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Life in the old dogs yet

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Phil McNulty | 21:55 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson claims he may ride off into the sunset with Arsene Wenger when the curtain comes down on the Premier League's most enduring managerial rivalry.

It might be stretching reality to breaking point to describe the old stagers as the game's version of Noel and Liam Gallagher - but their turbulence, talent and creative tension may be even more sorely missed than anything Oasis had to offer when the credits finally roll.

Unlike Oasis however, Ferguson and Wenger are not going anywhere yet and on the evidence of the latest eventful instalment in this drama, football should be thankful.

Manchester United took the honours in fortuitous fashion at Old Trafford - and mixed emotions were the order of the day for Wenger as loser and even Ferguson as winner.

Wenger's mood, almost buoyant and certainly good-humoured, in the Old Trafford media theatre was easily explained after an Arsenal performance that suggests his optimism about their title hopes this season is built on increasingly solid foundations.

Arsenal were in untroubled control courtesy of Andrey Arshavin's wonderful goal until Manuel Almunia gifted Wayne Rooney a penalty - described as "Old Trafford-ish" by Wenger but undisputed in reality - and Abou Diaby decided to defy all laws of football logic and dispatch the most clinical of headers beyond his own goalkeeper.

Galling stuff for Wenger and exacerbated when he was pointlessly sent from his technical area by referee Mike Dean on the say-so of the fourth official after he kicked a plastic bottle in frustration when Robin van Persie's injury-time strike was chalked off for offside.

Arsene Wenger is sent to the stands

Wenger's reaction was human nature and his needless dismissal only created a chaotic scene that could have been avoided with only 30 seconds to go - especially as he actually had nowhere to go when he was ordered away from the touchline.

He looked as bemused by the conclusion to his evening, arms outstretched amid baying United supporters, as he was by the result of a game that should have gleaned Arsenal at least a point.

Arsenal looked a more cohesive, unified team than last season. Thomas Vermaelen is a sound defensive addition and Arshavin adds fantasy.

The tiny Russian is a wonderful footballer - and a source of much inspiration for Arsenal fans when it comes to less-than-flattering songs dedicated to Emmanuel Adebayor.

Arshavin's slight frame lurks with intent throughout, that rolling and sometimes disinterested gait disguising his lethal talent, and a world-class ability to surprise with strikes delivered with little or no backlift. It was a tribute to his ability that Old Trafford suffered collective anxiety attacks when he was anywhere near the danger zone.

Whether this is enough to sustain a serious title challenge is still open to debate - the fact remains they lost this game and Arsenal still have a habit of losing composure when all seems under control.

The return of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri will add to the air of goodwill around the Emirates, but Wenger must ensure losing games they should have won does not become a damaging habit.

For all Arsenal's good work, Manchester United achieved a feat that was beyond them in the Premier League last season by overcoming the Gunners. And they showed one of the tried and trusted trademark of champions by beating a top four rival without coming within a country mile of their best.

But even in victory, and in case we forget a very important one, United have just as many questions to answer as Arsenal.

Ferguson's initial team selection was a source of much debate and not something that could be described as an unqualified success, even with three points as the reward.

Wayne Rooney shouldered huge responsibility through the middle as he was flanked on either side by Nani and Antonio Valencia. Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov were restricted to the bench.

Berbatov made an erratic appearance as substitute, and it is worth posing this question: what does it say about your £30m striker if you wave off £100m-plus worth of attacking talent in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and he is not an automatic pick for a game against a team regarded as one of your closes title rivals?

There is no mistaking the fact that United have had a major dimension of their game removed with the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, and this means Rooney is an even more pivotal figure.

Ferguson can relax safe in the knowledge that Rooney is up to the pressure of the task and it was his sheer force of will that kept United above water. He is a reassuring presence for United's manager and their supporters - how they must keep everything crossed that no misfortune befalls him.

Rooney is brought down by Manuel Almunia

Rooney is now Old Trafford's talisman, but the help he receives from others is likely to shape United's hopes of success this season. The season is in its infancy, but the jury remains out.

A word too for goalkeeper Ben Foster. He was at fault for Arsenal's goal, despite the velocity of Arshavin's strike, but he effectively saved the game for United with a priceless block from Robin van Persie just after the interval that prevented his side going two behind.

Ferguson used his programme notes to insist once more that he will not be buying again in this transfer window, light-heartedly suggesting the £80m raked in for Ronaldo "seems to be burning a hole in the pockets of lots of fans."

He added that it was "an insult" to suggest he could lose faith in his current crop of players overnight.

This is a man who knows, who has been over course and distance many times, so it is not a safe occupation to contradict him. The silver-lined career gives him the right to spring selection surprises - but you sense retaining the title for a fourth successive season will be tough work.

Lest this be seen as a wide-ranging questioning of United's credentials, and even their most ardent fans might just accept they may need to take step back to move forward with Ronaldo gone, the simple statistic of victory still marks them out as the team to finish above this season.

The "Pizzagate" days may be a thing of the past and the once icy relationship has thawed - but the competitive edge remains and Old Trafford witnessed compelling evidence of why Ferguson and Wenger will never go quietly while titles are up for grabs.

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Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    I can see that noone is going to mention the fact that Rooneys legs collapsed BEFORE he made contact with Almunia. Anyone who watches the replay can clearly see this. But English players are whiter then white though aren't they.

  • Comment number 2.

    Is it just me or are Arsenal a very unlucky team? Everything that could go possibly wrong in a game where they were obviously the better team did go wrong. Manchester United is not going to be feared on this display. They were the ones at home and they were mostly out played by the visitors. I would have to put Arsenal above Man U and both behind Chelsea on what I have seen so far.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree Rooney appeared to go looking for that penalty and certainly his knees bend before the "contact". But goalkeepers need to be a bit smarter. Boruc and Almunia helped the dive by providing the prop! Arsenal were hard done by but I am sure what comes around goes around and their time will come. As for winning the premiership this season, not likely, but they play football as it should be played and are one of the very few teams I would pay to watch.

  • Comment number 4.

    So you were wrong again Phil, Arsenal were not good enough to Win despite the media's frenzy about their young team. I personaly think Spurs worth more media attention.
    The main analysis point of the game (which you completely missed) was: when Arsenal go behind, they falter and drop their heads. This is why they exited the CL last year and why they might not win the PL this year. You cannot teach this, it just comes with experience, which Arsenal seem to still lack.
    Excellent open game though, and I hope Liverpool & Chelsea take note and stop their negative defensive styles when playing the big teams.

  • Comment number 5.

    What you don't really mention Phil is United's lack of creativity from midfield. At United, it seems we have a squad to last the season but not a team to win any titles. I went to see United against Valencia and it is clear that United need to replace Paul Scholes. Ferguson knows that he cannot play him every game but if he was 24 instead of 34, United would not have any concerns.

  • Comment number 6.

    Rooney certainly made no effort to stay on his feet and "played " for the penalty however Almunia clearly hit him and what on earth was he thinking of rushing out like that?
    Man U were truly rubbish and incredibly fortunate to win.

  • Comment number 7.

    What is the difference between the Eduardo and Rooney incident. In both cases they get a touch on the ball and begin to fall. In both cases they gamble that the keeper will make contact. As soon as Almunia does make contact, AFTER rooney has started falling it is described as "stonewall" penalty. Boric manages to stay away from Eduardo and so Eduardo is pilloried throughout the game and could be/will be charged by UEFA.

    All diving should be punished. But yet again we see the Old Trafford aspect playing it's usual part. How can Mike Dean have missed the Fletcher challenge. Now that was a stonewall penalty. It again has been glossed over because Arshavin scored just after, but what if he hadn't?

    Pundits, experts, players and fans all want consistency. That should include a consistent approach to types of incidents i.e. diving, but we also want a consistent approach to every team at every ground.

  • Comment number 8.

    Clearly a penalty, regardless of whether Rooney 'went' for it or not.

  • Comment number 9.

    Arsenal were clearly the better team, but on yesterday's evidence Chelsea will walk the Championship.

  • Comment number 10.

    Agree completely with what's been said above. If you can't tell that Rooney's left leg is already pulling across the pitch before he's anywhere near Almunia, you need your glasses checked. Of course football writers will also see this and comment on the dubiousness of the penalty, because Man U are not the darlings of the media. And of course UEFA will be charging Rooney with diving too, right?

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry. Don't agree Wayne Rooney dived - and in the interests of balance I should add that I am totally unconvinced by the decision to charge Eduardo. Am I alone (well Arsene Wenger actually said the same thing at Old Trafford last night so I am not) that Artur Boruc did get the slightest nick on Eduardo's right leg?

    Uefa have certainly opened up a can of worms with this one. As Wenger said, the same rule should now apply to every player and every match.

    On the game itself, I agree Arsenal were unlucky but it has happened a few times and Wenger must ensure it does not become a habit.

    Interesting post about United's midfield. It did struggle to create and I am not sure Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to play Nani and Antonio Valencia with Wayne Rooney as a lone striker was a success.

    Ferguson's answer (and it is a pretty good one) would be to point out to us that United actually won.

  • Comment number 12.

    isnt that what champions are made of... they grind out wins even when they are not playing their usual self.. numerous times United have played way better than arsenal and come out empty handed.. but this time they grinded out a win...

    fletch is my man of the match.... I think he did a roy keane yesterday

  • Comment number 13.

    You Arsenal fans should simply get over your complaints about the penalty. It was a penalty, full stop, and it was the fault of your goalkeeper. If you guys want to look at a proper dive, Eduardo, your own man, is there (Arsenal vs Celtic champions league match at the emirates in case you've forgotten so soon). If you want to see another unjust penalty and dismissal, look at what happened to man u and Fletcher at the emirate in the second leg of last season's champions league semis, when a penalty was awarded and Fletcher sent off. I accept you unlucky not to leave old trafford yesterday with at least a point, but that's life.

    Back to the article in question, I think SAF has a lot to do in the midfield. I am more or less inclined to seeing Chelsea crowned premier league champions this season but we still have to put up a fight and play well. The number of times we gave away the ball yesterday was alarming. Giggs and Scholes can be useful in some games but not against a youthful Arsenal side and a packed midfield. Carrick to me should be shipped out, he's getting more useless with each passing game. And to those who think Arsenal were fantastic, I didn't see anything in their game to be honest. While I admire their passing game, I think that sometimes they tend to pass the ball around so much instead of going for the goal, Arshavin being an exception. After Arshavin's goal, I expected them to be taking a lot of shots at goal, with the funny Foster still in charge.

    SAF and Wenger! Two great characters that will surely be missed when they call it a day.

  • Comment number 14.

    Bizarre game, and bizarre behaviour by Wenger. On current form Chelsea are streets ahead of these two, and Liverpool are just a laugh.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hustler, Fletcher man of the match!!!? Which match? When you say he did "a Roy Keane", do you mean he ran round like a mad dog kicking every player he could and sometimes getting the ball as well as an afterthought?
    His "challenge" on Arshavin was the most obvious penalty so far this season. He was totally outplayed by Diaby and, to some extent, Song.

  • Comment number 16.

    It was a penalty, full stop. Almunia got none of the ball and once the goalkeeper comes charging from his line like that there's only really going to be one result, although it was a typically intelligent pass from Giggs. The replay clearly shows contact between Almunia and Rooney and so the referee - who otherwise, I thought, had quite a fussy game - had no option. It was Arsenal who once again won out in the diving stakes, Eboue's tumble was laughable. However, he will not be banned because the dive didn't result in anything tangible. The only reason Eduardo was banned was because the dive won him a penalty - if he had done the same thing in the left-back area it would have been described as 'just something that goes on these days'. The inconsistency is laughable.

    Anyway, United were fortunate to win and the win doesn't gloss over their wastefulness in wide positions in particular. Valencia doesn't convince me at all and Nani hasn't matured as quickly as most thought he would. Meanwhile, Arsenal are intricate going forward and look solid at the back with Vermaelen, but they need somebody physical, such as Adebayor, to give them another dimension. Bendtner's a bit of a clodhopper and won't replace Adebayor's goals. Chelsea will have watched this game rubbing their hands in glee.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am NOT a new member!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have been posting for years now. This is the second time this has happened recently

  • Comment number 18.

    Arsenal are a good side but won't have the depth to win anything, yet again.

    I agree with Wenger that UEFA should now intervene in every case of diving, but they won't of course, not when UEFA can take their preferred option and make a scapegoat of a (notionally) English club.

    Also, the domination of the media by the so-called Big 4 is really tedious. Even the BBC has taken to referring to the Sky 4 as the Big 4. It's just boring.

  • Comment number 19.

    Dull, dull, dull. Both teams set-up to hold the ball, not to do anything with it. This love affair with Arsenal's "style" of play makes me laugh. They created 2 chances in the whole match, and Man Utd created none (or had I dozed off and missed it?).

  • Comment number 20.

    post 14. You're bang on about Liverpool being a laugh!

  • Comment number 21.

    See post 14 and 20. Throbbinrobin are you endorsing your own comments? Nice.

  • Comment number 22.

    Yep. It was a penalty. And penaltys like that are a part of football. Of course a striker is going to go down looking for contact. Footballers and people in general arent angels sent on earth! You want to win and you go down at minimal contact in the box. Fact.
    What I would like to see is how UEFA gets out of this mess they have created.
    1) If the referee books edu for diving in the match its a yellow. After the match its a 2 match ban?
    2) Not convinced that there was no contact.
    3) UEFA must be forced to review every possible dive by video evidence post match after this incident, if they do go ahead with charges.
    4) All previous matches must also be reviewed if they go ahead with charges. Players like Ronaldo and Drogba will easily miss a season coz of 2 match suspensions from previous dives.
    I really think all this hype has been created by UEFA because of the Scottish clout at UEFA.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't see how anyone can say that Arsenal deserved the win. Yes, they passed it around well and dominated the first half, but the fact remains that they made two crucial errors in their own penalty area, and United didn't. That's why Arsenal lost, and deserved to, despite all their good play.

    But I agree that United were unconvincing and need a midfield spark. Liverpool have Gerrard, Chelsea have Lampard and Arsenal have Fabregas. United don't have that driving force in midfield. Carrick isn't that type of player, Anderson isn't up to the task (not yet, anyway) and Scholes is too old to play regularly.

  • Comment number 24.

    We were fortunate - we are not looking that good at the minute. However, to claim that the rooney & eduardo penalty's are the same is just being silly. I do agree with wenger saying that everyone now should be investigated (I've been saying this for years even with ronaldo) as diving & feigning injury are ruining football.

    The midfield appears bareft Anderson is the real disappointment - he has the ability maybe just not the attitude. The movement is poor, very static and lacking dynamism. Still I trust SAF as he not done too bad.

  • Comment number 25.

    Excellent blog. The title along with the front page photo really made me laugh. I still think Arsenal have more of a chance of winning the league than MU. But I doubt very much either of them will win it this year.

  • Comment number 26.

    I am a Chelsea fan who normally favours Man U over Arsenal, but I must say the events of the last few days have me feeling sympathetic towards Arsenal.

    I have watched the Eduardo incident many times, and whilst it was not a penalty, I simply can't understand why he is being victimised.

    Then in yesterday's match I can't understand how a penalty was not given against Man U when Arshavin had his legs taken away from him whilst the ball was a yard to his right, yet the Rooney pen was given when it was clear that he had already lost control of the ball and that it was destined to go out of play despite the minimum the contact by the goalkeeper.

    But putting all that aside, as a Chelsea fan I must admit to having a preference to Man U beating Arsenal, because it is clear from the evidence so far this season, that there is much more to fear from Arsenal than there is from this desperatly average Man United team.

    ps..despite the crazy own goal, I thought Diaby was awesome and looks the true reincarnation of Viera.

  • Comment number 27.

    19. At 09:53am on 30 Aug 2009, Bazzav12 wrote:
    Dull, dull, dull. Both teams set-up to hold the ball, not to do anything with it. This love affair with Arsenal's "style" of play makes me laugh. They created 2 chances in the whole match, and Man Utd created none (or had I dozed off and missed it?).


    And which 'wonderful' football team do you happen to support?

  • Comment number 28.

    I think Ferguson should be worried that his team only won on a penalty and an own goal, to say nothing of the penalty denied to Arsenal. Wait until they come up against the big players.

  • Comment number 29.

    United, and particularly Ferguson, got very, very lucky. His decision to leave Rooney isolated up front, meant that we needed a huge slice of luck to win this game. Our goals came through a penalty and a farcical home goal, and other than set pieces, these were the only ways we could have scored BECAUSE WE ONLY EVER HAD ONE MAN IN THE BOX! If we are worried about numbers in midfield, surely the answer is for Rooney to drop back when not in possesion.

    It was blindingly obvious that Rooney up front on his own was not working yesterday, and Ferguson's perseverance with it beyond half-time was just shocking. We won IN SPITE OF not BECAUSE OF Ferguson's tactics, and an extremley fortunate victory should not be allowed to absolve the manager of critisism! Ferguson is obviously a great manager, but his head does seem to have a habbit of dissappearing up his own backside in the biggest games.

  • Comment number 30.

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that the gunners were wtout their inspirational captain against manu and diaby who replaced him lacked creativity. The own goal was just unfortunate. Arsenal could have done better with incisive passes from cesc.

  • Comment number 31.

    It was a disgraceful decision by Mike Dean to send Wenger to the stand among people who had been chanting that abhorrent song about him being a paedophile.

    If those Portsmouth fans could be charged for singing the song about Sol Campbell, why can't the Man Utd fans be likewise sanctioned?

  • Comment number 32.

    i'm not a fan for Arsenal or Man U but in my view Man U didn't deserve to win so most of my comments is for Arsenal.

    I'm not sure what Wenger wants from his strikers! we would call a strikers a player who keeps the ball unncessarily in 18 yards box and/or even 6 yard box!

    Simple questions for Arsenal - How many times did Arsenal strikers shoot the ball into the Man U Goalie? less than 5 times out of 95 minutes!that is totally unsatisfactory for Arsenal fans.

    Little Arshivin tried twice and he got right and hit the net! he is a striker and rest of the players were dancers in the box.

    its about an expereince again, a striker should try 3 times to aim the ball to the goal 3 times out 5 times when got in the box.

    Arsenal fans should know that only beautiful football passes in the box is an art of football and likeable but not always guarantee to acheive the intended results.

  • Comment number 33.

    JRmaineman wrote:
    "What is the difference between the Eduardo and Rooney incident. In both cases they get a touch on the ball and begin to fall."

    The difference is that Rooney is English and Eduardo isn't. If Rooney dives over the leg of Sol Campbell (the end of Arsenal's unbeaten run) that is described as a soft penalty. If Michael Owen dives against Argentina, that is clever play. I have no regard for British football media because I know that it consists of xenophobic and racist people. As for the game, Arsenal were the better team and deserved to get at least a point.

  • Comment number 34.

    #25: Arsenal have more chance? You must be joking! United were very shabby but I still think they have more in their locker for a title push.
    On this evidence though, I agree and doubt they will win it.

  • Comment number 35.

    Darren Flecther was by far and away Man Utd's Man of the Match against Arsenal, which is in itself concerning, that effectively a "spoiler" player would shine so brightly in the midfield. For me, whenever Man Utd play at home you would hope their creative forward players would be the ones to stand out, but against Arsenal that wasn't the case.

    The midfield is a real concern, with Carrick and Fletcher a perfectly able workmanlike combination, but neither are likely to make the creative difference (the same goes for the likes of Anderson and Park). Valencia looks out of his depth and sadly Giggs and Scholes aren't going to be able to perform at a high enough level for enough minutes over the course of the season to be relied upon. This leaves Nani, who has started the season pretty well but needs to be more consistent with his final ball/decision making. All in all i think United need another creative body in midfield, an Arshavin type player who can beat a man (or two) and score their share of goals.

    However, having said that, Man Utd did win the game, and isn't it always said that it's the sign of champions to win when you don't play well? Anyway, the current United team should be could enough to challenge for the title, but not win it - it looks like it's Chelsea's to lose at the moment.

    Oh, and to all those moaning about dubious penalty decisions for Arsenal. After Eduardo against Celtic and Fletcher's in the Champions League last season - i think we can put it down to Karma?

  • Comment number 36.

    Phil have to say your being extremley harsh on Berbatov, yes he missed a very presentible chance (though there was a clear boble) but that was about it. He was only on the pitch for 10 minutes at a time when United were defending so it seems a little unfair to claim his performances was "eratic" based on a single incident.

    He wasn't picked because Ferguson wanted to match Arsenal's central midfield not due to his level of performance. Hopefully next weekend he will revert to 442 because the experiment didn't pay off yesterday. Most of what United have done well in attack this season has come through Berbatov and I don't think it's a coincidence that our two weaker performances have coincided with him being dropped to the bench.

    I would agree with you on Rooney however, he has risen to the task since Ronaldo left with a goal a game so far this season. United will need that run to continue for the next couple of weeks at least.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good blog Phil.
    I think your most telling para is the one saying United took all 3 points without really sparkling..... even if the 'god's were shining on them yesterday.
    In this post Ronaldo season , the existing squad will be rotated and some days they will gel , others not. I think SAF was expecting a point yesterday at most, hoping to douse the Arsenal fire, so job done !
    I was most disappointed yesterday in Valencia's contribution ,it's as if his natural talent is being stymied for the team ethic, something we can ill afford if Berbatov continues to miss chances as he did late on with a really amateur finish !
    What's matter with that bloke, so much skill but no go or heart ??
    Giggsy had a great 2nd half and it shows that now he is a 50 minute player albeit a very good one , same goes for Scholesy imo.It's time for the young guns, partly blooded last season to step up to the plate and shine.

  • Comment number 38.

    Still no mention in the media about those disgusting/disgraceful United fans singing "that song" about Wenger; he really does well to ignore it. The FA really should do something about it, but because it's Arsenal, it is pretty much ignored.

  • Comment number 39.

    Basically, only a fool would say United deserved it, but only a fool would say it wasn't a penalty. Fletcher on Arshavin was clear cut too. Arsenal are playing well, but tellingly they haven't kept a clean sheet in the league and that's their vulnerability. United are struggling to score goals(ye, 5 vs Wigan, 1 more than Blackpool)and will continue to do so without any real creativity in their midfield. Bit part players at best. Personally, I hope Ferguson sticks with the current squad and I'll be backing them for the Carling Cup this season.

  • Comment number 40.

    After the ridiculously over the top furore over the Eduardo incident, it was even more unlikely than usual that Arsenal were going to get the anything decision-wise at OT yesterday.
    Fletchers dangerous two footed challenge on Arshavin was clearly a penalty and arguably worthy of a red card, yet nothing at all was given.
    Rooney was falling before Almunias contact for the penalty given to united which makes the incident essentially no different to Eduardos.
    Mike Dean proved himself spineless by his performance today, buckling under the weight of the media witch hunt and the OT home pressure. He was desperate to please and the pointless and unnecessary dismissal of Wenger compounded this.

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • Comment number 42.

    28. At 10:35am on 30 Aug 2009, martluck wrote:
    I think Ferguson should be worried that his team only won on a penalty and an own goal, to say nothing of the penalty denied to Arsenal. Wait until they come up against the big players.


    Thanks for your concern, but Utd will be okay once they get Van der Sar, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Rafael, etc back.

  • Comment number 43.

    I was impressed with Fletcher yesterday. Nothing flashy but effective in that particular role. Ferguson trusts him completely in games such as this.

    What do Man Utd fans think about Ferguson's conviction that he will not spend again in this window and the bulk of the Ronaldo money will stay where it is?

    I would be tempted to try and inject another creative forward but he is clearly not for turning. And not sure how often he will employ the system he did yesterday. United did win after all, so all arguments must be placed in that context.

    Arsenal can take plenty from the game, but as we said before United took what was most important. The three points.

    Lots of talk at Old Trafford about how there is more of a feeling of unity about the Arsenal squad this season. Do Arsenal supporters think they will miss Toure and Adebayor this season or has Wenger once again done outstanding business?

    Ferguson made it clear he feels Arsenal did good deals - and I have to say this seems to be another case of Wenger timing sales to perfection.

  • Comment number 44.

    Something else people (except maybe one) have failed to point out is that, apart from his moment of madness, Diaby had an absolutely great match and posed all kinds of problems to the Utd midfield and defense.

    Also, no one but a Utd fan could deny that Rooney had already knocked the ball beyond his own control and dragged both feet along the ground in anticipation of the contact with Almunia which duly came. A penalty, probably; a dive, definitely.

  • Comment number 45.

    Good game for the neutral last night and there’s no doubt utd were lucky to win. But in football it’s swing and roundabouts.... Arsenals last trophy, 2004 FA Cup, anyone?

    As far as the simulation argument; this has been the bane of the beautiful game for years and has ruined so many world cup and european games for me for as long as I can remember. The Europeans and south Americans seem to have always accepted it as part of their game and even thought it was a skill to be developed. Following the Bosman ruling It is now wide spread in the British game.

    IMO Fifa and Uefa could rule out simulation or diving practically overnight by using TV replays. I would not hold up the game, because while the supposed victim is rolling around on the floor, a quick replay would confirm if there was contact or not. If there was no contact then a booking should result. It is so basic that I can’t believe that it hasn’t been introduced by now.

  • Comment number 46.

    Come on Cloughtheking I cant believe even you are convinced there's no difference between the Eduardo and Rooney incident's. In one the keeper gets a slight touch and Eduardo throw's himself to the floor when he could easily have stayed up. In the Rooney incident, yes he was going down prior to contact however even if that wasn't the case Almunia would have taken him out.

    Also as I believe Fletcher himself pointed out he was owed a bit of luck after the events the last time United and Arsenal met at the Emirates and the "spineless" ref caved to the home pressure and incorrectlygave a penalty and sent Fletcher off.

  • Comment number 47.

    how can iorus59 complain about arsenal being an unlucky team. Has he forgotten about the 2 legs in champions league qualifying when they scored with a hideous deflection an own goal and one of the worst penalty decisions ever given in history ? Perhaps what goes around comes around and things even out over the season ?

  • Comment number 48.

    At 09:32am on 30 Aug 2009, kings4manu wrote:

    If you want to see another unjust penalty...

    You could cast your mind back to the game that finished the 49 game unbeaten run, when Rooney dived over Sol Campbell's leg.

    The boy has form for diving in this fixture.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm a United fan and whilst I will admit we were lucky to win by no means where Arsenal so vastly superior. United had more shots on target, we had more corners and more overall chances. And of course more goals. The only thing Arsenal edged us on was 6% possession and of course fouls. Arsenal should have had a penalty for Fletchers tackle but they scored 30 seconds later anyway and what if Arsenal missed the penalty? So that worked out well. No mention of Eboues shameless dive? I do think Rooney went down before contact was made however contact was made and its a penalty every day of the week. It was just 3 weeks ago we played well against Chelsea who have apparently already won the title despite not facing any good side yet.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think United were very fortunate to win yesterday and the omens for the season are not good. Problems with Anderson, Carrick's failure to dominate, Berbatov on the bench, Rio injured again, Evans needing an op, Owen well past his sell-by date, Valencia ineffectual, continuing over-reliance on the veterans Giggs & Scholes, Foster's continuing nervousness in goal, no sign of Macheda, Tosic clearly too lightweight (in every sense) for the PL, rumblings about Vidic leaving, Fletcher - for so long under-rated - now becoming hopelessly over-rated.....about the only bits of good news are Rooney's form, Nani's improvement (in flashes) and the form of Evra. Quite how Fergie thinks the current squad are good enough is beyond me; I know we always start slowly but the football we're playing just looks so uninspired so much of the time. Thumping Wigan 5-0 has just papered over the cracks. Most Reds know that we are a holding midfielder and a creative midfielder (at least) short of where we should be as 3-time PL Champions and 2-year CL finalists. If Fergie isn't going to buy anyone else, he needs to start getting some of the promising youngsters from the Reserves into the squad. Not expecting too much from the season - and I suspect it could be Fergie's last.

  • Comment number 51.

    After all the dust has settled over penalities/ not penaties the fact remains that Arsenal are the more likely to challenge Chelsea on current form. Chelsea are definately the team to beat. Yes, I am thrilled United won but United in my opinion from what I saw, will do well to maintain top 4 status. The loss of Ronaldo and Tevez are not the be all and end all. Been there before. But the team lacks balance and it may take a few weeks for Valencia to prove a good buy. The loss of Rio upsets the confidence of the back line and teams will exploit that nervousness. I agree with a previous blogger that Anderson is a lightweight in midfield and would do worse than to drop down a division to learn what is expected from a midfield player. Owen, if given a good run, will score goals for us. Only 4 games gone but I am sure SAF will sort it out

  • Comment number 52.

    Ginger_gooner: As a United fan I have to say I agree completely regarding that unacceptable song about Wenger. It should be treated the same way as racist chanting; indeed the song in question may have a racist element to its origins - reasoniong along the lines of "esoteric, intellegent Frenchman, therefore must be a xxxxxxxxxxx". Its the same retarded logic that branded Graeme Le Saux gay just because he read a newspaper that didn't have boobs in.

  • Comment number 53.

    Fortunately, neither Ferguson nor Wenger is a foul-mouthed half-wit like Liam Gallagher, so in retirement they will have lots of time to reminisce together civilly over several bottles of red. I agree with Phil that the officials overreacted to Wenger's kicking the bottle of water and Mike Dean could have shown a bit more common sense and defused the situation with a quiet word as good refs do in the middle when players' tempers flare. But why oh why don't linesmen raise the flag for offside as soon as the ball is played and not when it reaches the offside player? Late flags infuriate fans, players and managers alike. Arsenal were unlucky to lose - I can't think what Diaby was trying to do with that header, and Dean missed a certain penalty against Darren Fletcher.

  • Comment number 54.

    Image of the day :- Arsene Wenger standing in the stands, arms outstretched, among his adoring United fans.
    What a nonsense decision to send hom off!!

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm not sure I agree with the posters saying Chelsea have looked a lot better so far this season- sure they've played well, but they've not had any tough challenges yet; they also made tough work of Hull and Sunderland. In the Community Shield they didn't look any better than United- in fact I'd say United had the better of the game.

    I think Arsenal were unlucky yesterday, but it wasn't the gulf between the sides that some people are suggesting. United certainly had the benefit of a lucky own goal, v. Persie's free kick being tipped onto the post etc. As regards the two penalties, both were clear cut (although I don't agree with a previous poster's suggestion that Fletcher deserved a card for his challenge, it wasn't malicious/dangerous at all). Whether or not Rooney was going down is irrelevent. If you clatter into a player lying on the floor, it's just as much of a penalty as if that player is standing up. Further, whether or not the ball is going off is equally irrelevant. A foul in the box is a foul in the box- watching the FLS yesterday, I saw a penalty given in league 2 for a high foot and the striker nowhere near a goalscoring position.

    The Eduardo farce is pathetic. Celtic shouldn't have made such a fuss about it and UEFA shouldn't have interfered. Nobody seems to have mentioned Young's dive for the second penalty on Thursday at UEFA. Inconsistency is a terrible thing.

    It looks like the title race is going to be very close this year- which is a good thing for us neutrals!

  • Comment number 56.

    28. At 10:35am on 30 Aug 2009, martluck wrote:
    I think Ferguson should be worried that his team only won on a penalty and an own goal, to say nothing of the penalty denied to Arsenal. Wait until they come up against the big players.


    You mean the 'big players' like Chelsea, who were outplayed by an injury-hit United in the Community Shield, and only won on penalties and even that after a goal where Evra was down and out of position? Or maybe you mean Liverpool, who have been beaten twice already this season, by the mighty Spurs and Villa at home?

  • Comment number 57.

    #46. In both the rooney and eduardo incidents the ball was nudged away and the player fell in anticipation of contact, the only difference is almunia collided with Rooney afterwards. In neither case did the keeper cause the fall. And on the fletcher challenge last season, he wrapped his inside leg (studs up)around fabregas at almost chest height, whether he got the ball or not it was still dangerous and a foul but which in fairness deserved a yellow, probably not a red. Fletcher always plays like this, and therefore always runs the risk of being cautioned. As I have already said, at least deserved to have conceded a penalty and a yellow if not red for his two footed challenge (which I understand are illegal full stop) on Arshavin yesterday

  • Comment number 58.

    Manchester United yet again show the habit of champions, to be outplayed for most of the 90 minutes and still get 3 points, especially against one of the big four, is what makes the difference at the end of the season time and time again.

    One point to note- Its usually a united player scoring late on to achieve this, whereas own goals like that are not going to happen very often, shocking defending.

    United for the title, easy

  • Comment number 59.

    It frustrates me that there is so much debate about the penalties - Arshavin's should have been given but he scored seconds later so it does not matter. Rooney's was a 'stonewall' penalty; the Arsenal fans claiming it wasn't and denouncing Rooney on the basis that he'd lost control of the ball are missing the point - you need to look at Almunia for his rash decision to rush out when Rooney was going nowhere!

    I am a Man Utd fan and I worry about the team this year - Anderson hasn't capitalised on the potential he showed in his first year and Carrick seems to be going backwards... I rate him as a very good player but by no means great and, if Man Utd wish to continue to compete with the best in Europe without Ronaldo, then surely 'great' has to be what we're looking for.

  • Comment number 60.

    Just because Man U won doesn't mean everything is fine and that Man U's selection was correct. Sorry Phil McNulty but that's not the way things work, a lucky win is a lucky win and doesn't change the reality....on this evidence Man U need to sharpen up sharpish or they won't win the league this season....

  • Comment number 61.

    First on the diving, there are a lot of Arsenal fans who think Rooney dived simply because he has done it before, but then so has Edwardo, there was blatent contat on Rooney, not so blatent on Edwardo, Wenger even said he didn't think Edwardo was a peno, but I didn't hear him say "it's probably because we were at home!" the fact is these decisions even themselves out, but I bet Wenger didn't think it would be in the space of a few days! There is no point harping on about dives from season past, fans of both teams can come up with instances when players from the others have done it. Everyone but the most myopic Arsenal fan thinks Rooney was taken out, live with it!

    Onto the formation, it was interesting, Fergie basically played how we often played with Ronaldo last year, but with Valencia/Nani in his postion, obviously neither is the goal machine he was, but then it took several years for Fergie to turn Ronaldo into one too.

    As for the title, it's going to be hard, no one has won 4 in a row in English top-flight history, there is a good reason for that, it gets harder every time you win as teams work out how to play against you! Personally I think it will between Utd and Chelsea with Liverpool,Arsenal fighting for 3/4 with City and Tottenham close behind in 5/6, should be a riviting season!

  • Comment number 62.

    The larger United issue here, is not whether Fletcher gave a penalty, or did Rooney dive, or was there some Eduardo hangover...mark all that down to karma, as was mentioned before - sometimes you get a break, sometimes you don't. Man U have had their fair share of bad luck in the past. See Fletcher v Arsenal last year, Man U v Chelsea C. Shield this year.

    The loss of Roanldo and Tevez, and the subsequent changes, are the far greater issues here. No longer do you have 25+ goals flowing from the midfield position and the far greater impact is the loss of the chemistry which carried Man U for those years.

    Watching Giggs give away the ball made him look like the old man that he is, no longer able to run with the young guns, with a mind still willing but a body that cannot keep up. Put Scholes and Neville on that list, as well. Great players, but their best days are behind them.

    Nani is another one who, as the commentator put it, is now free to be his own man with the departure of CR7, feeling as though the pressure upon him is now released. Nani should just worry about being Nani, not trying to be the next Ronaldo on Man U. Forget about all the stepovers and free kicks and just try to get better with each game.

    Add in some fresh meat in Valencia and Owen, players who haven't lived up to their hype yet (Berbatov, Carrick) and what you have is a recipe for rough patches, while everyone sorts out their roles.

    The question is; Can they find their identity and gel quickly enough to keep up with primarily Chelsea, then Arsenal and finally Liverpool (acccording to current form)?

  • Comment number 63.

    Darren Fletcher played well but he missed an early chance that should have put us one up. He did foul Arshavin in the box but Arsenal kept possession and scored seconds later, so nothing lost for them. I don't agree with Wengers blinkerd views on the Eduardo penalty but sending him to the stands for kicking a water bottle - after seeing an injury time equaliser ruled out - was ludicrous.

  • Comment number 64.

    A few points:

    Arsenal need a new goalkeeper. I'm convinced of that now. Our defenders obviously have no faith in Almunia - they don't know whether he's coming to collect wayward crosses/passes or stuck to his line. Diaby's ridiculous own goal could have been avoided with a more assertive keeper. I could see that once Almunia left his line with Rooney bursting through there was only going to be one outcome, which begs the question, why couldn't he?

    Second, the officiating was shambolic. The fourth official was obviously either out of his depth or out to get Wenger. We see managers week in, week out, kicking water bottles etc. Sending a manager into the stands in the 95th minute betrays a lack of forethought that was frankly more embarrassing for the referee than Wenger.

    Thirdly, I don't know about the Rooney "dive" some fans are talking about. I haven't seen it in slow motion, but would be interested to. I mean, Eduardo's dive would have been validated if Boruc had cleaned him up regardless of whether he was already going down. Because Boruc had more self-awareness than Almunia he got his arms out the way and Rooney was thus able to draw 'sufficient' contact. The referee in general was OK, but no more than that. I question the wisdom of the FA in appointing the man who gave more cards than any other to a game that's always going to have a few rough tackles.

    Finally, why isn't Nani going to be charged for 'deceiving a match official' when he claimed a throw that he knew wasn't his? The referee then compounded his error by booking a rightly protesting Sagna. It changed the game just about as much as the penalty against Celtic - i.e. not one iota.

  • Comment number 65.

    While it's true Arsenal were the better team and deserved a draw at the very least, I don't understand why some gooners are getting all worked up at Man Utd for "robbing" them. It's not our fault that your team went out of its way to gift us victory you know.

    Oh, and the Rooney penalty wasn't a dive. Sure, Rooney knew what he was doing, but diving is when you go down with NO CONTACT. Like Eboue demonstrated so well last night.

    And I did feel a little sorry for Wenger towards the end, although I'm pretty sure Arsenal fans would have done the same to Fergie if it had happened in North London.

    Remember the 2005 FA Cup final? Well, atleast now you gooners know how it feels.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Phil good post, I have to say, and agree that it was a penalty for Rooney. Even though he played for it and had long lost control of the ball it was stupid by Almunia. I agree that there are some positives to take but really the game panned out how I expected within 10 minutes of seeing how Man U were playing. Man U aren't all that, Chelsea are much better, and Fergusons tactics were awful, ignorantly dissmissing our defence and trying to catch us out with long balls, its no wonder we played better and they couldnt create anything. The last 20 minutes highlighted why were not quite there, our midfield and strike force are good but just lacking the respective grit and brilliance that the very best teams have, that Chelsea have.

    They'll win it, Man u had a full midfield and strikeforce and created nothing, they were no better than we were shorne of what will be the hub of our team (Rosicky and Fabregas), and we're not good enough.

    Phil selling Adebayor and Toure was fantastic business and money aside both were lacking qualities which would have been vital for the way our team is set out, neither will be missed. Adebayor has some good physical qualities that we need to replace, however his lack of a awareness and anticipation and his unrefined technique meant he wouldnt fit in to the system. Last season it was clear Arshavin hated playing with him. He became lazy and selfish aswell. I still think we need a pacy centreforward who can lead the line in before the window closes though, but obviously one who is up to the required technical ability. As for Toure he's been long in decline and was starting to make alot of mistakes. He was poor in the air and always gave an easy time to players who came short or played with their backs to him, and he wasnt an organiser. Vermealen has improved our defence because he posses these qualities in abundance. If Toure was playing yesterday instead of Vermaelen fergusons ignorant tactics would have undoubtedly paid off.

    With regards to the money Id be surprised if Wenger doesnt get another centre forward and some cover at centreback. Both are a must

  • Comment number 67.

    Rooney didn't dive, although I don't doubt he saw a penalty as his best chance to score from that position. I think he was leaning downwards to possibly sidestep the onrushing Almunia, but was taken out anyway. I can, however, see why Wenger thought it a typical OT penalty-from-nothing - it didn't look like one at full speed to me on first viewing, but the first replay made it utterly clear. Good spot from Mike Dean you have to say.

    Did Boruc get a touch on Eduardo? I'm not convinced he didn't you know, but Eduardo still over-reacted. That said, Eboue dived under absolutely zero contact yesterday...

    Totally agree that the penalties shouldn't be a matter for debate (he says having discussed the second one...) - Arshavin made the first call irrelevant in stunning fashion and the one that did get given was obvious as soon as the replays were shown.

    Still, a good performance from Arsenal, worthy of at least a point, and an Arsenal side that has turned a transfer market profit in a summer where everyone seemed to think they had to strengthen have proven that once again they can live with anyone. I can't see their top-four spot being gatecrashed on this evidence, put it that way.

  • Comment number 68.

    48. At 11:12am on 30 Aug 2009, MarmK1 wrote:
    At 09:32am on 30 Aug 2009, kings4manu wrote:

    "If you want to see another unjust penalty...

    You could cast your mind back to the game that finished the 49 game unbeaten run, when Rooney dived over Sol Campbell's leg.

    The boy has form for diving in this fixture."

    If you want to remind us of unjust decisions you need look no further than a Robert Pires dive maintaining an Arsenal run...just cast your mind back.

  • Comment number 69.

    A lot of people seem to saying Chelsea will walk the title this season.

    What is this based on? They have played nobody of note yet and when the fixtures list came out pretty much everyone expected them to win their 1st 6 games. They look like doing that so far but by no means does it make them certainties for the title.

    I'll wait till they've actually played some tough fixtures first before making my mind up about Chelsea this season.

  • Comment number 70.

    In the context of the game overall it is fair comment to say Arsenal were unlucky. But isn't this why nobody tipped them for the title? Two calamitious defensive errors. It's been their achilles heel and Wenger has not brought in the reinforcements needed.

    Ferguson's tactics bemuse me completely. This endless rotation and formation changing means no fluency and team understaning. Agree totally with Phil's comment on does he establish a potent partnership with Rooney when dropped every second game? 4-5-1 with Rooney up top on his own is nonsense!

    As for people criticising Carrick and many minutes have they had this season. When will Fergie learn that he needs a constant CM partnership and needs to breed confidence into players?

    I thought Anderson would get his chance in the AM role this 21 he should be ready and has rarely been played in that position which is the reason he was bought in the first place. He's the one Utd midfielder with huge potential to step-up. Confidence is everything as we've seen with Fletcher.

    I have no idea what Fergie's plan for Utd's midfield is but if he thinks he can rotate it every game he's way off the mark.

    No continuity = no fluency = no understanding = no confidence = no title.

  • Comment number 71.

    Dear my fellow gunners,
    It’s high time we forgot about all what happened to us in the past four days. Please let us move on to avoid any diversion from our remaining 35 premier league, carling cup, Champions league and F.A cup games. Lets us talk about the positives from our team so far this season. These I believe are more relevant than crying over the spilled milk. Let us remember, success is measured on how you bounce back after any failure.

    We need to continue to do what we do best, play unbelievable game of football. To be honest, our defence has been rock solid. The 4-3-3 formation has been great and we always look more dangerous and feels like scoring from any angle. Hence,I strongly believe come May 2010, this will be the season to get back to our winning days of trophies.

    Lastly, at Arsenal, I believe we are neither losers nor quitters but WINNERS. Winning is everything. The only ones who remember you when you come second are your wife and your dog. Come on gunners. Let us remain positive because what a man can imagine he can do it.

    Long live Arsenal FC, long live Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and long live my fellow gunners.


  • Comment number 72.

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

  • Comment number 73.

    So can we expect Eboue to be banned for a couple of games now in order to have consistency? It wasn't in the box but what difference should that make? And he got booked for it but why should that save him?

  • Comment number 74.

    Man u played well and i think we deserved to win, even though babatov and nani missed the chances they had, i also think sir alex should also start reconsidering the role of giggs in some games like arsenal,chelsea, tottenhan, these club play with speed, physical and with strenght if you all notice at a time in the first half giggs was committing some expensive errors, he was paired with rooney to strike but he left rooney alone at the front not even with any backup, i understand that he is a big boy in the club but still sir should boy that are equal to the speed of his opponent, i also noticed his reservations for tottenhams match on saturday,player like babatove can calm the game down,he has skills and has the spirit of making things happen, infact valencia,j.s park, fletcher, oschea, evra were outstanding.

  • Comment number 75.

    While its true Arsenal were the better team and deserved a draw atleast, I don't understand why some gooners are getting all worked up at Man Utd for "robbing" them. Its not our fault that your team went out of its way to gift us victory you know.

    Oh, and the Rooney penalty wasn't a dive. Sure, Rooney knew what he was doing, but diving is when you go down with NO CONTACT. Like Eboue demonstrated so admirably last night.

    And I did feel a little sorry for Wenger at the end, although I'm sure Fergie would have received the same treatment from Arsenal fans if it had happened in North London.

    Remember the 2005 FA Cup final? Well, atleast now you gooners know how it feels.

  • Comment number 76.

    Would you say that Rooney was guilty of:

    'an intent to decieve the referee'

    I admit that it was a penalty - Almunia should not have come out, but Rooney was on his way down before contact. Does this not qualify as an intent to deceive the referee?

  • Comment number 77.

    As a guy working in Spain, I love this British obsession with diving. You can moan for weeks about Eduardo, Drogba, Ronaldo "going down too easily". And yet, when you get guys like Rooney or Gerrard doing the exact same thing, the media defends them to the hilt.

    The problem with diving isn't to do with foreign players. You are just totally blinkered when English players do it.

    As in, Michael Owen's penalty/dive in the 1998 world cup quarter finals, against Argentina. One of the softest penalties, and most cynical dives I've ever seen in a world cup game of that magnitude. Never mentioned.

    Let's be honest Mcnulty. I realise you have a fan/customer base to please, but it wasn't close to a stone wall penalty.

    Rooney was already going down before he got anywhere near to Alumnia. And the only reason he got it was by cynically touching the ball (would have went 20 yards out of play) before tumbling to the ground, over Alumnia's body.

    It was an English player trying to con the referee into a penalty. An English player with no intention whatsoever of doing anything more than trying to win a penalty. An English player who basically looking for a penalty. All ALmunia could do was watch as Wayne Rooney went over like a diving swan, over his arms, even before he touched the guy.

    You don't even mention Arshavin's penalty claim, bizarrely. Which was a much more blatant penalty claim. Again - I suppose there are more United fans to appease, than Arsenal.

    As for the game. Arsenal dominated, and were unlucky. So I think, ironically, they can be happier than United with their current form. They've gone to Everton, Celtic, United, and dominated. And could have scored 3-4 games, minimum, in all of those games.

    United have looked largely toothless, bar a Spurs style hammering of a weak team.

    Berbatov, still, is not trusted by the manager in the big games. And their line up looked more "damage limitation" than the champions of England playing at home. More a "let's try and keep it tight" sort of line up.

    The big winners in this are Chelsea, and possibly Liverpool. As both have to be very confident that they possibly have more firepower than United this season. I can't see how either will fear United this season - in individual games and the season.

    As stated earlier, I think Arsenal, in the ling term, will come out of this game the happier team. They've basically shown that they are at least the equal of United this season - if not a better team.

    They look much stronger than last season, and have serious firepower.

    May be controversial, but I see the league panning out with Chelsea/liverpool/arsenal winning, and united possibly consigned to 3rd or 4th.

    I predict the "how can you write off united" argument. I can write them off as, they have finished runners up/3rd numerous times in the last 20 years. And the thought that they will just keep on winning titles (as they are united) is ludicrous. As historically, their seasons have all been peaks and troughs

  • Comment number 78.

    Oh i love this biased london based press coverage!!! Fortunate? Mr Mcnutty has failed to mention that United had two clear cut chances at the end of the game, we should have won 4 - 1.

  • Comment number 79.

    "Excellent open game though, and I hope Liverpool & Chelsea take note and stop their negative defensive styles when playing the big teams."

    United playing 1 up front, at home, and only scoring because of a dive and an own goal.


  • Comment number 80.

    Great photo and a good article. However, I have a bone to pick regarding your view that Fletcher "had a good game". He went around kicking the legs out from under folks like he had a license to do it. I believe he was already on a yellow when he put both feet into Arshavin, inside the box and a yard from the ball. When I was watching that, my first thought was "straight red card", and my second was "maybe only a yellow but the same result".

    In a game where 9 card were shown for a range of petty offenses, I think Fletcher was the most fortunate player on the park, and I think it is complete fantasy to call his game adequate. He didn't score, he didn't assist. He just got very lucky not to be sent off in the first half. Very lucky, with a shocking ref. For those who are mystified by the decision not to give the penalty, consider that had the ref given the card, Fletcher was gone and ManU were toast. That must have caused the ref to pause, and then reconsider. Full credit to Arshavin that he got straight up and got on with it instead of rolling around and crying like a policeman.

    The other issue I think you missed in this article is Evra. Just how good is Evra? For mine, he is awesome, and was yesterday. I would rate him him at about 500% of Fletcher. In fact, I thought Rooney was streets better that Fletcher.

    A final point is with regard to the Eduardo dive: the guy had his legged snapped off at the knee last year because he didn't pull it out of the way in time. If that happened to me, and I saw a goalkeeper running at me, I'd dive too. Why not? He was diving out of the way. Is that wrong? After what happened to Peter Czech?

    What do people want? For players to just run flat out into each other to show they don't want to dive?

    The crime is not diving out of the way, but diving in order to get a penalty. In this respect, watch Eduardo and Rooney in action, and tell me who you think was trying for a penalty, and who was trying to get out of the way. Rooney was turned around asking for it before he hit the deck. Eduardo I didn't see, but I'm told he didn't ask for the penalty.

    It is not the diving we despise, but the cheating. It is asking for a penalty when you could have stayed on your feet. It is rolling around like you've been shot when you were never touched. Evidently the distinction between diving and cheating is lost on a great many referees, and I guess that is about what I would expect.

    Can't expect nought from a sow but a grunt, and the referees in the premier league have become stars of the game, such is their professional uselessness.

  • Comment number 81.

    united and arsenal play the best football in england today.

    but as a united fan, i will never right of arsenal. at their best, they are as destructive as any other team in the world, pick defences apart.

    united are the best counter attacking side, on the break they do some amazing things, everyone is at one.

    on yesterdays game, united were the better team and rightly deserved all 3 points. atmosphere was very good in the second half.

  • Comment number 82.

    "Manchester United yet again show the habit of champions, to be outplayed for most of the 90 minutes and still get 3 points, especially against one of the big four, is what makes the difference at the end of the season time and time again."

    Pony like this annoys me. United have lost big games to top 4 rivals basically every title season they have had.

    You know - Arsenal, at home - if you want to CHALLENGE, not win - should be a complete given. Arsenal beat United at home last season - is that the stuff of champions? Oh yeah, they came 4th.

    Arsenal were probably expected to lose by a few, and they dominated. United were expected to win, and got pretty lucky.

    In the long term, I think United have to be a bit worried. They haven't dominated a top 4 team in the league (other than a shamble scolari chelsea, just before he was sacked) in yonks. Even at home.

    I think Arsenal can be the more pleased. They should have won, and have looked top quality every game this season.

    Like last year, United look like they have a serious serious lack of firepower - and I really can't see them winning the league without a game winner like Ronaldo/gerrard/arshavin

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.

    68. At 11:54am on 30 Aug 2009, OldRedBren wrote:

    If you want to remind us of unjust decisions you need look no further than a Robert Pires dive maintaining an Arsenal run...just cast your mind back.

    How could I forget this one, it's the stock example that every lazy journalist or fan uses, clearly no player has dived before or after the Pires incident, up until Eduardo this week....

    Two examples in nearly a decade, both of which are held up as examples of all that is wrong in the game.

    Glad to see that you didn't try to defend Rooney's actions in that particular game though.

    As an aside, I really want Eboue out of the club, how the idiot even thought he could pull that stunt this week is frankly beyond me.

  • Comment number 85.

    Phil, like you I must admit that when the UTD team was announced at OT yesterday I was somewhat puzzled over SAF's attack selections, two wide men and one down the middle - thankfully the one down the middle was Rooney! The wide men however failed to come inside (often enough)to support Rooney and at times he played the Arsenal defence on his own. Giggs finally made amends for what was (for him) a below par performance by supplying the cross that led to the OG. However I agree it was something more akin to good luck than good management that UTD came out on top - but as Napoleon once said " I would rather have lucky Generals that clever ones" (or something like that!)and yesterday the luck was with SAF. However I have to say that some of this rubbish about Arsenal being the better team is just that - its true that at times they had UTD on the ropes but could'nt finish them off; that's not title contender form! - Arsenal in fact could claim to be unlucky, especially with the penalty shout against the mistimed Fletcher tackle, but who (that tackle apart) was the best Utd player yesterday - just edging out Rooney!

  • Comment number 86.

    There seem to be a lot of children on here, kids who can't even remember 12 months back. United have started the season slowly, we started the season slowly the last 2 seasons and, to remind you all, they won the league. To judge United/Chelsea/Liverpool/Arsenal or any team based on a few games in August is monumentally naïve, last season the same people were saying Chelsea were streets ahead of everyone, look how that went, particularly for Scolari. I'm not saying United will definitely win the league, but to say they definitely won't is idiotic; beating teams while playing badly is how you become champions, not spanking teams when on top of your game. United were only at their best in a handful of games last season yet came very close to winning everything in sight.

    It's not how you start, it's how you finish (cliché maybe, but true).

  • Comment number 87.

    post 22 said
    All previous matches must also be reviewed if they go ahead with charges. Players like Ronaldo and Drogba will easily miss a season coz of 2 match suspensions from previous dives.
    what nonsense - why would they have to?? and how far back do you think they should go?

    I personally dont agree with with Arsene that EUFA have opened a can of worms - I think they are correctly (belatedly) responding to the natural concern that there is too much cheating in the beautiful game.

    I agree that there must be consistency but going back for years would be plain stupid. If we want to remove (or at least reduce) diving we have to impose punishment and we have to start sometime - why not now.

    EUFA should (and hopefully will) state that all future games under their direct jurisdiction would be subject to post-match review and they should make the punishment such that divers just dont do it. The other Football associations should follow suit.

    The alternative is to do nothing and accept simulation as an integral part of the game - this is surely not acceptable.

  • Comment number 88.

    I think SAF should look in the Championship for some hungry players who would bite their arm off to play for ManU.

    Joe Ledley springs to mind as someone who is performing at that level but could develop a lot more under the mentorship of someone like SAF.

    Cardiff might be loathe to lose him though.

    Any others that might make a surprise addition?

  • Comment number 89.

    You Arsenal fans should stop and think before you write.You say that United were rubbish but they still won.What does that say about Arsenal?Are you really saying that Arsenal can't beat rubbish 'cos if you are then Arsenal can't be very good?
    Some of you say that Arsenal were just unlucky.Does that mean that Wenger is a crap manager and just relies on luck?I actually believe that Wenger is a top manager and most of your players are top players, they are just not as good as United.
    It does happen to be a fact that United usually do play much better than yesterdays performance but that doesn't make them rubbish.It just suggests that everyone better watch out when they start to really turn it on.
    For all you contributors who claim that United are missing Ronaldo you ignore the fact that when he was absent from the team United still won.

  • Comment number 90.

    "I am totally unconvinced by the decision to charge Eduardo."

    Why? There are precedents for this action. Would it be better to let cheats win? There are precedents for this action.

  • Comment number 91.

    Why is everyone so surprised at the rooney penalty decision? Yes he was going to ground before contact, but there was contact, and you can see why it was given.

    More glaringly obvious was the arshavin penalty incident, which was one of the CLEAREST penalties of this season so far, yet not given.

    Flecther made no contact with the ball, except which his hand as he slid straight through arshavin......and i'm a spurs fan....

  • Comment number 92.


    its very clear that players whose recent careers have been spent supporting Ronaldo are now showing their bit player tendencies.

    None of them, apart from Rooney, can control a game.

    Even Giggs and Scholes have had their careers extended because of the strength of Ronaldo's talent meant they weren't always taken seriously and allowed freedom to operate.

    Those days are over and SAF needs to RADICALLY overhaul this team, strip it back to the young talent like he did in 'The Old Days' when he let the old favourites go.

    He should write off this season in favour of giving his younger players experience. He has enough old heads around to pass on the wisdom of winning.

    If he keeps putting people like Giggs/Scholes in then he's always going to lose out on young talent because they will know they have more chance of playing at a team like Arsenal than ManU.

    Things need to change at OT.

  • Comment number 93.

    84. At 12:25pm on 30 Aug 2009, MarmK1 wrote:
    68. At 11:54am on 30 Aug 2009, OldRedBren wrote:

    If you want to remind us of unjust decisions you need look no further than a Robert Pires dive maintaining an Arsenal run...just cast your mind back.

    How could I forget this one, it's the stock example that every lazy journalist or fan uses, clearly no player has dived before or after the Pires incident, up until Eduardo this week....

    Two examples in nearly a decade, both of which are held up as examples of all that is wrong in the game.

    Glad to see that you didn't try to defend Rooney's actions in that particular game though.

    As an aside, I really want Eboue out of the club, how the idiot even thought he could pull that stunt this week is frankly beyond me.


    It's nice to see that you want Eboue out - but is it a coincidence that he isn't very good? I don't recall anyone wanting Pires out because of his diving.

  • Comment number 94.

    "what does it say about your £30m striker if you wave off £100m-plus worth of attacking talent in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and he is not an automatic pick for a game against a team regarded as one of your closes title rivals?"


    Well, it says that Ferguson wanted to persevere with Rooney through the centre in a game in which he was bound to be tempted to match up with Arsenal's formation.

    Naturally, being a professional sports writer for a major news organisation, you would know that though.

  • Comment number 95.

    Just in relation to the Eduardo and Rooney penalties. Both players were expecting the hit from Boruc and Almunia, respectively. The difference is that Boruc stopped abruptly and Almunia didn't.Rooney's legs began to bend because they had nowhere else to go, Almunia was in the way; Almunia connected and gave away the penalty. Boruc, on the other hand, stopped and therefore poor old Eduardo,although he got the penalty, was left looking like a diver - he was expecting the hit.
    I think Wenger is correct in relation to FIFA's response; it opens up a whole can of worms regarding consistency.

  • Comment number 96.

    Arsenal were the better side, moved and passed the ball and played silky football! Silky football does not win you games, it's goals that win you games! There are to many fickle fans on here writing United and indeed their midfield off! Remember 95/96? A certain pundit with the one liner....'You Never Win Anything With Kids'? Well that new midfield of Beckham, Scholes, Keane and Giggs was new and young but as they say the rest is history. Give it a season and then judge!

  • Comment number 97.

    I've seen two comments about Fletcher's two footed lunge implying it was somehow career threatening. For sure it was a penalty but he struck Arshavin with his knees - his feet were tucked away from contact with the player. Please do not make things up. He is not dangerous in the tackle.

    As for the match, Arsenal were unlucky but Giggs was like a bunker in golf - every ball that ended up with him was a wasted one. Valencia is ok but he needed to be a lot quicker on the break as Rooney was often isolated. I was not impressed with the selection at all. Anderson should have been on for Carrick who does not look like a midfielder these days and Berby for Giggs. Still 3 points is 3 points - and a hopefully AF realises that all is not well and will change things around.

    Credit to Arsenal they played well, especially off the ball. Their pressure on the ball pushed us back and caused the midfield to lose contact with Rooney. If you avoid injuries to Arshavin you should do well this season. However the Arsenal squad is wafer thin.

  • Comment number 98.

    both excellent blogs from 71. and 80. cheers and thanks to some intelligent football fans. Roll on the returns from Cesc, Theo, Rosicky etc. By the way, in Wengers shoes I might have considered throwing on the young Wilshere with little or noting to lose.

  • Comment number 99.

    To poster 60 dawolf...I think you will find I did question Ferguson's team selection and have also said United still have plenty to ponder despite their victory.

    And to poster 78 zumion...United did have chances but they came with Arsenal pushing forward. Might be worth you remembering that Van Persie hit the bar and saw another shot brilliantly blocked by Ben Foster.

    On the game itself I have to say nine yellow cards was excessive. If I went to match when I was younger and there were nine bookings and a manager sent off, you could reasonably expect that game to have been a bloodbath. Not yesterday.

    Poster 88 OmniAural...Joe Ledley has been linked with Premier League clubs before, but I am not sure he is of the class required by Manchester United. Am I being too harsh? Cardiff fans can maybe tell me more.

  • Comment number 100.

    Well United managed to win but again when they play a team of fair quality their reputation of being a "GREAT" team is ripped apart.

    Its early days but me thinks neither North West club are anywhere near good enough to challenge for the big prizes, in fact I forecast Liverpool to go out at the CL group stage, and Utd to follow them in the first knockout stage. Save the embarrasment of being thrashed again by the Spaniards


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