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Manchester United expose leaking Arsenal

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Phil McNulty | 07:30 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

Arsenal's day of indignity and embarrassment reached a fitting conclusion as the ceiling in the Emirates Stadium's opulent media theatre came out in sympathy with their defence - and leaked like a sieve.

Panic was swiftly avoided with the use of a bucket and a presumably a plumber. Crisis over. If only Arsenal's own problems could have been solved so simply as Manchester United made it a harrowing afternoon for Arsene Wenger and his team.

Wenger, as he did before the heavy home defeat against Chelsea in November, talked up the meeting with the champions as a measure of his side. Once again Arsenal failed their big examination. Miserably.

The moods of the two old foes Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson could not have been more contrasting - in keeping with the performances of their teams. No fine margins here, United were superior in every department while Arsenal were flimsy, lightweight and bore no resemblance to serious title contenders.

Wenger could barely believe how his team were outclassed by a rampant Manchester United

While Ferguson was jaunty and called on Arsenal to recover and "batter" Chelsea next Sunday, even the arch-optimist Wenger could find no comfort amid the wreckage of a sobering meeting with United.

He complained about United's "anti football" after defeat at Old Trafford earlier in the season, but he could make no such claims here. This was prolonged, painful punishment inflicted by United's mastery and Arsenal had no answer.

Wenger rarely calls out his players in public, but his after-match inquest read like a footballing crime sheet. "Difficult to accept but easy to explain. We were poor defensvely and offensively. We always gave them too much room. We were naive. Maybe too inhibited and tense."

And these were the positives. Wenger also suggested there were "some mental reasons" and reflected on the galling statistic that two of United's goals came directly from Arsenal corners.

No such problems for Ferguson and United, who have had an outstanding week and played with as much attacking conviction as at any time since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Indeed, much of the template for United's success came from the Ronaldo-inspired victory in the Champions League semi-final at the Emirates last season. Ruthless, sweeping counter-attacking football based on the foundations of heavy industry, pace and width with the wonderful Wayne Rooney the focal point.

Rooney's performances come as no surprise these days. I recently questioned Aston Villa's manager Martin O'Neill's description of James Milner as "a great player." Ferguson used the same words to describe Rooney after United's win - no arguments because he is in that elite group now.

The surprise extra dimension for United came in the shape of Nani, so often derided as a Ronaldo-lite show pony, and with good reason. At the Emirates he emphasised his recent progress which Ferguson puts down to personal maturity and his ability to finally overcome a naturally shy nature.

Nani simply tortured Arsenal's Gael Clichy and anyone else who came in close proximity. It was almost cruel and he drew gasps with his trickery that forced Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia into conceding an own goal and set up Rooney for a repeat of the classic goal Ronaldo scored in the Champions League meeting last season.

Ji-Sung Park, who with the excellent Darren Fletcher is trusted by Ferguson in fixtures such as these, illustrated United's superiority and Arsenal's incompetence by running unchallenged over more than half the length of the pitch before being left with little option other than to score.

United were deadly while Arsenal were sitting ducks, displaying every trait that means they are treated with suspicion when Wenger talks up their title credentials. If Arsenal's fans feel previous criticism has been harsh, the grim evidence was laid out before them in all its ugly reality on Sunday and many had seen enough by the time Park made it 3-0 early in the second half.

The champions were bigger, stronger, more forceful and had the better footballers as United's superiority was not reflected by the scoreline. Chelsea are ominous at the top of the table, but United made sure they got the message loud and clear - if they want the title back it will be a fight to the finish.

For Arsenal, title hopes remain but this was defeat on such a damaging scale that it will take special reserves of strength to regroup before next Sunday's visit to Chelsea.

Arsenal lacked stature in all its forms, they were horribly indisciplined tactically as they were hit on the break with monotonous regularity, United feeding off a naivety unbecoming of a team with such lofty ambitions.

And Wenger must take his share of the blame for this. Arsenal were still making the same basic organisational errors at the end of the game as they were at the start and they were either unwilling or unable to make the adjustments.

The likes of Tomas Rosicky, Denilson and Samir Nasri looked feeble as United ran all over Arsenal. It actually did look like men against boys at times.

Wenger riled Martin O'Neill by taking the purists' stance after the draw at Aston Villa, labelling them a "long ball" side. Arsenal might actually benefit from a bit of long ball themselves because their studied passing style has drawn blanks against Chelsea and United at home this season and variety can be the spice of life.

Arsenal's uncertainly was summed up best by the performance of goalkeeper Almunia. Horribly at fault for United's first goal, he looked like he had had his self-confidence surgically removed by the final whistle, especially when he lashed a throw in straight to Nani in a blind panic.

The jeers at the final whistle summed up Arsenal's sombre mood. It was the sound of their title hopes being deflated, the fear that the Premier League is another trophy Arsenal will not be winning this season.

If this is so, it leaves the Champions League as Arsenal's only other hope of their first silverware since 2005 and it takes some leap of the imagination to picture the team we saw on Sunday lifting that trophy. It just makes Wenger's apparent ambivalence to the FA Cup and Carling Cup even more puzzling - when you have not been winning trophies, you cannot afford to be fussy about your targets.

For United and Ferguson, this result will serve as a huge injection of self-belief. This was the sort of performance they used to produce with Ronaldo, and to exert such authority on Arsenal without him will do wonders for confidence.

Wayne Rooney has already scored 20 times in the Premier League this season

And they have Rooney, the talisman so crucial to United and England. He now looks the complete attacking player, the spearhead for club and country to such an extent even some Arsenal fans were hushed when he slumped to the floor clutching his knee in the second half.

It was no more than a kick, but Ferguson and Capello will live with the fear of any misfortune befalling Rooney. He is irreplaceable for United and England.

He scored his 100th Premier League goal when he swept in that brilliant second on Sunday, with his first also coming against Arsenal as a 16-year-old on that memorable Goodison Park day in October 2002.

Wenger hailed Rooney then and he did again on Sunday. It was praise through the pain as United brutally exposed Arsenal's old fragilities and questioned their fitness to be taken seriously as Premier League title contenders.

And then there were two.

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  • Comment number 1.

    1 week Arsenal brilliant the next week Arsenal rubbish!!

    Is there no middle ground with you Phil?

  • Comment number 2.

    Man Utd are a very good side just as Chelsea are, granted it could dent Arsenals title challenge but don't forget what happened last time they got soundly beaten at home - they went on a 10 match unbeaten run and they are quite capable of doing something similar this time around.

    Th stats show Arsenal had plenty of opportunities and all season they have been taking them, yesterday, they didn't and Man U did simple as that.

    Carry on writing your obituary Phil, but i for one have got full faith in Wenger and the boys they may not win the league this year but what matters is we keep fighting and make no bones about it we will.

    This Arsenal team is getting closer regardless of what Journalists say (typical sensationlism).

    So come on Arsenal get your heads up and keep going because you are the team to take us onwards and upwards.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Chelsea fan I am going to blame Gary Cooke and Man City for re-galvanising Man United's season, and I now know we have a hell of a task to wrestle the title away from SAF and his team.

    But, prior to that oaf of a CEO at Eastlands opening his mouth, and all the incidents that occurred during the Carling Cup semi-final, United had the look of a side who having won 3 consecutive titles, would be content to let someone else win it this year.

    Well that's no longer the case.........cheers Gary!

  • Comment number 4.

    08:27am on 01 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:


    You clearly didn't watch the game then?

    Man Utd were the dominant force, should have scored 4-5 and Arsenal maybe had one or two convincing attacks.

    Your team looked shocking, please start to worry.

  • Comment number 5.

    arsenal need to get rid of almunia and also get a new striker...Denilson should not be starting either...
    why does gallas think that he is a stiker?? cant believe wenger cant see that

  • Comment number 6.

    Truth hurts does it LABSAB9?

    Hansen famously said 16 years or so ago 'you won't win anything with kids', and where he was way off the mark with that prediction it may well apply to the current Arsenal crop.

    5 years with no trophy to show for it is not a team rebuilding, it's a team in decline from it's previous glory.

  • Comment number 7.

    "And then there were two." is a little premature. While I agree that if we lose to Chelsea and then woefully to a terrible Liverpool side our title hopes are over, until that happens I refuse to give in.

    Man Utd deserved their win for a change. No arguments. It's unfortunate that we hadn't already beaten them at Old Trafford, which was a one sided game Arsenal should have came away from with 3 points. This time round it was the opposite and was a deserved Utd win.

    Bring on the Blues, shouldn't be nervous about Liverpool though, if we don't beat them then we should be ashamed of ourselves.

  • Comment number 8.

    Rooney was in a class all of his own yesterday, I don't think he gave the ball away once in the first half.
    As a Utd fan its obvious where Arsenals problems lie. RVP is great - but hardly a natural leader of the line - and he isn't going to be around until next season probably. Arsenal need an old fashioned centre forward. Arshavin is 5ft6 and whilst effective coming from midfield is just not big enough to play up front on his own.

  • Comment number 9.

    United's biggest problem this season has been injury problems at the back not missing Ronaldo at the other end. On that count United have scored 15 more goals this season then at the same stage last year, indeed the scoring rate is higher even than at this stage in the 2006-7 season.

    At the back however if you consider Van Der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra to be the first choice back four then aside from Evra the other four have only managed 33 league apperances combined (that's 8.25 apperances each). On top of that every other defender aside from Evra has spent a significant amount of time out with injuries with the utility man O'Shea out for the season.

    Few clubs could cope with that number of injuries and still be in the hunt, but United have remained relentless. Nani's return to form has coincided with a move to the right-wing, that leaves Ferguson with a real dillema. Valencia has been excellent this season but in terms of potential Nani is the stronger. Ideally Ferguson wanted to have them on either wing but if doing so curtails Nani's ability will Ferguson risk it?

    Either way United showed the kind of pace, vision and cutting edge which we have come to expect from them and Ferguson will hope that Chelsea's less than convincing win at Burnley is the start of a dip in form for them as currently they remain in the driving seat for the title.

    For Arsenal next Sunday is now a season defining match, if they're not careful they could easily find themselves slipping back into the chassing pack with potentially disastorous results. Wenger will be hoping they can show the determinaton they did after the Chelsea defeat earlier in the season to get a result at Stamford Bridge and then against Liverpool.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am disappointed about arsenal's performance yesterday, it was just too poor. They could have done better, they were too casual and seemed uninterested in a game of that magnitude. Wenger needs to have a rethink about his choice of players, he needs world class players to rise up and be counted when it matters. Those players need to take more responsibilities and should learn how to make, should stop making the same mistake over and over again.

    As for you, Phil, I think you are anti-arsenal and pro-man u. Man U were not that superior and you have seen them get beaten by teams like Villa, burnley and Fulham, teams arsenal have beaten. I think you need not be biased with you analysis and use some sensible words. I personally think Man U are not that good but for fools like Clichy, Almuna and Denilson and underperforming players like Nasri, Walcot and Sagna, you will have a chance to say those rubbish. Be a little bit real in your comment and analysis.

  • Comment number 11.

    This article doesn't really bring any more insight than average armchair fans could work out for themselves.

    I was extremely impressed with Nani today, and over the last couple of weeks but he still has to prove something over an entire season to be a long term United player. He deserves the plaudits for yesterday's performance though.

    What is interesting is that Fergie seems to have pretty much got the measure of Arsenal and are pretty much on a par with Chelsea at the moment, yet can't seem to get to grips with Liverpool who are arguably a weaker side. Hopefully this will be remedied soon!

  • Comment number 12.

    4. At 08:44am on 01 Feb 2010, simon samm wrote:
    08:27am on 01 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:


    You clearly didn't watch the game then?

    Try reading my post before spouting garbage mate, i clearly stated Man U took their chances therefore they desereved the victory not once did i say Arsenal should have won blah blah blah, the point i was making was Man U are a very good side so i will not read too much into the defeat because we ARE getting closer.

    6. At 08:47am on 01 Feb 2010, Andrew wrote:
    Truth hurts does it LABSAB9?

    5 years with no trophy to show for it is not a team rebuilding, it's a team in decline from it's previous glory.

    What a very strange comment!!!! team in decline??? do me a favour.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think neither Arsenal are as bad or Man utd that good as that performance would indicate yesterday. All it really proved was if you push too many people forward you will get caught on the counter attack by a top team which I think everyone knew anyway.

    Last year Man utd were battered by Liverpool at Old Trafford (and indeed they did poorly against all the top teams last season) but still won the league by winning against the other lesser teams when their rivals couldn't. 3points are 3 points whether they come against Arsenal, Man utd, Villa, Burnley, Bolton etc. I expect Arsenal to bounce back and with the easiest run in out of the three teams at the top I still expect them to be there or thereabouts come May.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think player for player Arsenal are the much better team. The two big problems with Arsenal is that they have a habbit of not playing for the full 90 minutes and fall to sleep for 10 minutes sometimes allowing teams back in and the other which everyone knows is they always try and play pretty football.

    The pretty football was the problem yesterday United knew that they had no width so the fallbacks tucked in and reduced arsenal to taking snatched chances and shots from the outside of the box. I agree with Phil they need to punt it long sometimes and get direct. A punt from the goal keeper that falls to the centre forward means exactly the same as a flowing 50 pass move.

    I was very suprised by United as I think they have been very average this year. However Nani who I have mocked mercylessly seems to be getting it together (We will see if he maintains it, I have my doubts but then I thought the same of Ronaldo as he used to lose the ball all the time as well) Add to that the three midfielders working well as a unit and a real challenge for honours is on the cards.

    My money is still on Chelsea and I will be amazed if they dont go 4 points clear against Hull. But there is a lot of football still to play and if this is the beginning of United midfield starting to function I think it could be close

  • Comment number 15.

    While I am delighted to see United click, can I just say Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid in the Spanish league and he is mentioned more in this article than any other player. Would you please get over him Phil. United have shown there is life after Cole, Yorke, Cantona, Kanchelskis, Beckham, Van Nistelroy,Schemical,Stam,Ronaldo et al. It's an impressive list but it stretches back so far I am stunned journos don't learn. Ronaldos goal tally last year was no so huge, he had a mediocre season with one or two highlights, he is NOT missed.
    As for your Demolition of Arsenal I am wondering what you wrote about United when they were Demolished by Liverpool last season. One beating does not a season define, no matter what end of it you are on. Arsenal have a mental block against United, Ferguson has Wenger in his pocket. Ancelotti doesn't know him, and Liverpool although they have turned a corner shouldn't have enough. This season is not a two horse race yet.

  • Comment number 16.

    Some of the newspaper headlines, as well as your blog, suggest that arsenal hardly had a sniff of goal which quite simply wasn't the case. As someone earlier said, Manchester united tool theirs while arsenal didn't. There's no doubt Manchester united deserved to win based on that, however, the game could have easily swung the other way if arsenal had been a little bit more composed in from on goal in the eraly stages.

  • Comment number 17.

    Without Ronaldo, at Emirates facing full strength Arsenal, counter attack delivers victory. Where are the analysis who dwelt on the death of speed in Utd after CR7 departure???

    The frustration that was on Fabregas' face tells it all how the talented inexperienced Arsenal Kids are sick and tired of tropheless seasons.

  • Comment number 18.

    How Much longer this eason before you journo's can write an article about United without mentioning Ronaldo? Getting a bit tedious and predictable now...

  • Comment number 19.

    I am an Arsenal-fan and a huge admirer of Arsene Wenger, but i honestly feel that he has to take the blame for the defeat they suffered yesterday.
    For the first 60 minutes, it was so very obvious to me that arsenal lacked a foothold in the opposing team's half in the form of a deep and solid striker. They couldn't get the ball up front, and consequently didn't have any attacking pressure. Again as a consequence of this, to create chances like this means that you have too big a distance to cross and too many challenges to evade from far too many world class midfielders and defenders which united undoubtedly have. It does not only not create danger, but instead it leaves your back four completely exposed, as playing the ball deep into arshavin means that several players make their move forward in support, and are caught out of position when arshavin is unable to control the ball - for which you cannot blame him, he's just not that type of player.
    For the last half an hour, united sat back and allowed arsenal the possession in their half, and it came as no surprise to me that this was a period in which arsenal looked always likely to score (even when the game was lost by that time). Where arsenal are normally so efficient in their passing game, it is because they can produce it around the oppositon's sixteen yard box, creating danger. Against united, because they didn't have a foothold in united's half, they had to produce the passing game around the middle of the pitch, which is far riskier and far less effective because you aren't going to create immediate danger.
    Anyway this is my analysis, what are your opinions on this?

  • Comment number 20.

    "United's superiority was not reflected by the scoreline".

    As a neutral, I have to say that's rubbish Phil. While United mercillesly exploited Arsenal's weaknesses on the counter (e.g. Park's goal being an almost carbon-copy of Steven Pienaar's - exposing Arsenal's defensive line as far too high), and they deserved to win; had Arshavin taken a number of early chances it would probably have been a different story, with Arsenal able to dominate possession. As it was, the Arsenal players took themselves down a cul-de-sac.

    Arsenal had a number of problems yesterday - the main one was being a team that is horribly liable to the counter-attack going a goal down at home. The second was the Clichy was nowhere near his best against a resurgent Nani; the third was that United had an extra player because there's no-way Denilson was on that pitch!!! The fourth, and perhaps crucially, was that Arsenal effectively had 6 midfielders, which is great when they're ahead (and my word they can look good), but it's useless when they're behind. Fifth, Almunia!! What do Arsenal fan's make of Almunia? Is Fabianski ready to replace him?

    So, should Arsenal go out and spend tens of millions on a top striker and 'keeper? Well, in the days of Portsmouth, the Riddler at my club Cardiff, the Glazers at Man U and many other examples of increasing debt and mismanagement, even if Arsenal don't win any silverware, the fact their club is in safe hands is better than the Carling Cup any day of the week.

  • Comment number 21.

    Didn't United go on to lose all the matches against the "Big 4" last season and still win the league, surely arsenal cannot be written off with the stuttering form of chelsea and united - not saying i think it will happen, but just i think its callous to write a team off in january when they're less than 5 points off the top

  • Comment number 22.

    Unfortunately much of what you've written Phil is true, Arsenal have failed another examination. I was lucky enough to be at the Emirates yesterday and Utd were awesome, back to their best. I have to say though the Arsenal "faithful" don't exactly help their team. I've sat in many Premier League home fan enclosures over the season and by far and away Arsenal's fans are the most negative and fickle of any. They don't get behind the team and boo their own players only to reverse that a few weeks later when the going gets a bit better. Two examples are Eboue and Bendtner last season. I actually think they have a good chance of beating Chelsea next week simply because it's not at the Emirates.

    I hate writing Arsenal off but you'd think that it's between Chelsea and Utd now depending on what happens next week. I really hoped for Arsenal success this season but now I'm backing Utd, ANYONE but Chelsea PLEASE.

    Please Rooney don't get injured before the World Cup, you are our best chance of possible success.

  • Comment number 23.

    Too many average players; Song, Vermaelen, Bendtner, Clichy, Almunia, Eboue, Silvestre, Sagna, et al. Good value for money though. Even Gallas looked the shadow of the player he was. A bit worrying for Arsenal fans is how easily their team were picked off with Nani skinning Clichy time after time, and as soon as Carrick took over from Scholes to mark Fabregas he was no longer a threat. More worringly must be how easily the Arsenal players gave up and especially Wenger - his body language said it all. Fair play to Wenger for defiantly sticking to his guns and pushing forward playing intricate passes on the edge of the 18 yard box but surely there must be a plan 'b' when it doesn't work. And Bendtner ain't it. Probably doesn't help if you don't make provision for the best in-form striker in England you're gonna get stung - more than once! But yesterday Rooney was similiar to Drogba - unplayable - surely Rooney has done enough to say he is England's targetman not Heskey or Crouch!

  • Comment number 24.

    Fabregas shouldn't be captain IMO.. Everytime a player makes a mistake or doesn't do what he would have in their situation he flings his hands round like a petulant child. Fair enough he is frustrated, but it's not the encouraging signs from a captain, he shouldn't be acting like that.
    Also, Arshavin should have passed it a bit more. Once he got the ball anywhere near the box he never looked anywhere except goalbound. Again, fair enough he has the capability to score, more so than most, but he should also have the faith in his fellow players and seems extremely greedy on the ball.
    Could have made all the difference.

  • Comment number 25.

    Big trouble for Wenger next Sunday, as Drogba will destroy such a weak defence.

  • Comment number 26.

    I feel this was one of the best away performances for United in a long time. I do not think United are getting the credit they deserve and instead journalists are focusing too much Arsenals shortcomings.
    United could easily have scored another three goals whilst Arsenal hardly troubled Van Der Sar. However, even if Arsenal lose to Chelsea next week they will not be out of it, as they will have a far easier run in than any of the other teams. Lets not be so quick to write them off, they will come back into it.

    In terms of tactics, United played with the full backs tucked in, allowing Arsenals wingers to cross it in forcing and dealing with the diminuitive strikers. United made Arsenal come out and then hit them with the break. The much maligned midfield of Man United nullified the in form Fabregas, with Carrick pulling the strings from deep positions and allowing Scholes and Fletcher to support the front three.
    I sensed a change in Uniteds fluency in the City game where even losing 2-1 they showed their capabilities since then they have hit 10 goals in 3 games against Hull, Arsenal and Man City.

    However, the major difference in this new United style is Nani who has suddenly found his form and allowed to play in his natural position of right wing. Valencia whilst a hard working winger has no trickery, is one footed and whose crosses have just been lobbed into the box. Whilst Nani's crosses are designed to pick a man out and fired into dangerous areas. Nani is beggining to show why Sir Alex brought him in. In the last 3 games he has been superb.

    For United's formation, and attacking three to work, it is pivotal Rooney stays fit, he covers the work of two strikers and should have had a hattrick. There is no striker in better form.

    Finally, for those who continuosly write off United year after year, maybe this will show you what it takes to produce title winning teams whilst evolving at the same time and losing big big players. You don't produce teams like this after a "flash in the pan" fianl two months of the season, or by playing pretty football all the time, or by nullyfying the opposition, it comes from know how, hard work, dedication and a passionate hungry Manager.

    Fergusons finest hour came when in the summer of 1995 when after selling Ince Kanchelskis and Hughes they won the double in 1996 to confound the critics. Many believed that Ronaldo and Tevez's loss would be too great and underestimated the most common factor in all Uniteds 20 years success, Sir Alex himself.

  • Comment number 27.

    I wonder if Ferguson thinks Counter attack is how he is going to win the Champions league this year. I can't see the likes of Barca falling for it as easily as the Gunners.
    I am hoping that if Nani can only play on the right, then Valencia can play on the left. I can't imagine Giggs and Scoles still having what it takes at the business end of next season. Hargreaves would be back which would make for a very interesting midfield.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yesterday's game must surely end the myth that Arsenal play the best football. Twice in the United's last two visits to the Emirates, - I point that out that out to emphasise the fact this was not a fluke, United have ripped Arsenal to shread's.

    Yesterday, in all seriosness United could have had 5 or 6 quite easily.
    Arsenal had a couple of chances towards the end irnically, when they actaully give the ball some air, and hoisted it into the box, - not their usual way of playing football.

    Which brings me to my next point. Arsenal need to learn to play differently according to the team they are up against and the conditions. Teams like Stoke and Bolton get accused of being 'one-dimensional' playing long balls, but Arsenal are just the same, they too are one dimensional, playing intricate pass, declining every opportunity to shoot from further out than the 18 yard box.

    The only reason Arsenal avoid this 'one-dimensional' tag is because their one-dimension, is a lot more pleasing on the eye.

    I feel a lot of United turn around in form is to with the re-birth of Nani. Absolutely phenemonal yesterday. He gave a returning Clichy the absolute run around yesterday. That piece of skill to set up the first was mind-boggling (so much so I had to Sky plus it 5 times to see just how he did it). It wasn't just that though he seems to be using his head more now, and his decision making is better. Only once in the whole game did we see the old side of Nani, when he had a go from 35 yards, when Giggs was in acres on the right, and this was in the last 10 minutes when United where being put under pressure. But it wouldn't be Nani, if he didn't do the odd thing, that din't make you want to tear your hair out, would it?

    Anyway fair play to the lad, he's got his act together and he's performing great.

    I thought Evra was a little bit rude last year call Arsenal 'babies' but that's what it was in all fairness. United's power and speed on the brake was simply too much for Arsenal defence that looked understandibly nervous and bewildered.

    All in all to me, this just proves the gulf in class between Man United and Arsenal. All the press build the leaguie up as having a 'top 4' -which is severely under jeopardy this year, effectively it is a top 2, with United and Chelsea being a fair way above the rest.

    Over the last 4 seasons there has been an average points difference between United and Arsenal of 15 points, I think yesterday that just showed, and another thing it showed is United are beginning to click into gear, and if Chelsea weren't aware of it before, - I'm sure they where, United are not going to be far away at all.

    And Phil:

    I can now add another performance to our list of good performances for 90 minutes yesterday. yes Arsenal put us under pressure when we where 3-0 up, but you'd expect thatm, they where searching for a more credible scoreline, but overall it is hard to grumble at what I would call a master-class in football.

    And another thing did anyone else feel this was a carbon-copy of the Arsenal-Chelsea game at the Emirates. Arsenal having a fair bit of ball (more son in the Chelsea game), but never really looking like scoring.

    Your thoughts?

  • Comment number 29.

    20. At 09:22am on 01 Feb 2010, EggFriedRuss

    I doff my cap to you sir a man who talks sense!!

  • Comment number 30.

    I love how these so called football columnists and critics go from one week saying that the Manchester United empire is crumbling, to the next week lavishing huge amounts of praise on them. As a United fan, I am quite offended that people keep going on about how bad Arsenal were and not how good United were. Arsenal were not bad, United made them look bad by being so good. Yesterday was the premier league performance of the season. Going to the third team in the league and absolutely decimating them is not easy, it could, and should have been 5 or 6 to United, and was reminiscent of the time United went a battered Newcastle when they were the third team.
    So all i have left to say is; come on Arsenal, beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge please!

  • Comment number 31.

    as a complete neutral, I thought it was a great game yesterday; Phil makes some fair points but imho, Arsenal needed a replacement for Adebayor - someone strong and quick to test Brown and Evans; Clichy was so off the pace and I cant see the Gallas and Vermaelen is a centre partnership - both like to get forward and they were often caught out yesterday .....

    perhaps the solution in central defence is Campbell & Vermaelen ...

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil-Excellent post. The first response to it was strange though i do accept his/her point. I, for one, do not get carried away lavishing superlatives on Arsenal as they beat Bolton or any other team outside the top 6/7. Arsenal can be undone very easily -you just have to have willing runners and determination. Utd had both in bucketfuls yesterday. one incident in the 2nd half summed it up when Scholes (he really needs to avoid tackling doesnt he!) jumped between 2 Arsenal players on the half way line and took the ball away with a header. It was as if the Arsenal players were waiting for the ball to land in that perfect spot with a perfect trajectory and only then would deem it worthy of being kicked.
    Arsenal players lack bite, determination and strength and no amount of wins against the likes of bolton will change that. Those getting carried away(including you Phil) these past 3 weeks were doing precisely that, getting carried away. The fault lines in the Arsenal psyche will remain until Wenger comes down from the clouds and buys the type of players he won the title with (Adams, Keown and Viera).

  • Comment number 33.

    Having overtaken Ronaldo in Manchester United's highest scorers' list, Rooney's now has his eye on Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Brian McClair. If he stays with the club for the rest of his career - as it seems he wants to - he has a real chance of joining (or even surpassing) Bobby Charlton and Denis Law at the very top of tree.

    Here is the full list.

  • Comment number 34.

    Might I suggest that ever since the Giggs goal in the semi -final at Villa Park all those years ago effectively destroyed Arsene Wenger and the mystique that had surrounded him until then? In fact I would go as far as saying that it smashed the man into a million pieces.

    Don't forget that was probably the strongest Arsenal team in modern times, with the best defence - the one Wenger inherited, not one that would ever include a clown like Almunia for a start.

    In fact, even the last trophy that Arsenal won 5 years ago (the FA Cup after extra time and eventually penalties, having had rings run around them for 120 minutes by a very unlucky Man Utd) only displayed that Ferguson has the measure of the man in every single aspect. Some will point out that Arsenal went to Old Trafford some years after the Giggs goal and secured the double courtesy of Wiltord, but even then, Man Utd hardly rolled over and handed it to Arsenal and it went to the last game of the season effectively.

    My point is this: At no point since Wenger has been at the club has Arsenal EVER humiliated Man Utd like yesterday's debacle and Wenger has always had to use Ferguson as the yardstick. I just get the feeling that Wenger suddenly appeared very 'beatable' after that Giggs goal and has never really recovered from it.

  • Comment number 35.

    #20 EggFriedRuss

    Getting bored of all this Man Utd debt crisis talk from the tabloid readers like yourself. They are a fully established club with a huge fan base around the world and fill their ground week in week out. My club Swindon have seen much worse financial turmoil over the last 10 years and yet we are still going, stronger this season too. As much as you may wish, Utd won't be going under so actually a striker might be a better option rather than hoping for scenarios that you got spoon fed from your daily reading of The Sun.

  • Comment number 36.

    09:04am on 01 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote


    I did watch the game,i disagree with the comment you posted - 'The stats show Arsenal had plenty of opportunities and all season they have been taking them, yesterday, they didn't and Man U did simple as that.'

    That makes it sound more of a contest, which it wasn't.

    Maybe Arshavin could have scored if he had turned up but apart from that the only real chances Arsenal had was once the game was dead and buried.
    Van Der Sar was only beaten by a deflected shot, fabregas had the face of a frustrated school boy.

    United are starting to come good, and I feel this IS a two horse race.

    My friend whom is a gunner, said a couple of weeks ago- if you could get 7 points out of the next 4 games which were - Villa, Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool you would be title contenders other wise its all but over.

    You've got your work cut out, I am of course praying you over turn Chelsea.

  • Comment number 37.

    The Arsenal performance mirrored Andy Murry's in the morning, showing promise in the run up but just not good enough when the opposition are on their game.

  • Comment number 38.

    United won the title last year and only scored 68 goals. They have 55 or 56 goals already this season.

    Therefore, could it be possible, that by playing Ronaldo, SAF deprived Rooney of the chance to become much sooner, the complete goal scoring striker that he his is today?

  • Comment number 39.

    The reason why Arsenal are great one week and rubbish the next is because they dont play teams to Manchester United and Chelsea every week. On there day there are amazing on the eye and play some truly wonderful football.

    However, they only play games like that against the lower sides in the league. The fact of the matter is they got exposed not only yesterday, but against Chelsea and Man Utd last season and earlier than this. They have been beaten in three very different ways. Old Trafford, Out Muscled, Emirates Vs Chelsea Overpowered and at yesterday Outplayed.

    There are the 3rd Best Team in the Country but a distant 3rd. If Liverpool would have not sold Alonso, They would be 4th and there would be no debate on the 4th CL Spot

  • Comment number 40.

    Phil, great article. Ok, being a Man U fan,I may be biased, but who can dispute the new Nani, outstanding Rooney, and SAF, for picking just the team go do this? Each year, SAF finds someone to reignite the United fire. From Kiki to Nani, somehowit works. I wonder, when is Hangreaves getting on thepitch?

  • Comment number 41.

    36. At 09:48am on 01 Feb 2010, simon samm


    I never said you didn't watch the game i just cut and pasted your response to me!!

    dear oh dear so you see what i mean about reading properly before you respond!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    It was yet another shock in a topsy turvy season. Not a single MU fan expected a walkover against Arsenal.
    It is difficult to explain away when you consider Arsenal to be one of the most exciting attacking forces facing the suspect and injury prone Wes Brown, Johnny Evans and still very young Rafael.
    It goes to show that the old adage of 'attack is the best form of defence' is proven to be true yet again. Managers should never tire of repeating this mantra, especially when the worry is that your defensive line is a weak point.

  • Comment number 43.

    It wasn't that United won 3-1, the fact is they could and should have won it by several more goals. Too many Arsenal players just either had a very poor game (Clichy) or didn't turn up at all (Denilson) whilst others just ain't good enough (Song). 2nd Sunday in a row that Arsenal have been muscled out of the game, Scholes & Fletcher were everywhere.
    Playing with no wingers and two good attacking full backs is great when it works but a-la yesterday it really lays you open to a team with
    some pace on the counter. For once I thought the Whinger gave a pretty honest assessment of the game and I almost felt sorry for him.....but only almost.

  • Comment number 44.

    Arsenal are never going to win anything as long as Wenger keeps Almunia, he is just not a top rate keeper. Lehmann had his faults but he was a world class keeper and more importantly, he was a organizer who would tell players who they should be marking. Clichy just looks like a rabbit in the headlights whenever someone runs at him and what was he doing on the third goal?? Deneilson is another total liability, for the second goal he should have been tracking Rooney but he just jogged back while Rooney ran right past him.

    The forward line was just too lightweight yesterday, we need an out and out striker who will lead the line and provide a focus to the attack. And what is it with Arshavin and Nasri? There were times yesterday when Arshavin had the chance to play Nasri in but didn't, bad blood between them?

    Overall that was pathetic and embarrassing, for all his achievements Wenger just infuriatingly never learns from mistakes. The more his teams get shown up, the more stubborn he gets to carry on regardless. It's time to wake up and smell the coffee Arsene and get some experienced players and leaders in.

  • Comment number 45.

    35 Pulp Grape wrote:

    "EggFriedRuss: Getting bored of all this Man Utd debt crisis talk from the tabloid readers like yourself... As much as you may wish, Utd won't be going under so actually a striker might be a better option rather than hoping for scenarios that you got spoon fed from your daily reading of The Sun."

    *Puts down copy of The Sun*


    Interesting observation Mr Grape, I'm impressed you can spot what paper I read (or, err, not) while completely missing my point!! At no point did I suggest United will go under, but there's a very real chance of the club not recieving the reinvestment of it's profits, hence the widespread dissaproval of the Glazers amongst the United fan base. As you point out, they have the biggest fan base in the world, who don't deserve to be servicing the debt encumbered by the owners borrowing. I hope that's "broadsheet" enough for you.

    Arsenal are not overstretching themselves, and the fans should respect this. An Arsenal fan who's a friend of mine made the point to me that while they haven't won a trophy for five seasons (or whatever it is), he gets to sit in one every fortnight. The Emirates is Wenger's legacy...

    Many people within and without the game have suggested that at least one top-level club will go under in the near future; while I'm sure that won't be United, the confidence in this prediction gives an indication of a more widespread economic malaise.

    *Moves on to Dear Deidre*

  • Comment number 46.

    Super performance by United yesterday, it almost took me by surprise. Nani was very good although he was made to look better by some woeful defending. I hope that he can put in another half a dozen of those performances before the close of the season.

    His inclusion in the team took many by surprise as it seemed that the improving Valencia would be the in the midfield but yet again Fergie knows best.

    I now cannot see Arsenal getting back in the race and cannot see them troubling Chelsea next week, but as I would like to be proved wrong.

    I like a lot of Arsenal fans am confused by Arsene's insistence on this team above no other? Why doesn't he make a couple of signings! Everyone could see with the loss of RVP that they would struggle, why can't he?

    Not to worry, Chelsea will need to keep on top form as we all know that any slips will be punished, see you at OT.


  • Comment number 47.


    Fair enough, good argument there to put me in my place. What's in Dear Deidre today? Anything from a certain J.Terry, London ?

  • Comment number 48.

    Thanks for the blog, Phil! Because, I have been waiting all night to vent my frustation at Arsenal losing yet again to Man United at Emirates.

    It was really shameful in the manner we lost. It was a similar shambolic performance we gave in last year's Champions League fixture. Wenger, not learnt from mistakes. Lee Dixon is right when he says Arsenal didnt have Plan B.

    Nasri didnot mark Rooney's run and Denilson was ball watching for Rooney's goal.
    Gallas tried do a 1-2 pass with Sagna in United's half and he just kept running towards the United goal. Who's going to do the defending Mr William Gallas? - You wearing #10 jersey doesnt make you Bergkamp... you still are a defender... mind you... And Clichy... lost his pace or what... and forgot tackling... I thought Clichy was trying to cover angles so that he doesnt leave the far post exposed and allow Park to send a pass through to lurking Nani at edge of the box. But he didnt even read that Park could have taken a shot at near post... there was absolutely no effort to stop Park marauding in Arsenal's half.

    Of course the If's and But's of the game - If Arshavin scored atleast 1 of the 3 chances he had got, but it didnt happen. After 2 goals down he seemed to miss the easy ones also. Thanks to our Verminator we pulled a goal back...

    But overall a disappointment for all Arsenal fans. Now this makes Chelsea & Liverpool game mandatory for us to win. I hope we do it.

    Wenger - Splash the Cash. Buy DAVID VILLA NOW

  • Comment number 49.

    At 10:03am on 01 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:


    hahaha - you did not make that clear AT ALL

    Awful point your trying to make.

    Sign off and have a nap sir.

  • Comment number 50.

    48. At 10:26am on 01 Feb 2010, Gunning For Victory wrote:

    Wenger - Splash the Cash. Buy DAVID VILLA NOW


    Yes that's exactly what Arsenal need, another small striker to get shoved off the ball by any sort of physical opposition.

  • Comment number 51.

    To say "I think player for player Arsenal are the much better team"...I have to disagree, and more importantly the recent records of the two teams suggest otherwise.

    One of the major Arsenal problems for me is goalkeeper Manuel Almunia. He is just not good enough and his uncertainty was contagious yesterday. And Gael Clichy looks nothing like the player he did before his injury.

    And so many small, lightweight players. Not suggesting it is a game for giants but Arsenal's lack of physical presence was a huge drawback yesterday.

    And what about the tactics? How can a team with the ambitions of Arsenal be such an obvious candidate to be caught on the counter time and again? I almost lost count yesterday and don't forget Everton did exactly the same recently when Steven Pienaar scored.

    Arsene Wenger bangs the drum for the maturity and character of his team, but they did not show much of either yesterday. And Wenger himself must share responsibility for the continued, obvious failings against top-class opponents.

    He suggested Arsenal need to be more intelligent in their positioning having effectively conceded two goals from their own corners - surely that is for Wenger to remedy?

    Some defiance from Arsenal fans on here, but be realistic. Did you come away from that game yesterday thinking Arsenal will threaten Manchester United or Chelsea? I didn't.

  • Comment number 52.

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

  • Comment number 53.

    49. At 10:34am on 01 Feb 2010, simon samm


    You really should learn to read the posts properly - Strange Youth.

    Anyway i'll leave it at that now hope you will to.

  • Comment number 54.

    antisback wrote:
    Didn't United go on to lose all the matches against the "Big 4" last season and still win the league, surely arsenal cannot be written off with the stuttering form of chelsea and united - not saying i think it will happen, but just i think its callous to write a team off in january when they're less than 5 points off the top
    That is not correct. Man United lost both games to Liverpool, but took 4 points off Chelsea and I think, 3 points of Arsenal.

    I agree with you though, if Arsenal beat Chelsea next week, then they are still in the hunt, but if they lose, then it is definitely the end of the road for another season.

  • Comment number 55.

    He suggested Arsenal need to be more intelligent in their positioning having effectively conceded two goals from their own corners - surely that is for Wenger to remedy?

    I cannot disagree much on that. Even I was astonished to see Arsenal taking short corners (reason for 2nd goal). When you have Cesc Fab in the team and Vermaelen who prev has scored from corners... what was the need for Rosicky to take a short corner and play to Arshavin whose cross was easily deflected which lead to United's counter attack...

  • Comment number 56.

    i accept your point in post 51, but mind you : the chelsea game will be different, there arsenal can speculate a bit on the counterattack, for which they have the players.
    I expect arsenal to do a better job on sunday than they did yesterday, mainly because the pressure is on chelsea.
    That being said, chelsea are the obvious favorites for the sunday game, but i do give arsenal a chance to take something from the game.

  • Comment number 57.

    Phil, while I agree with you that Arsenal didn't look like title contenders yesterday I think it's a bit harsh to completely write them off in the way you just did (#51).

    They have some great players who are perfectly capable of going on another 10 match unbeaten run and I honestly believe they have a better chance of beating Chelsea next week than they did beating Utd yesterday as they won't have the pressure from their fickle home support.

    I agree they are a bit lightweight and I just laughed at the suggestion made by another poster than they should sign David Villa because he is lightweight himself and won't give anything more to the team than the likes of Arshavin does. People write Utd off every season and they are the best at proving those doubters wrong, while Arsenal have failed to do so in recent seasons I wouldn't write them off quite yet, they are getting a very tricky period of games out of the way at a crucial point in the season.

  • Comment number 58.

    Arsenal were just too lightweight yesterday. Everytime the ball was loose either on the deck or in the air there was only one winner, a United player. Simply not enough strength or aerial prowess.

    At one point it looked like Walcott had never even headed a football before.

    Arsenal need to get back to basics.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a Man U fan of course I enjoyed yesterday's game but let's not forget how close Arsenal came to scoring early on and later in the game - it could have been so different. Everyone expected the Gunners to be the team that would drop out of the top 4 this season but they have silenced those critics. Good luck against Chelsea and Liverpool - you deserve your place near the top of the table.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hi Phil,

    As an Arsenal fan I feel as though I have just watched a re-run of last season's Champions League Semi Final. Arsenal were put to the sword by devastating counter attacking football...again! It's as though the team have learned nothing from a year ago. The defending was totally naive and we played into Utd's hands. This naivety has been creeping into our game lately (e.g Pienaars goal for Everton) and I think it is up to the players to take responsibility. It's easy to point out the lack of a big striker, but with defending like that we could have had five Didier Drogbas on the pitch and we still wouldn't have won.

    As has been mentioned by many posters already, the first goal was always going to be important. If Arsenal scored first then Man Utd would not have been able to sit back and play on the counter attack. Unfortunately, Almunia has once again shown that he faulters on the big stage. He is generally consistent, but, when it comes to big games he just can't deliver. At Liverpool he made a mistake for their goal and was lucky that the team bailed him out. Last season CL semi he should have got to Ronaldo's free kick... and so on. I don't know why Wenger persists with him. Having said that I don't have faith in Fabianski either...I have more faith in Mannone than either Almunia or Fabianski.

    Clichy at the moment is looking very rusty. He was given a torrid time by Ashley Young at Villa and what on Earth was he doing for Park's goal? He will get better and I trust an out of form Clichy more than Armand Traore.

    I don't think we are quite out of the title race although our challenge is hanging by a thread at the moment. We have to win at Chelsea next week to still be in with a shout. Wenger needs to come up with something special because if the next two games do not go our way then we could be dragged into a scrap for fourth spot!

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • Comment number 62.


    Why are you slagging Liverpool off. You lot were embarrassing yesterday, look to how bad your team is - not anyone elses!!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    I watch the game later that night was that a british team that played football, as it look more like a europe 11 no wonder Arsenal got outplayed it is a disgrace that Arsenal can field a side without the main stay being home players .well done United great result when you consider that 6 British players,

  • Comment number 64.

    I think it's fair to say that not even the most optimistic of us (United fans) could see this coming. A re-born Nani, Rooney on his own up front scoring goals for fun, a clicking miedfield... This was the best display from the lads all season (and I thought Wednesday was good). Wenger must be having nightmares about that run and finish from Rooney. This truly felt like the CL semi-final all over again. First, a little Arsenal mistake to start us off (then Gibbs, yesterday Almunia) and a wonderful counter attack with a player running the lenght of a pitch and a superb finish (then Ronaldo, yesterday Rooney). Both great games.
    I would also like to point out that Arsenal weren't that bad yesterday - they had their chances (Arshavin), they just didn't take them. We did - well, not all of them. I still very much think Arsenal are the title contenders and I hope they will prove me right at the Bridge on Sunday.
    Having said that, top of the league here we come ;)

  • Comment number 65.

    You still have to imagine given last seasons dismal performances by United, and that Liverpool pushed them to end, themselves having some dismal results, that arsenal will be there or there abouts.

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm just Cheryl's Husband wrote:

    'That is not correct. Man United lost both games to Liverpool, but took 4 points off Chelsea and I think, 3 points of Arsenal.'

    Not to be a clever cloggs here mate, and I would hope your open to corrections, you where closer to the real events of last season than antiback, but still however not 100% correct.

    United's results broken down against each of the top 3 (obviously not themselves).

    Chelsea home: Won 3-0

    Chelsea away: Drew 1-1

    Liverpool away: Lost 2-1

    Liverpool home: Lost 4-1 (that hurts writing that).

    Arsenal away: Lost 2-1

    Arsenal home: Drew 0-0 (the point that clinched the title).

    Overall 4 points gained against Chelsea.

    On your second point regarding the Arsenal Chelsea. Yes it's a huge game but whatever the result, in my opinion each of the top 3 are still in with a shout, as there is a long long way to go, albeit if Arsenal are beaten it will be very difficult for them.

    0 points gained against Liverpool

    And 1, albeit very valuable point gained against Arsenal.

  • Comment number 67.

    Fergie will be delighted. Wenger aghast.

    I was astonished by Arsenal's approach to the game. To be dominated by Carrick, Fletcher, Park & Nani is pretty diabolical. This coming from a UTD fan. I would even go as far to say Arsenal needed a Lucas in their team they were so un-combative. Denilson was in cloud cuckoo land and Song seems to blow hot & cold. Rosicky wasn't in the game much & looked lacking in confidence. Arshavin had desire without product. The striker position is not effective as he needs someone to play off. Even Fabregas didn't seem to dominate in the way he has done in previous games. Nasri did nothing to convince me that he was that bothered about the result either. Almunia was pretty shocking which didn't help though.

    Scholes has been excellent in the last two games & Rooney is playing so well that it is guaranteed he will be injured in May.

    Can't see Arsenal getting any change from Chelsea next week. As for Utd, they might just suffer the Liverpool sydrome with the anti-climatic Pompey next weekend. I wouldn't bet against a 0-0. But thats football.

  • Comment number 68.

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

  • Comment number 69.

    The season is taking shape nicely now. I can't help but feel that all the fuss surrounding: the Glazers, the Supporter's Trust, not to mention the drama of the Carling Cup semi-final has helped Ferguson tremendously. Add to this, the continued criticism by the media concerning the loss of "those" two players last summer, and you create the perfect environment for the classic Ferguson "seige mentality". We've all seen it before. Whilst I don't expect Chelsea to crack, I can envisage United pushing them all the way to the final day- it's going to be close.

    Lee Dixon, in his commentary yesterday, seemed to sum up the Gunners- "they simply don't have a plan "B"". The best teams can mix it up and adapt to the situation or opposition.

  • Comment number 70.

    At 09:28am on 01 Feb 2010, collie21 wrote

    'Hargreaves would be back which would make for a very interesting midfield.'

    you really think Hargreaves will ever play again??? he was supposed to be back in the pre season gone, then it was October, then it was the New Year, and there's still no sign. I hate to say it... but he'll be following Ashton into retirement anytime soon

  • Comment number 71.

    From PulpGrape:

    "Unfortunately much of what you've written Phil is true, Arsenal have failed another examination. I was lucky enough to be at the Emirates yesterday and Utd were awesome, back to their best. I have to say though the Arsenal "faithful" don't exactly help their team. I've sat in many Premier League home fan enclosures over the season and by far and away Arsenal's fans are the most negative and fickle of any. They don't get behind the team and boo their own players only to reverse that a few weeks later when the going gets a bit better. Two examples are Eboue and Bendtner last season. I actually think they have a good chance of beating Chelsea next week simply because it's not at the Emirates."

    Why were you there when your team is Swindon? Why do you worry so much about Chelsea? And why were you among the Arsenal fans when you clearly favour United?

    It may not have occurred to you but if you, and no doubt others, were depriving genuine Arsenal fans of seats - we have a five year-plus waiting list just for first refusal on tickets - then it is perhaps no surprise we don't hear as much cheering as sometimes we would like.

    However, your point is sadly misplaced. The Arsenal fans where I sat were cheering for the whole game more or less. The United fans sang and chanted when they went ahead - but when they conceded, even though there was no reasonable prospect at all of letting Arsenal back in, the United fans fell completely silent. This happens every time they come to the Emirates. Perhaps they are more faint-heated than they would like to admit.

  • Comment number 72.

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

  • Comment number 73.

    Wenger is actually a Chartered Accountant by profession !! What the Arsenal fans dont know, the shareholders have known all along !

  • Comment number 74.

    My pre-season prediction of Chelsea first Man U second is still looking good.

  • Comment number 75.

    Jamie Riley,

    Good to read your comments again.

    I wonder how that David Gilmoure the 3rd guy is today, haha!
    I hope you remember my comments 2 weeks ago regarding Arsenal having no chance of winning the league and them needing another top class striker (as V Persie has been sidelined for so long). As you will remember I was shot down by several people but you saw my point and it is coming to fruition!

    Just waiting for Rafa to be replaced by Mourinho and all my predictions will come true!

    With regards to Nani he had a great game but I think some analysts are getting carried away. To be recognised as a quality player he has to play like this for the rest of the season.

    I am very confident United will win the league. The fundamental reason being the depth of the squad. Scholes started yesterday, Giggs was on the bench, Berbatov was on the bench, there are so many options. The quality on the bench is fantastic and will ensure United triumph for the 4th consecutive year.

    There is a long way to go but if Arseanl can stop Chelsea this weekend it would be helpful!

  • Comment number 76.

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

  • Comment number 77.

    "3. At 08:41am on 01 Feb 2010, I'm just Cheryl's Husband wrote:
    As a Chelsea fan I am going to blame Gary Cooke and Man City for re-galvanising Man United's season, and I now know we have a hell of a task to wrestle the title away from SAF and his team.

    But, prior to that oaf of a CEO at Eastlands opening his mouth, and all the incidents that occurred during the Carling Cup semi-final, United had the look of a side who having won 3 consecutive titles, would be content to let someone else win it this year.

    Well that's no longer the case.........cheers Gary!"

    Great comments and I have to say I agree but Chelsea are looking very strong this season as well. It should be a humdinger between you and us at Old Trafford.

  • Comment number 78.

    It was all Rooney and Nani show. I have never seen Maanchester United so dominating in recent few months! Rooney I think deserves to be bracketed with the likes of Messi and Christiano Ronoldo...and he should be one of the most marked forward in the world cup.

    Zafar Iqbal Karachi, Pakistan

  • Comment number 79.

    As an Arsenal fan I am thoroughly deflated. Where do I start? This team is only good enough to finish third or fourth, and has been for the last three or so years. This is obvious to everyone but Wenger it seems. There are glaring shortcomings in the balance and quality of the side. As much as I love Wenger and all that has done for us,and rate him as one of the best coaches around we cannot be expected to be blindly loyal to him forever.

    Lets start at the back. Almunia is a no.2 goalkeeper, nothing more, nothing less. We need to replace him with proven quality- not for the future, for NOW. May we have bid for Shay Given when he wanted to leave Newcastle? Vermaelen, techincally good player though he is, has not solved the defensive problems- his goalscoring record is very good but surely that is not what we signed him for.I've thought about how many clean sheets we've kept at home in particular and it is not good enough. Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Chelsea, Man Utd have all left Emirates having scored two or more goals this season. Though the first two mentioned were beaten we could just as easily have lost all these matches. Gallas seems past his best and Clichy has been awful since his return- I was at Emirates against Bolton and he was getting roasted then and was at fault for the first goal and looked unconfident all evening.

    Up front. Obviously we miss Van Persie a great deal but we've been crying out for some height and strength up front for some time. I laugh sometimes at the amount of crosses Clichy/Traore/Sagna/Fabregas/whoever whip in from corners and open play towards the likes of Eduardo and Arshavin to head. We hardly win aerial battles at the back- let alone up front! With a reputed £35m to spend I am bewildered we have not taken advantage of our decent position in the league and brought in someone of the quality of Wolfsburg's Dzeko to give us an extra dimension/different option up front. Someone like him would score lots with his head with the amount of crosses and chances we create. Why deny ourselves an aerial threat? Whats wron with headed goals???????

    I totally agree with your assessment of our midfield. Completely overrun on sunday. It was embarassing to watch Rooney ghost in behind Nasri and Denilson's pathetic attempts to track back and help for the second goal. Song is the only defensive midfield player we have practically, and he is still learning and improving. In my opinion, Arsenal have far too many players of the same ilk- Merida, Denilson, Nasri, Rosicky, Ramsey- all small and skilful and inventive but all lacking in strength and positional sense defensively. We used to have Vieira and Petit, even Grimandi to break things up and tacke, though who could say Petit and Vieira are not as skilfull as Denilson/Nasri too? Roy Keane used to say how he loved the battles with our midfield but nowadays it is nothing like a battle!

    The whole advantage of moving to Emirates was surely the near 20,000 more on the gate receipts going back into strengthening the team. And Kroenke is an excellent majority shareholder- does intefere but offers money to strenthen to Wenger. We are financially probably the soundest club in the Premier League so why does AW deny us of the improvements we so clearly need to win trophies? I hate to say it, but Mourinho was arguably right by saying only Wenger would be given as much time as he has to not win trophies at a big club like us.

    Will David Wilson

  • Comment number 80.

    Phil - I think you got the balance just about right in the blogg.
    United seem to be getting 'into gear' (at last) and will definately give Chelsea a tough time from now until the end of the season. I agree that Nani looked awesome yesterday (never thought I would say that this season!) and in the last two matches his form has been gradually improving, with hopefully more to come.
    I think your comment about 'men against boys' was quite apt for yesterdays displays; United were ruthless and efficient in most aspects of their play, where as Arsenal for all their stylish play, very rarely looked threatening - it seemed as though they run out of ideas!
    It would be tempting to write Arsenal off after that display, but I suspect, along with United and Chelsea they will be there or there abouts come the end of the season. It is funny that in a seaon where people have been talking about top 4's, 5's or even top 6's - we may well finish up with a top 3, very much out of sight of the fourth place team and almost in a different league from the rest!

  • Comment number 81.

    Arsenal will still be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. I just watched the game sky+ (was out yesterday afternoon!) and whilst United looked like they simply picked up from where they left off on weds night with a purposeful and powerful performance, there were also signs from Arsenal that they COULD have gave ManU a game...had they been in the mood.

    Wenger was definately right when he says that it was something in their pysche, as it appeared, with the exception of Gallas, that no Arsenal player really wanted to take the fight to United, which was exploited mercelessly by Rooney and Co. (Big credit to Nani for what is the first really good performance from him that I've ever seen)

    However, despite one-eyed assurances from some people that the result could have been different had Arshavin not fluffed a couple of early chances, from kick-off United were undoubtably the only team in it. Rooney ran the show upfront and could have had another hat-trick had his finishing not been slightly more wayward than of late, hadd Nani played in Giggs near the end that probably could have resulted in another scoring oppurtunity, had United converted any corners...etc etc. The early spells and late spell were the only times Arsenal looked like scoring, whereas United looked dangerous for the full 90-minutes, Arsenal were simply well outplayed yesterday.

    The true test comes next week: at any other time, a narrow defeat away to Chelsea will be a perfectly acceptable result for any team, but Arsenal NEED to get at least a point next week, and produce a performance worthy of starting a good run the way they did after Chelsea thumped them at the Emirates. Added to that Chelsea still, to my eyes, look more likely the team to win the league this year (and they have Drogba et all back now!), no matter who JT may have been doing the dirty with, they are the most complete team in the league (which I dont extend to include Malouda!). Arsenal are the better "football team" from the purists point of view, and I hope that they get in another striker today, and give it a real good push for the rest of the season! Pressure's almost off now, they're underdogs, lets see how they can respond!

  • Comment number 82.

    It seems the tactic for beating Arsenal is to crowd the box when they attack, cutting off their final clinical ball. This reduces them to either shots from distance or crosses meant to find the heads of midget strikers. Both Chelsea and Man Utd have played this tactic this season and scored their goals on the counter attack.

    The solution to this problem is for Arsenal to buy another big powerful striker who can challenge for headers, pull defences about creating space, or batter through them (because while RVP can do this, he can't stay fit.)

    The fact that most Arsenal fans have been calling for such a player for a year and Wenger still thinks Bendtner can do the job (just like he though Senderos was a world class defender) must be incredibly galling.

    As the transfer window closes with Wenger once again having failed to address his squad's key deficiencies (Striker and Goalkeeper) I'm afraid he will have to take the brunt of his fan's ire as they experience another season without a trophy due to his stubbornness.

  • Comment number 83.


    I didn't know fans of other teams weren't allowed in particular stadiums. Not that I should have to explain to you but I've lived in London for 6 years now and regularly visit Premier League grounds. I still make time for Swindon, I was there on Tuesday night when we beat Leeds 3-0. Satisfied? Sorry you can't get tickets to Arsenal but they are simple to get hold of on a Red Membership which costs you £27 a season.

    I've been to The Emirates enough to know that Arsenal fans aren't the best. I've sat next to some real idiots who abuse the players with all kinds of obscenities, hence why I said they might be more comfortable playing away from home. I wanted them to beat Utd, I want them to win the league but I am being realistic. Again I was unaware that my freedom of expression and opinion was restricted to my own team.

  • Comment number 84.

    Yes we deserved to lose the game, but on the balance of early chances it wasn't as cut and dried as you make out, Phil, and could have been different. There is no hiding from the fact that our defending was woeful for the goals (credit to Man U for working the ball and being clinical though) and offensively our passing just didn't get going. That said, it was clear Arshavin had the beating of Wes Brown and Rafael in pockets of space in the inside left position, we just didn't take full advantage of the early two openings fashioned by him. Had we scored first the complexion of the game may have been different in that Man U would push on and couldn't exploit the counter attacks so often. It's all if's and but's, in the cold light of day the game plan worked for them and we had no answers on the day.

    As for it being a two horse race, there are knee jerk reactions all across the media after most weekends. After Man City won the first 4 games under Mancini they were contenders for the title again, after Arsenal lost to Chelsea we were written off, then back in it, and now written off again. Will journalists ever learn that things are rarely decided until the final 5 or 6 games?

    Man U won the league last year by taking 5 points from the 6 'big 4 games.' They were basically flat track bullies and 'doubled' 9 of the bottom 10 teams, so the results in these games aren't as crucial as people make out (except psychologically). Clearly, Arsenal need to beat Chelsea on Sunday and once that game and Liverpool are out the way, our run in is easily the best of the top 3. If we can continue to do well against the 'lesser' teams then we will still be challenging. Don't forget Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, Villa, Citeh and Spuds will continue to take points off each other as the season progresses.

    Finally on Wenger - I know he can be very frustrating and often embarrassing with his dodgy eyesight, seeming lack of defensive focus, questionnable substitutions etc but for what he has done to this club he deserves our patience and support. He stayed with us when Real, French federation etc came calling when his stock was at its highest after the invincibles. Yes, we haven't won a trophy in 5 years, but in the history of this club (and the vast majority of other clubs) this 'drought' is nowhere near as bad as people will have you believe. We have remained competitive at the top level whilst investing over £100m of club funds into the stadium and servicing a mortgage on the remainder. Wenger is building a legacy with the stadium, the training ground, the academy and the self-sustaining model will see the club remain in existence on sound footing well into the future. No, we haven't won in a while but I wouldn't swap what we have for a plastic, need-it-yesterday, funded-by-a-sugar-daddy success that could jeopardise our very existence in the future.

  • Comment number 85.

    I don't want to sound like one of those knee jerk reactions fans who are never pleased and i firstly want to say that i love the talent and the way Arsene has got Arsenal playing, but yesterdays result is totally down to Wenger.
    I'm sorry but no team has ever won anything without first being able to defend. This is not a new problem, in fact its about 5 years old. I cant believe with all the thousands these players get paid it seems impossible to disapline them. We have seen recently with Song in Africa that Wenger couldn't even get someone to sit in the hole for 5 minuetes. there can only be two possibilities, either players dont listen to instruction therefore should be dropped, or Wenger doesn't give the instruction to defend, and I mean 11 players defending as every other top team does. Either way Its Wengers fault and if he can't put that right in 5 years then maybe he should become director of football and get a new manager in. Maybe he just needs a new defensive coach but i believe its Arsenes ethos to attack without thought of defending.

    If we could conbine Arsenes brilliance in finding talent and technical ability with someone like Sam Allerdyce who will first stop the goals and then think of scoring we could have a chance. Apart from Clichy who i believe is just rusty as i have never seen him done like that, our back 4 are good, maybe great players, they are just ill disaplined and have little cover from a midfield who cant defend.

    Im sorry but Wenger for me needs to get his head out the clouds and except that he is guilty of the same mistake year in year out, he doesn't teach defence. Only time we were successful was when we had English defenders who were tought by previous managers.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re: My post No. 79. I meant to type doesn't intefere when referring to Kroneke, in case anyone takes me up on that sentence- it was a typo!

  • Comment number 87.

    I think Song is being unfairly criticised here. I think he was affected by the early (and undeserved) booking - you never want your "destroyer" type player to be walking the tightrope at such an early stage. Greater to his problems was the complete lack of help from Denilson.

    Denilson is supposed to link Song and Fabregas, but Song ended up being more help offensively (he had at least two decent chances), while Fabregas was often dropping alot deeper. Wenger must be praying for Diaby to return for the Chelsea game!!

    I think that besides Arsenal's liability to the counter attack, the biggest problem with Wenger's tactics was using Nasri and Rosicky as "wingers". They're naturally central players, and this tendency to cut in allowed United to comfortably tuck the full-backs in. While this did allow a bit of space for Clichy and Sagna to put crosses in, what's the point when Arshavin is the main striker attacking the ball. The fact that both Nasri and Rosicky were very quiet only worsened the problem.

    I think the answer to this problem is keeping a lower defensive line and having more pace on the wings - which means using Walcott and Vela - which Wenger was doing. The problem with that is both are horribly out of form and distinctly lacking confidence.

  • Comment number 88.

    76. At 11:32am on 01 Feb 2010, simon samm wrote:
    At 11:20am on 01 Feb 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:


    This all started when you made your comment unclear.

    Your rather amusing though i must say.

    Simon, Simon, Simon you tell me punctuation wouldn't go amiss please see your sentence above (Your??? think you meant you're as in you are!!!)

    and also from your previous post:

    punctuation wouldn't go to miss!

    Please stop it now Simon surely the irony isn't lost on you?? for the correct way to use this in a sentence please read this post after where i have put Simon, Simon, Simon.

    Now please can we leave it??

  • Comment number 89.

    51. At 10:37am on 01 Feb 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    To say "I think player for player Arsenal are the much better team"...I have to disagree, and more importantly the recent records of the two teams suggest otherwise.

    Your point about the trophies and results is true Phil and results speak for themselves so I can not argue. Perhaps my point should be that the Arsenal players are much better technically however they lack the determination, organisation and passion that Utd have. If I use the analogy of Greece Euro 2004 player for player they were no where near a lot of the other teams but due to being committed, organised and playing for each other they won the second most important football tournament in the world. I am not criticising the Utd players as steady consistent players who play with their heart is what every fan likes to see.

    I think that is what Utd are doing so well; team work and desire over technical ability (with the obvious exception of Rooney). Another BBC blogger Robbo commented on the averageness compared to the great teams of the past of this squad and it being Ferguson’s biggest achievement if they win either the EPL or CL. I think that is the point that Ferguson may just (too early to be sure) have discovered a winning formula for United again. If they do he will rightly deserve all the praise he receives. My money is still on Chelsea as its theirs to lose but as my friend says never ever bet against United!

  • Comment number 90.

    Can't disagree with the fact there are only 2 contenders for the title now.

    Arsenal were shown up against United, but Wenger has done very well within his spending limits, compared to either Chelsea or United.

    Wenger's problem is that he doesn't exactly a likeable character and doesn't get the credit he deserves as a result. The refusal to shake hands with Mark Hughes is a perfect example. That simply wasn't on.

    Can Arsenal go any further, or do you think Wenger is reaching the end of the road at Highbury, Phil?

    PS - Do you have any thoughts about the Terry captaincy issue? I'd like to hear them.

  • Comment number 91.

    In reply to Simon Rose:

    How we doing mate?

    I thought the same thing about Gi;mour the 3rd. But remember he doesn't comment on Mc'nutly's blog's as he has no time for the guy. You sense the sarcastic tone on my voice. For someone that has no time for Phil, he is a fairly regular poster.

    Like I said originally I agreed with your comments at the time, - apart from the Mourinho bit, - I honestly believe he is anchoring for a move to United when Fergie moves on. You made valid points a lot of which where based on facts, i.e. event from previous seasons. The only reason he branded your comments as rubbish (or something along those lines) is because it wasn't what he wanted to hear.

    Ultimately you where right. Arsenal lack of attacking options yesterday where frightening. It is clear as day they need a striker with a bit of physical presence, - so far Bendtner meets the criteria, - I forgot to ad they also require a striker with a bit of class.

    Yeah the squad is beginning to take shape again, and with Ferdinand and Vidic returning, I wouldn't say I'm confident yet, but I'd say my expectations have risen sharply over the last 2 weeks that United can end up as Champions, - proving a ceratin Mr. Gilmour wrong, which would be extra sweet wouldn't it?

    Not that I'm counting my chickens yet however.

  • Comment number 92.

    WD Wilso 2,

    I agree with your post. Do you think losing Adebayor was a mistake? He has the strength and height that in my opinion Arsenal are craving.
    I know his desire and attitude was questionable at points but I truly beleive the Gooners miss his goals hugely.

    I back Wenger but he has to spend if Arsenal want to improve. Sorry to deflate you more but there is almost no chance of Arsenal winning anything this season.

  • Comment number 93.

    I must say I agree with Phil, although the article is a LITTLE bit over the top.

    Yes, if Arsenal had taken a few early chances it might have been a different game, but the point is it really did highlight the differences in class. Arsenal can quite safely go behind against a bottom half team and expect to still bombard the opposing box with opportunities - however what was highlighted in this match is that against a solid defensive unit, Arsenal aren't all they're cracked up to be.

    Naturally, they're going to win most of their games, but this season Arsenal look REALLY weak against their rivals. I guess you Arsenal fans just have to hope you can repeat Man United's successes in relying on beating every other team to win the title!

  • Comment number 94.

    To wdwilso2...agree totally about Almunia. He is a deputy not a first choice. Who would you like to see come in?

    It's the old argument, but where was the physical presence yesterday?

    I take the point made by Arsenal fans that they had chances of their own early on, especially Arshavin, but I thought United looked ominous from the kick-off, with pace and threat on the break. What surprised me also was the way Clichy failed to cope with Nani's speed. I have to presume he is still working his way back to full fitness.

    Of course Arsenal can still turn things around at Chelsea next week, but not if they play so poorly, so naively and so tamely as they did yesterday.

  • Comment number 95.


    I didn't realise he doesn't write on Phils Blogs!!
    I think Jose wants to come to United aswell, but I don't think anyone could predict when Fergie will leave. Obviously it could be any time but not for another 3 years or so I suspect.

    I am looking forward to Ferdinand returning, i think it maybe a blessing in disguise for England as he will have just enought time to get 20-20 games under his belt before the WC where I beleive he will prove all of hsi doubters wrong.

    As for Vidic I hear different things and feel he may leave at the end of the year to one of the Spanish teams. Just a guess though.

    what do you think about Chelsea with regards to the rest of the season?!

  • Comment number 96.

    I'm afraid you don't win the title with foundations made of sand. We have two excellent second defenders in Gallas and Vermaelen but there is no dominant force - a Ferdinand, a Terry or a Vidic - to deal with the long ball and boss opposing forwards. Hence the success of players like Drogba and even Kevin Davies against us.

    I also defy anyone with a semblance of knowledge about football that has watched Arsenal play this season to justify Denilson's inclusion in the team week after week. He is lazy in possession, ill-disciplined and a poor passer of the ball. That's one player we are having to carry. Another is our 'goalkeeper', if indeed he can claim that title. Almunia is a liability. It's about time Wenger dug into his pockets and forked out for a stand-out stopper. Joe Hart would be an excellent signing.

    Going forward, yes, we have scored lots of goals this season. But when it comes to the crunch, and we're up against the Uniteds and Chelseas of this world, our intricate pass-and-move style of play is too predictable, too narrow and too easy to defend against. It is no coincidence that we have been taught a lesson by the best two teams in the Premier League.

    We need a stronger spine to the team, which includes getting Diaby and Van Persie back. But a keeper we can trust and a defender that can strike fear into opposing strikers is what we really need. It looks like Wenger's missed the boat again this transfer window but hopefully he can put some of that supposed £30m to good use in the summer, by which time we will still be without a trophy and may find it increasingly hard to keep Cesc Fabregas out of the clutches of Barca and Madrid.

  • Comment number 97.

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

  • Comment number 98.

    Phil, personally I would like to see someone of the quality level of Buffon- tall, commanding and experienced. If we couldn't get him and Wenger wanted someone younger, Joe Hart could perhaps be an option but I prefer older, more experienced keepers myself- like Friedel. Neither Almunia nor Fabianski inspire confidence in the defence and are too error prone.

    What did you think to my argument for someome with aerial threat like Dzeko to be signed?

    I think some Arsenal fans need to wake up and smell the coffee- we are not good enough or consistent enough to win anything. Man Utd looked dangerous every time they broke and our chances were half chances at best. I don't agree with the assessment it was an off day either- look at Man Utds and Chelsea's last two Emirates visits and it makes painful reading.

  • Comment number 99.

    Phil I think you are absolutely right and your comments are spot -on. At least Mr Wenger can now see his team through the 3 D Television camera. My advice to those gunners who are parting with their money to watch Arsenal v Chelsea, please watch it on television and save your money. It is stupid wasting your money to watch the likes of Amunia, Denilson, Nasri and Rosisky.
    We have no one single player with strength and ability. Amunia played like a sunday morning goalkeeper. Nasri, Rosisky, Denilson allowed Rooney, Nani and Park to rule the midfield. It was a sorry sight.

    We have no credible goalkeeper, thank God when people were discussing that Amunia be called to England's camp, Capello and FA looked the other way. The Professor at Emirates is truly doing the bidding of the share holders and he is not going to buy strong players as long as season ticket money is still coming into the purse of the shareholders. We sold Adebayo and did not replace him. There are strikers in England, even at Championship level, far better that French imports that Le Professor is always relying on.

  • Comment number 100.

    9. At 09:00am on 01 Feb 2010, Desolation_row wrote:
    United's biggest problem this season has been injury problems at the back not missing Ronaldo at the other end. On that count United have scored 15 more goals this season then at the same stage last year, indeed the scoring rate is higher even than at this stage in the 2006-7 season.

    Either way United showed the kind of pace, vision and cutting edge which we have come to expect from them and Ferguson will hope that Chelsea's less than convincing win at Burnley is the start of a dip in form for them as currently they remain in the driving seat for the title.

    Man utd returned with empty hands from Turf Moore remember, and i dont think any of the other top teams won there except Chelsea. As a Man utd fan, you should stop deluding yourself and concentrate on Man utd performances as many other teams have had injuries as well this season


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