website

    Fletcher was dismissed on 75 minutes after Italian referee Roberto Rosetti adjudged the midfielder had brought down Cesc Fabregas inside the Reds penalty area. TV commentators and pundits all agreed the decision was harsh, while Sir Alex said Fletcher had been terribly unlucky.

    You can see the ball has moved in a different direction, away from Cesc Fabregas, the boss told ITV.

    I think Darrens been terribly unlucky and unfortunately we cant appeal the decision.

    The referees probably one of the best in Europe but unfortunately theres nothing we can do about it.


    Whilst not stating Football even's itself out. I think it's a pretty respectful way to refer to a diabolical decision.. wouldn't you agree?

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    CypriotJohn wrote:
    So it could be another tedious drab European Cup final with Man U v Chelsea, what a shame if it is, two teams playing each other looking for one goal and then sticking nine defenders in front of their onion bag hoping to scrape the win.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------That did not happen in last year's CL final which as an excellent game of football, and recognised as such in bot the UK and the international press that covered the final.

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil, the ubiquitous aunt is on the boards in super-quick time.
    United were superb, without being in need of any supervision favours. Adamant Arsene was found out, the bluff called most emphatically.

    Ronaldo had his writ running the whole match. Master of all he surveys, it beats me why should he even contemplate leaving United. It took me a while to encompass the position he was playing. Fergie has a mind, and a way to save Rooney a card.

    Unfair to blame Gibbons, just an innocent slip that released Park to put Aluminia on the rack - who was to hurt his fair name even more damagingly later. Ronaldo's brace were outa this world, and if United plan to sell him, such a watershed display can only distort the markets hyperbolically. I do not doubt the exceptional talent of a Franck Ribery, but this show will take some beating.

    And finally the red card. The Italian ref was good. Fletcher did get a touch on the ball but his foul came after he fell down and saw his legs conveniently transmit a telling disadvantage on Fabregas'. The card may still have been of a lighter hue but the penalty was spot on.

  • Comment number 34.

    "People keep going on about Hleb and Flamini like some kind of Mantra, Both WANTED to leave! There is no point forcing players to stay. Arshavin has replaced Hleb and is a better replacement, AW wanted Flamini to stay but couldn't persuade him."

    Well thats a load of rubbish. At least as far as Flamini is concerned. He WANTED to stay..he just wanted to be paid the money he felt he deserved. And the board decided to play hardball and lost out big time.

    Flamini was THE stand out player of last season for our club. The reason we were going so well wasnt Cesc, Ade or anyone else, it was on the backbone and effort Flamini gave to the CM role. That position is the key position in any PL team - put good players in there and everything else follows on naturally from there.

    Insstead we let him go and replace him with a donkey and a slow poke. Denilson is no tough tackling DM, and for all his ability on the ball hes a liability in the role hes been asked to play in. Not to mention he brings out the worst in Cesc by forcing him to cover both roles. Song is taleneted but to slow to fill the role. Hes more of a Gilberto style player...someone who has to read the game and be in the right place in the right time. However he doesnt have the pace or Staminia to do what Flamini did. There is NO COINCEDENCE, NONE WHAT SO EVER, that our best seasons have came when we had an all action, tough tackling player at the heart of our midfield?

    Ive been saying it since day one of this season. We need a quality CM to play alongside Cesc....and we need a quality CB thats not afraid of getting stuck into a challenge. I got shot down, time and time again by fans on 606 saying I was talking rubbish. I do have to question the eyesight of some of my fellow 606'rs in that case - the difference in quality has been obvious from the start of the season.

    The worst part of all? We are only 2 or 3 signings away from being also rans. A quality CM, a quality CB and a striker to replace Adebayor. Sometimes you have to spend money to get over that final hurdle. Speculate to accumulate anyone?

    But Wenger should not be sacked and any idiot suggesting otherwise needs shot. There is no other manager out there that could do this much with such limited funds. What we need is the board to actually give Wenger some much needing spending money and allow him to make the accuisitions to take us over that one last final hurdle that has stopped us last season and this.

  • Comment number 35.

    Agree with everything apart from the The England goalkeeper and Almunia statement, "this particular bandwagon should stop rolling now on a matter of principle as well as ability"

    What are the principles here? If he is to be eligible then there's no principle issue, just like any other job in the UK. I found this comment bad taste.

    A matter of ability. Well is he better than the rest bar David James? Yes.

  • Comment number 36.

    What an anticlimax. I was all ready for a great night of football but after 15 minutes I switched on the DVD player to watch a movie instead. Incredible display of force from United.

    In terms of entertainment, I think the current English dominance ranks second in its kind (at least to me, but I'm only 25 years old). Third and lowest are of course the Italians - their 1990s reign of Europe was the dullest on record.
    I have fond memories of the brief Spanish reign at the beginning of this century. Remember the days when Real Madrid, Barcelona, Deportivo la Coruña and Valencia were all CL title candidates?
    England's current dominance is mostly entertaining - the 'trouble' for me is that even well before the current season has ended, we already have complete certainty that the same 4 English clubs will compete again next season. Spain delivered greater variety. Or at least offered it.

  • Comment number 37.

    supershunsuke wrote:

    Marcos Senna and Fabio Cannavaro anyone?
    ------------------------
    Senna fair enough....but have you seen Canavaro play recently? If you have then you will know that this is a laughable suggestion - he team is conceding goals left, right n centre he has been rubbish since going to Madrid - their only half decent defender is Pepe who spends most his time on the sidelines for getting sent off.

  • Comment number 38.

    The key difference between Ferguson and Wenger is simple - Ferguson knows how to turn promise into purpose and performance. He did it with the Scholes, Beckham generation, on the foundation of Roy Keane, and he has done it again now on the foundation of Ronaldo and Rooney, but especially Rooney. Why on earth would Ronaldo want to go to Real Madrid? The only way this would make sense would be if Ferguson went with him.
    It is time for Wenger to move on from Arsenal for everyone's sake. As a developer of young players he is as good as Ferguson but he hasn't got what it takes to turn that into achievement. The last four years are absolute proof of that.
    I have no love for United but I think they would prefer Barcelona in Rome rather than Chelsea. They would be altogether too "tough" for Barcelona - it's the soft underbelly in Spanish league football. Brilliance is great but at this level you need some steel.

  • Comment number 39.

    As an Arsenal fan last night was not pleasant, neither was reading Phil McNulty,s column but I have to admit he's got it spot on.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Yes we lost poorly and deservedly to United. It was a dismal display in both legs and the gulf in class IN THIS TIE was very clear.

    However we've already beaten United and Chelsea in the league this season and drawn twice with Liverpool. There is hardly a gulf in class over all is there?

    Yes we haven't won a trophy in 4 years but this will be Liverpools third year without one, they've gone 20 years without a league title and Benitez has only mounted a serious challenge in his fifth season at the club - and he's just been rewarded with a new contract!

  • Comment number 42.

    36. At 08:42am on 06 May 2009, daquanqm wrote:
    What an anticlimax. I was all ready for a great night of football but after 15 minutes I switched on the DVD player to watch a movie instead. Incredible display of force from United.

    In terms of entertainment, I think the current English dominance ranks second in its kind (at least to me, but I'm only 25 years old). Third and lowest are of course the Italians - their 1990s reign of Europe was the dullest on record.
    I have fond memories of the brief Spanish reign at the beginning of this century. Remember the days when Real Madrid, Barcelona, Deportivo la Corua and Valencia were all CL title candidates?
    England's current dominance is mostly entertaining - the 'trouble' for me is that even well before the current season has ended, we already have complete certainty that the same 4 English clubs will compete again next season. Spain delivered greater variety. Or at least offered it.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Forgive me if i am wrong but Real Madrid, Barcelona, Deportiva La Coruna and Valencia = 4 teams. How is that a greater variety than United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. 2 of whom have won the Champs League and 2 have been finalists.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm not super genius...or are I? - i'd lay off the whiskey coated cereal in the mornings if i was you son.

    And Chris_Wheatley - lord knows what you've been taking son, but you've had enough!

    As a liverpool fan, it pains me to admit that Man Utd were the better side over the 2 legs. Which, obviously, they were. It's a shame that a lot of Man Utd fans don't have the ability to be gracious in victory. Never mind, every club has idiotic fans i guess.

    Personally, i do like Arsenal. I like their brand of silky football. And they're almost always entertaining to watch. And i'm sure a lot of other Liverpool fans would say the same too.

    Utd rode their luck last night. I feel sorry for the young lad Gibbs. He looked crestfallen after his slip. If he hadn't have slipped, then he would have cleared the ball and Park wouldn't have had a goal scoring chance.
    Don't even get me started on the free-kick for the 2nd. Yes it was a great strike, and yes Almunia should have stopped it. But the fact of the matter is that Ronaldo has won yet another free-kick after throwing himself to the ground like he's had his balls caught in a vice. And before all you 2D thinkers out there start piping up, i am well aware that most clubs have their "theatrical" players.

    But at the end of the day, even without those 2 big slices of luck, i think Utd still would have won. They were far more direct with their attacking than Arsenal. Utd's formation worked much better, and they appeared to have a Plan B and Plan C too. Whereas Arsenal only had Plan A, and when that didn't work they were up the creek without a paddle. Or a boat.

    Adebayor is supposed to be your man to score the goals. So why did he spend most of the game by the left corner flag? Sagna cannot cross a ball to save his life. Van Persie clearly wasn't fit. Walcott has been taking 1st-touch lessons at the Djimi Traore School of Footballing Wizadry. And Fabregas, awesome player though he is, just didn't seem to have his heart in it last night. He tried hard, but his head went down awfully early. Would Stevie G have given up like that? Nope. Would Frank Lampard have given up so easily? Nope. Scholes? Nope. Giggs? Nope. If you're captain, then you should lead by example.

    Unlucky Arsenal, there's always next year. Besides, you can now reserve your seats in the pub to watch Barcelona give Utd a royal sp4nking!!! lol

  • Comment number 44.

    Watching both legs there is no doubts that the team that deserved to go through went through, however I wouldn't go over the top about Utd's performances. Clinical absolutely, but they were handed the tie on a plate. Gibbs ill timed slip and Almunia looking almost static at that freekick have been pricless gifts that Utd didn't do a whole lot to earn.

    I feel sorry for Gibbs he was hugely impressive at Old Trafford but that unfortunate slip left him reeling and even the freekick came fairly directly after he nervously gave away possession looking shell shocked. Sure the lad will bounce back but a CL semi final is no tie to be relying on likes of him and Silvestre.

    There no doubt Arsenal do keep falling short, the areas this blog pointed out aren't to far wrong but more than anything Wenger needs to keep his players together and not lose them to soon like Flamini and Hleb.

    They should punt Adebayor and Bendter also and try and bring in a front man with phyiscal presence, real quality and a better attitude to complement the trickey and quality of Arshavin and Van Persie.

    As for Utd, they are hard to look past but hope to see them play Barcelona in the final. Be interesting to see what approach they take in a one off against them.

  • Comment number 45.

    giovannoti wrote it is "Gods punishment" for his (Wengers) tendency to strip his team of English talent.

    Have you no clue how many English players Wenger has developed? and turned into one of the best Youth teams in the country?
    10 years from now quite a few of the players in the England team will owe everything to Arsene Wenger.

    I guess being clueless is "Gods Punishement" to you.

  • Comment number 46.

    Balanced Blog again Phil.

    It was a slip by Gibb, but interestingly on the replays you will note 2 United players unmarked on the edge of the box, it was a well aimed pull back that went the across the full width of the goal, in between penalty spot and 6 yard box - enough to make any defence panic. It was systematic of some naivety on Arsenal's part, that while they charged forward in the opening 6 minutes, they left themselves woefully open to the counter. The analogy with Hatton v Pacman could not be more apt. Hatton felt he was only beaten by a mistake and a lucky punch, but those that witnessed it, knew he was outclassed.

  • Comment number 47.

    As a neutral with no axe to grind I find sevenseaman's assertion that the penalty was spot on to be astonishing. The referee was average for such a game, and Italian referees penalise tackles that an English referee wouldn't - remember the English referee in the 1994 European Cup Final? Savicevic controlled the ball with his studs raised (as had the defender) and whilst the defender put his hand up for a foul Savicevic scored with an unbelievable lob from the touchline. An Italian referee would have penalised that, whilst letting all the shirt pulling go unpunished. You would never have any tackling if after winning the ball the opponent falls over, which seems to be the basis of sevenseaman's argument. Dreadful decision no question, and about which there is near unanimity. You can bet if the victim were playing in a French team that nice Mr Platini would seek to have an immediate appeal.

  • Comment number 48.

    Again, we saw a penalty decision perhaps incorrectly made. There is a strong case to be made for a video assistant to review. In Rugby Union this happens when a try is in quastion, and the assistant confirms 'you may award the try'; what is more you hear the assistant's voice, all open and above board. It will be of little delay, and if the penalty decision was wrong, a goal kick can take place. Other devices such as cricket's 'snickometer' or a visual view of ball path deviation could be used. Why not?

  • Comment number 49.

    Forgot about the red card. Fletcher is very unlucky, but the angle the TV cameras showed of the referees view made it look like a stonewaller. The ball may have moved but the ref couldn't have seen Fletcher make contact and it looked like he just hauled him down .

    I have to say I know it is in the heat of a big game but at times like that you need to calm down and think. Fletcher didn't need to make the tackle. Worst case scenario he stays on his feet applies as much pressure as he can, Fabregas holds him off and scores. 15 minutes to go and Arsenal still need 4 goals. Can't really see it being the start of a big comeback.

    Hindsight a wonderful thing and at the end of the day he innocent of the offence he carded for and lack of appeal is a complete disgrace but why make such a do or die challenge when the tie is over?

  • Comment number 50.

    The reason Almunia could never become England No.1 is because there is equal grounds for him to become England 'keeper as there is for him to play for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. He can get / does have a British Passport, not an English one. This is why the British FA's have the gentleman's agreement in place, as it simply is not fair to decide which team a British citizen would play for.

    As for last night's game, Arsenal were awful. However, the reason that they were awful can be attributed to the two unlucky mistakes early on. Neither player should be lambasted for theirs, as Gibbs' could have happened to anyone, and Almunia had no right to expect Ronaldo to shoot. As Jens Lehman said at half-time (why on earth was he a pundit?) you cannot position yourself for a save untill the very last minute, as the new(ish) balls can dip and swerve at any time.

    Final point, the Arsenal "fan" at no.8 should do a bit of research into the team he has been a "fan" of for so long. Lenham? That's almost as bad as the Chelsea fans who say Bosingwa as Boswinga. As plastic as hollywood mammaries.

  • Comment number 51.

    # 20 "Real Arsenal fans would have to admit that Sir Alex has been quite respectful of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal of late and I for one admire his attitude towards the club now."

    I would say any club that AF starts being respectful towards should be worried - it means he doesn't see them as a threat any more.

    I'm sure, even though he didn't mention Arsenal by name, his little paean to Real Madrid, Milan, Liverpool et al was a backhanded dig at Wenger's side - as if to say, well, Man U may not have such a good european history as those teams, but Arsenal have none at all.

  • Comment number 52.

    Another view on the Fletcher incident. You make a faint contact with the ball, such that it is still possibly playable by the opponent, but your trailing leg brings him down. Does that not deny him a goal scoring opportunity, and become a penalty?

  • Comment number 53.

    I didn't think that manchester united's performance was that good, given that two goals came from unfortunate errors (a slip & gift from the ref) & the other was a (stunning) break away goal. Man Utd were hardly at their best last night, luckily Arsenal were worse.

    I do feel sorry for Fletcher, not my favorite player, but to be robbed by a referee who had such a dismal game is just plain wrong.

  • Comment number 54.

    49. At 09:01am on 06 May 2009, Malky79

    I partly agree with your comments, in the moment he ran into the box his brain should have been saying "stay on your feet, stay on your feet, stay on your feet...." Perhaps a bit more experience and he would have just jockeyed him and did his best to put him off. He got the ball, but even as a United fan there was something rather reckless about the nature of the challenge, plus we can hardly complain too much given the pen we got v Spurs! I think United were dead set on a clean sheet for the 2 legs that it didn't matter how many they scored, they simply didn't want to concede.

  • Comment number 55.

    2baGooner wrote:


    Marcos Senna and Fabio Cannavaro anyone?
    ------------------------
    Senna fair enough....but have you seen Canavaro play recently? If you have then you will know that this is a laughable suggestion - he team is conceding goals left, right n centre he has been rubbish since going to Madrid - their only half decent defender is Pepe who spends most his time on the sidelines for getting sent off.
    ------------------------

    Yeah point taken - I was thinking of the world cup winning Cannavaro rather than the current Real Madrid one. Am struggling to think of world class central defenders that are currently available though. Any suggestions?

  • Comment number 56.

    Giovannoti

    You are an idiot, and if I could understand half of what you were saying, I would explain why.

  • Comment number 57.

    Will this penalty that should not have been be talked about as much as the Howard Webb mistake??

    When I should have been over joyed at seeing United claim there place in the final not by the help of refereeing decisions or alleged diving by Ronaldo but by simply being streets ahead of Arsenal I was angry.

    The way the media highlighted Webb's mistake against Tottenham was pathetic and if it was so bad shouldn't he one United conceeded last night be condemned in the same fashion?

    Fletcher is a hard working individual and will miss the biggest game of his life because of a terrible decision but not so much of a "he's unlucky"!
    Also on the same note it was stated by the usless BBC pundits such as the gurning Liniker that hte penalty changed the game. Well United scored 5 in 11minutes against Tottenham and Arsenal had the same amount of time to do the same, can we now be given the credit for being a great team that has done it all season that is why we are top of the league and not by the help of referees and biased officials we are the best in the country and hopefully Barcelona will knock out Chelsea and there will be no chance of a southern team winning the CL for another year.
    You lot are bitter and twisted that a northern team is better than any of you southern wideboys!!! Come on united

  • Comment number 58.

    As a Gooner I'm not at all surprised by last night, Utd just beat a poor team. Wenger has been lucky that O'Neill lost the plot in February or else Villa would be cruising to fourth place. To me the difference in the 2 teams was the performances of Park and Fletcher, non-stop grafting and getting back to help out the defence, we have no one like that. Henry and Pires were brilliant players but they did their share of the donkey work, this current Arsenal "team" more often resembles 11 over-indulged prima donnas! Wenger doesn't do tactics, he just picks a team and expects them to perform. Marco Pierre White made a good analogy in Hell's Kitchen "Good strategy will make up for lack of talent but good talent will not make up for lack of strategy."

    I remember when we got beat 6-1 at Old Trafford, that was a pivotal moment for Wenger because it forced him to go out and get Sol Campbell to tighten up the defence. I hope that this result will be a similar wake up call but I'm doubtful. Wenger has hyped the youngsters up so much that if he changes strategy the press will start crowing "We told you so Arsene!" I's been painfully obvious over this season that most of these youngsters are just not good enough and we need a clear out. Deneilson, Bentdner and Song aren't good enough, Adebayor and Van Persie don't seem to get on and in any case they are paid way beyond what their ability and form deserve, Clichy is too error prone and Diaby and Rosicky are too injury prone.

    People above blame the board for not providing funds to strengthen the team, actually the funds have always been there but Wenger won't use them. The board are far too indulgent of him, he's under no pressure to perform as he's been told he's a job for life. For all Ferguson's success over the years if United fell badly out of contention the Glazers would tell him that his job was on the line. I don't want Wenger to go, I want this Wenger to go, I want the old Arsene Wenger, the innovative coach who built a wonderful attacking team that had a core of steel (Vieira, Campbell, Lauren) to come back and get us back to what we where.

  • Comment number 59.

    Utd deserved to go through, however, I think people are getting carried away with the 'perfrmance' in last night's game. Stan Collymore was asking "Was that Utd's best ever European away performance?" From the moment the young-un slipped and Park tucked the ball away, Utd only had to canter over the line. I was disappointed with Arsenal's response and from the moment Ronaldo got an iffy free kick and scored (decent enough strike, terrible keeping)the game turned into a damp squib. But well done Utd, fully deserved win and nice counter attacking goal to make it 3.

    Just a point on the new found respect between SAF and Wenger. Phil do you seriously think SAF would be so chummy if Arsenal were now his closest challengers in the league. Can't you see the pattern here? First Wenger then Jose, then Benitez! I don't suppose you can.

  • Comment number 60.

    Arsenal HAVE to get rid of fringe and useless players like- song,diaby,denilson,gibs,clichy,eboue..etc and buy some quality players like arshavin.They have to spend around $80mil minimum if they want to compete as a big team next season, when spurs can spend i think even arsenal can spend as they are a bigger club with a better manager. Wenger's team selection was poor, i would have given bendtner a start since he is in better form and scored lot of goals, adebayor has been poor and should be sold nxt season. If wenger and arsenal feel vela(nothing special) is special they sould have given him a suprise start. BEcause in the 1st leg they were battered and need to change and suprise united in the 2nd leg. Well for all you people who hates ronaldo, i think he has just shoved his boot right down your throat! And messi is only half the player ronaldo is !!!FACT!!!hope it is manutd v barca final!

  • Comment number 61.

    Huh!so sad,its obvious united were the the better team no doubt,after 2 goals down in the very few min i was like gush it gonna be tough and how do we handle it.It wasn't our day and was so painful in the way we lost the game not for the margin but b'coz we look clueless after those soft goals,the 1st goal was a big mistake not to talk of the 2nd.Almunia shows once again how useful he is forget about mistakes it could happen to any goalkeeper no matter how good he is.I must commend united for their strenght particularly cr7 he caused a lot of problems and got 2 goals in the process.AW needs to go shopping in the summer for a DM, CD and of course a backup goalkeeper and he should also look where the teams needs to be strenthend, i just hope he will be able to hold on to some players now coz some might want to leave for greener pastures (trophy).I am sure all the players will feel very bad right now most especially gibbs i am just sorry for the young lad.We just need to get together and keep going coz a down fall of a man is no the end of his life.

  • Comment number 62.

    First of all a well mend congratulations to Manu. You clearly outplayed us over the two legs. And you did with style.

    A lot of nonsense has been said about Arsenal:
    (1) Arsene does not give any British players any change: he gave them a change but they were not good enough. You name me, except for Cashley Cole, any ex-Arsenal player in any top team.
    (2) This ''buying'' a big star player thing. We don't have the cash, simple as that. A huge morgage in an uncertain financial future makes it ridiculous to buy high expensive players. I prefer our system of growing young talent. Don't forget that manU has a 80mil deficit. Wait till the americans run out of money. However, i agree we need re-inforcement on several areas:
    (3) We need a good reliable central defender, central midfield and and striker instead of Ade. If we correct those mistakes and not be hindered by injuries then we will fight next year for top prizes.
    (4) And however bad or unlucky we are, we are always better then Spurs. and that, somehow, makes life much easier!

  • Comment number 63.

    "I don't think Arsenal are the 4th best team, I see them as a bigger threat in the league than Liverpool and Chelsea, last season they were on fire 'til injuries caught up to them, this season they've had ALOT of players out for months at a time"


    But that's where strength in depth comes in. Arsenal don't have it and that's why they are where they are.

    I was frankly disappointed with last night's game. Man U didn't need to get out of 2nd gear against a lack lustre Arsenal side that didn't show up and had nothing to offer.

    Had Man u upped the ante they could have put more passed Arsenal with ease. I just home Barca beat Chelsea and then win the final ;-)

  • Comment number 64.

    "I didn't think that manchester united's performance was that good, given that two goals came from unfortunate errors (a slip & gift from the ref) & the other was a (stunning) break away goal. Man Utd were hardly at their best last night, luckily Arsenal were worse."

    Just because the first two goals were lucky (I agree), doesn't mean United didn't play well. Rooney had a great shot saved when United were 2-0 up and Ronaldo was unlucky when he cut inside and shot with his left, only for Almunia to save again.

    United were clearly the stronger and more experienced side and they will take a lot of confidence from this game.

    As for the Fletcher sending off, that was harsh. 16 mins left, Arsenal need to score 5 goals to win, Fletcher gets a touch on the ball but then brings the player down. Penalty? Strong shout. Sending off? No.

    Ref's are scared to use their common sense it seems.

  • Comment number 65.

    As an Arsenal fan i do wonder when AW would realise tha he need to buy established players t mix with the kids. The influence Ashravin has shown in the league is there for all to see. We need to overhaul our entire defence (except Sagna. Where Rosiscky injury will not let him play during the summer training camp, we need to then buy at least 2 established midfielders (David Silva of valencia could be one). In attack we need a striker who can dominate aerial balls (Crouch will do a great job)

  • Comment number 66.

    The Champion's League had been funny this season in that there was one extremely weak side of the draw (ManU, Arsenal, Porto, Villareal), and one strong (Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich).

    In my opinion ManU's route to the final was always a foregone conclusion - they would be able to coast through four games against mediocre opposition. The other side of the draw, the one with quality, much harder to predict, but as it happens I am quite confident that it will be either Chelsea or Barcelona (probably the latter) who beat ManU in the final. Providing of course the ref isn't Webb or Rossini.

  • Comment number 67.

    Phil, I think you've forgotten about all the magnificent saves Almunia made to save his side from humiliation. If the focus is on blunders then let's talk about a certain David James.

    As for Ronaldo, he is a world class player, but last night he was fortunate with the assist and the free kick. Let's keep a bit of perspective.

  • Comment number 68.

    supershunsuke wrote:
    2baGooner wrote:


    Marcos Senna and Fabio Cannavaro anyone?
    ------------------------
    Senna fair enough....but have you seen Canavaro play recently? If you have then you will know that this is a laughable suggestion - he team is conceding goals left, right n centre he has been rubbish since going to Madrid - their only half decent defender is Pepe who spends most his time on the sidelines for getting sent off.
    ------------------------

    Yeah point taken - I was thinking of the world cup winning Cannavaro rather than the current Real Madrid one. Am struggling to think of world class central defenders that are currently available though. Any suggestions?
    -------------------------
    Closest thing int the prem would be Hangeland - strong / good in the air ect

    Also Diego Godin from Villareal looked decent when we played them

    I doubt Wenger would go with either of those - he is more likely to bring in some unknown African on the cheap or bring big phil senderos back from Milan

    I dont how Rafa keeps finding defenders like Agger / Skrtel but we could do with a similar player

    The same goes for the CM position - there arent many affordable players that are much better than what we have already.

  • Comment number 69.

    Wenger certainly hasn't taken Arsenal as far as he can take them provided he's willing to spend some of the cash that's supposedly at his disposal.

    He's an excellent manager and his footballing principles are admirable, but (without wanting to sound like I'm Hansen-baiting :-P) talented youth isn't always the answer and I think Arsenal could do with an extra couple of wiser heads, with the key one for me being a player to do Fabregas' dirty work in midfield.

  • Comment number 70.

    42. At 08:52am on 06 May 2009, sixty8ninety9zero8 wrote:

    Forgive me if i am wrong but Real Madrid, Barcelona, Deportiva La Coruna and Valencia = 4 teams. How is that a greater variety than United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. 2 of whom have won the Champs League and 2 have been finalists.

    _____________________________________________________________

    That was just off the top of my head. My point is that Spain never had a fixed top 4 despite its 4 CL berths. I remember Real Sociedad breaking through the rankings finishing 2nd at one point. Barcelona didn't qualify for the CL that season, but Spanish dominance continued.

    England doesn't offer that kind of variety at this point in time, sadly. I would love for the Spurs or Aston Villa to reach the CL for a change.

  • Comment number 71.

    I really am getting fed up with this whining over Darren Fletcher. Time and time and time again we hear fans, commentators and managers bang on about consistency; "we don't mind bad decisions as long as there is consistency". But now it seems we don't want that at all. What we want is the ref to make his decisions based on how big the next game is and whether or not the perpetrator is a good guy. Last night, from the referees position penalty looked the right call, and given that call he had to send Fletcher off; it's been the consistent rule for several seasons now lads!
    I agree that UEFA should follow the English example and allow refs to review bad decisions, but I am not at all sure that in this case it would lead to a change in that decision.

  • Comment number 72.

    " and Almunia had no right to expect Ronaldo to shoot. "

    what absolute drivel the above remark is!!!!

    and dont rebuke me mister for a typing error either !

    What does he think Ronaldo " might do " ask his permission first?????

    " oh hey i know its early on but do you mind iv'e won this free kick and i'd like to see if your wide awake? is that ok with you Alumini "

    " yes sure you can Ronaldo hang on though can you wait till I.m ready please as i dont want to look a complete fool as afterall this is a very important game and i should be making sure I am concentrateing on my job, which is to save the attempt and my Wall "

    " perhaps you would now like to pick the ball out of the net "

    " blimey that was quick i never saw that comming "

    " well no you didnt but you see a lot of teams have done considerable homework on Arsenal keepers and we have concluded they can easily be caught napping particuly in important games "

    if anyone spent the time they could catalogue a host of goals Arsenal keepers have conceeded from considerable distances in all competitions they have played in! and made to look complete fools to boot.

    as for Jens Lehman

    here is another classic example of a supposedly world class keeper who it seemed in a very important game suffered a very big momentry lapse of reason which of course ultimately cost Arsenal the trophy ! and guess what? it was also about ten mins into the game as well.

    Whilst i acceed both keepers kept us in games I will not agree that such lapses in concentration should pass unoticed and judged ! Jens Lehman in particular has been a thorn in my side ever since that fatefull day and i cannot forgive that sorry but thats just my view. i am glad he went when he did.

    anways moving on:

    I hope Barca win the comp as TH deserves to get his hands on that trophy so for his sake alone i wish them best of luck.

  • Comment number 73.

    A very good article spoilt by silly reference's to the penalty award against Spurs, because you failed to take into account that despite the debated penalty United went on to score another four goals in the same 45 minutes and there's no excuse for that at any level of football.

  • Comment number 74.

    After Ronaldo's supposed "rocket" from 80-or-something yards, and being a Scot, I can't wait 'til Almunia gets his British Passport and makes that England No.1 jersey his very own. lol
    God Save McQueen.

  • Comment number 75.

    "No such worries for United. They have become turbo-charged almost from the moment Howard Webb awarded them that dubious penalty against Spurs."

    ___________

    For the love of God let that penalty go!!!

    On a night where Utd suffer an absurd miscarriage of justice why do you have to focus on a pen that was awarded against a different team in a different competition (in what was not even the club's most recent league match)?

    Are Utd not allowed to achieve anything ever again without it being attributed to Howard Webb? First the media states that Webb handed Utd the title and now we have to put up with you claiming that it has put us in the CL final. If Utd wins the CL will it be because of that penalty?

    How about giving credit where it's due for a change rather than always trying to take the shine off a great Utd performance? Considering Utd are aiming for three PL titles in a row and a second consecutive CL is it really so hard to accept that maybe the team won because it is a strong team? Or can we just attribute all of SAF's success to Howard Webb over the last three years? Or what about the last 22 years?

    The penalty did not act as a "reviving force" because Utd were never dying in the first place!! We were already top of the prem and world champions...Not exactly a team in need of mouth to mouth!

  • Comment number 76.

    Phil,

    I am an enormous fan of your column but this really has hit levels so far unseen. This was a brilliant recollection of the nights events. Truly spectacular article. Loved reading every word.

    (and no, i am not a man utd fan!)

  • Comment number 77.

    At 09:07am on 06 May 2009, start_of_an_era wrote:

    # 20 " I would say any club that AF starts being respectful towards should be worried - it means he doesn't see them as a threat any more."

    I agree with that point. Part of the reason why he felt comfortable selling Silvestre to Wenger. He still has an awful amount of respect for him though, as do most United fans.

  • Comment number 78.

    Yeah! i am back once again to continue my discussion,i am sure some players might be contemplating as to should i still stay at the club or i move else where,in the case of hleb and flamini there is nothing AW would av done to persuade those guys from leaving coz they already wanted to leave it might not be in the case of monie at times but just to move and feel a different environment.I just want the likes of fab,rvp, kolo and so on to stay coz i believe with togetherness they can still win something in seasons to come coz if those guys leave AW will need to start building a formidable team again which is gonna take a long time for them to click and to even understand each other very well.Now Arshavin will be eligible to play in the Cl next season which is fine coz he is a class on his own just so unfortunate we couldn't play him at that crucial stage where the spirit is high and everybody wants to win.Congrats to united for being in another Cl final atleast they were the better team i must say,still very sad about the exit but the deed has been done already.

  • Comment number 79.

    i wonder if everyone is being a bit harsh on almunia. if you follow the flight of the ball, it goes over the wall and then starts to dip towards the bottom corner but then about 10 yards out levels out and even rises a little leaving Almunia committed to saving a shot heading for the bottom corner and the ball goes above him. i know it seems a keeper should be saving any shot from 41 yards but that really did move about an awful lot and i think most keepers would have struggled with the dramatic change in height.
    great performance by United though and Ronaldo was awesome. i would say the great Ronaldo Messi debate is back on with a vengeance after then last 3 days

  • Comment number 80.

    can i ask how are Manchester United the first team to defend the champions league?????? if my memory serves me correctly Real Madrid won the first 4 and Nottingham Forest defended it twice.

    or are we just counting the revamped version because in that case Real Madrid have only won one Champions League

  • Comment number 81.

    Just to take on a few points - first to Chris_Wheatley in post 10. I have to disagree completely with your argument.

    To say that Arsenal are as good as any in the world on their day does not hold water. Sorry to be blunt, but a side that is as good as any in the world on its day does not go four years without winning either a domestic or European trophy. Those facts speak for themselves.

    And to redagast (post 20). I was not suggesting Sir Alex Ferguson was being disrespectful to Arsene Wenger by outlining the strengths of his Manchester United side.

    In fact he could not have been more respectful to Arsenal and Wenger. The point I was making was that it would have been painful for Wenger to hear Ferguson listing qualities that have been singularly absent from his own side in these two games.

    Poster 50 HamchesterUnited sums up my argument on Almunia playing for England. He could just as easily play for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland - and I must admit it would baffle me why he would even want to play for England.

    He has no connection with the national team other than the fact that he plays in the Premier League.

    I should also add that I am not sure he is good enough. He makes some superb saves but I find him unconvincing at other times. Not for me I'm afraid.

    I am not David James' biggest fan, but I am not sure Almunia is markedly better and would much prefer someone like Ben Foster to be given his chance ahead of Almunia.

    And for United fans, what about that performance last night? Cristiano Ronaldo looked back to his best, Wayne Rooney was outstanding on the left flank and Ji-Sung Park, Anderson and Darren Fletcher (unsung heroes at times) all excelled.

    The lethargy of a few weeks ago appears to have disappeared. What team would you prefer to face in the final and who should Sir Alex Ferguson play in his starting line-up?

    And will you repeat last season's feat of winning the Premier League and Champions League?




  • Comment number 82.

    I think Wenger's body language last night was that of a manager who knows he can take the club no further.
    Wenger seems to have hit a wall over the last few seasons and his reaction to Arsenal's performance last night seemed to hint that change is something he feels he'll now have to embrace. Maybe he'll decide to take up one of the challenges offered to him by another big European club.

  • Comment number 83.

    bdyke04 wrote:
    As an Arsenal fan i do wonder when AW would realise tha he need to buy established players t mix with the kids. The influence Ashravin has shown in the league is there for all to see. We need to overhaul our entire defence (except Sagna. Where Rosiscky injury will not let him play during the summer training camp, we need to then buy at least 2 established midfielders (David Silva of valencia could be one). In attack we need a striker who can dominate aerial balls (Crouch will do a great job)
    -------------------------------------
    Do you actualy watch Arsenal play?????

    The defence hasnt conceded in the league at home this year....Fair enough Gallas / Silvestre can go - Clichy is a good LB / Kolo is our best CB. Who would you replace them with - there arent many players available at a good price who are better than what we have

    In midfield we have Cesc / Denilson / Song / Diaby / Wallcott / Arshavin / Eboue / Nasri / Ramsey - Rosicky if he ever gets fit - we have 10 midfielders already (also Wilshere coming through) and you think we need another 2????

    Also Crouch may be big....but for a guy that size he is not that great in the air and we already have Ade / Bendtner

  • Comment number 84.

    So was Almunia's mistake on a high speed swerving ball worse than David James' from 2 yards at the weekend? I don't think so. So which English keeper is better than Almunia? Because I don't see any English goalkeeper in the premier league who's conceding fewer goals.

    As soon as United scored the two early goals, with a hefty slice of luck in both of them, the game was always over.

  • Comment number 85.

    Having turned on the TV expected to see an exciting contest, I was a little deflated to see the game effectively over at 2-0. Nevermind.
    It was always going to be an uphill battle for Arsenal anyway without an away goal in the bag.
    Have to feel a bit sorry for Fletcher seeing as he did technically touch the ball with his heel, however the tackle was at waist height with his inside leg (making it look far clumsier) and given that the referees in europe are far less lenient than those in the premiership and that Man U has a virtually unassailable lead - did he really have to make such a desperate tackle with 15 minutes to go?

  • Comment number 86.

    As a United fan I thought we were excellent last night. I felt a bit sorry for Arsenal as they had a lively start and were unlucky with the first goal, but their failure to get over that and regain their concentration cost them any remaining chance of winning.

    Fletcher sending off was unjust but we have to live with it. Its ironic that everyone was worried about Rooney or Evra getting booked, but Fletcher is a big loss to the squad. His energy, concentration and commitment to the team have been excellent this season, especially in the absence of Hargreaves.

    Still, hopefully we can juggle the squad to keep everybody fit during the final premiership games. Not sure who I prefer in the final. Chelsea and Barca both have a lot of quality, but after this display United will fear no-one...

  • Comment number 87.

    Arsenal's current squad are good players side by mid-Prem standards. But on a world level, you need world-class players. The only two world-class players in the current side are Fabregas and Walcott - and in the case of Walcott it's more about potential than reality. I wonder if Arsenal have paid down enough of the Emirates stadium debt to now stop being a selling club? If not, they're going to be in this situation for a few years to come.

  • Comment number 88.

    The one thing that was apparrent to me watching last night was the lack of zip, movement and incisive play by Arsenal in the build up play. Compare that to how United defended, high, with a 3 pronged midfield trio snuffed out alot of Song's & Fabregas's oppotunity to pass well. They just don't seem to have that *it* factor at the moment, whereas United had movement that caused chaos along the Arsenal back line.

    I do think the entire tie hinged on the first goal last night - very unlucky for Gibbs to have slipped, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

    The 3rd goal was great, but a breakaway goal was always going to happen when Arsenal had to press.
    United came to do a job over both legs (I've noticed a certain gameplan United have for Arsenal when they've played them over the past few years), and did a very good job.

    I think Arshavin though will have an exceptional year next year....Arsenal just need to purchase some experienced heads to create a backbone for the team(CB, Midfielder and a striker) who have been there, and done it before.

    Congrats to United.....Hopefully we'll see Barca through, as I just don't enjoy watching Chelsea's style of play.

  • Comment number 89.

    Over two legs that was magnificent from United and although Ronaldo will get the headlines I wouldn't look past Rooney as the key player. I feel sorry for Gibbs but he's going to be a very good Arsenal player in the future, as for Arsene Wenger I think he needs a new challenge...Real Madrid perhaps?

  • Comment number 90.

    Fair play to Utd who were deserved winners over both legs. While some posters have alluded to critical mistakes and a degree of refereeing bias Arsenal fans should not forget the fact that the team was beaten by players of the ilk of O'Shea, Fletcher and Park. without being too dismissive these are journey men and water carriers.
    Ferguson seems to be able to get performances out of such second raters while the likes of Adebayor and a few other 'big names' for Arsenal went missing on both nights.

  • Comment number 91.

    I agree that UEFA should follow the English example and allow refs to review bad decisions, but I am not at all sure that in this case it would lead to a change in that decision.

    ------------------------------------------

    Why on earth not?

  • Comment number 92.

    And you claim you aren't anti-Man Utd Phil. All Uniteds recent success has resulted from that penalty against Spurs hasn't it. I think Arshavin was sorely missed by the Gunners tonight as he can be a real threat, but in truth those two early goals were killer blows to Wenger's side. I still think Arsene is a top manager, and having seen his press conference it is clear that he feels he was undone by some wretched luck in the first twelve minutes. But United were nothing short of awesome tonight and if they can maintain that level of form over their next five games it could end up being another season to remember for them.

  • Comment number 93.

    Credit to Man Utd, by far the superior team over both legs, but also credit to the managers who were gracious in defeat and victory. Like Wenger said, Arsenal started brightly but two mistakes in quick succession cost them any chance of winning - such are the margins against the best team in the world.

    As for Arsenal as a whole this season, their lack of a quality "squad" has killed their chances of silverware, indeed, their first team has one or two weak links. Wenger needs to buy and unfortunately, needs to buy big.

  • Comment number 94.

    This was proof positive that Arsene Wenger NEEDS to buy a few players suited for winning a major trophy. 4 years without a trophy isnt good enough for Arsenal. How the Arsenal players must have been looking in awe of a supreme force that is Manchester United right now - this is because they buy the right players and they buy ENOUGH of the right players.

  • Comment number 95.

    As a gooner 2 things hurt last night: 1) Being beaten by a team so much better than us, that only 4/5 years ago we were on parity with; 2) Seeing thousands of empty seats with half-an-hour left to play. Shame on those 'Arsenal fans,' always support your team no matter what. That would never happen at Anfield. In terms of next season and beyond, we must sign a strong, tall midfielder - it is no coincidence that we have not won a thing since Vieira's last game for us. As far as Wenger goes, he has built 3 trophy-winning sides before, and I believe with a couple of strong signings we will be up there again. Here's to next season, as ours is now over.

  • Comment number 96.

    Real Arsenal fans would have to admit that Sir Alex has been quite respectful of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal of late and I for one admire his attitude towards the club now. There was some bad blood in years past but that seems to have given way to a new found respect and almost friendly demeanour on Sir Alex's part towards his old adversary.

    There was no verbal blows being delivered by Sir Alex, just truisms that were about his own team, rather than insults or taunts toward Arsenal. In this business there is such a thing as a bad winner and he certainly was not that. I thought he was respectful and admirable in his post match comments.
    --------------------------------------------------------------

    One only has to look back in history at Fergie's comments to realise that he is always complimentary about teams he doesn't fear...

  • Comment number 97.

    80. At 09:41am on 06 May 2009, andythetoonfan wrote:

    "can i ask how are Manchester United the first team to defend the champions league?????? if my memory serves me correctly Real Madrid won the first 4 and Nottingham Forest defended it twice.

    or are we just counting the revamped version because in that case Real Madrid have only won one Champions League"

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We're talking about the revamped version and in actual fact Madrid have won it 3 times (1998, 2000 & 2002) since that occured.

  • Comment number 98.

    I think the team for the final will depend on the other finalists but will be similar to last night. Fletcher will not be available and he is likely to be replaced by a more attacking player - Tevez, Berbatov or Giggs. Other than that, the team should stay the same.

  • Comment number 99.

    People here seem to forget that Gallas, Arsevin, Nasri are all experienced players and so are Cesc . And don't forget ManU has a 80 mil deficit. If the yanks want there money back they will collapse faster then northern Rock!

  • Comment number 100.

    Arsenal were extremely disappointing last night. They looked a different team to the one that plays in the premiership and drew 4-4 with us (Liverpool) and dont give me that "arshavin was playing cr*p"!.

    Do teams try harder against Liverpool/Chelsea or is it just that they are already beat (psychologically) before they even walk out onto the pitch against united?

    Pains me to say this but united's third goal was excellent and the red card decision was a mistake...............and let me just temper that praise with.............i hope whoever wins tonight beats united in the final..........hardly surprising though, is it

 

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