Monday, May 2, 2011

A Tale of 3 Enemies

On a sun drenched afternoon in North London, 3 highly unpopular figures among the 60,000 crowd at Ashburton Grove marched off the field. They were wearing neither the red of Arsenal nor the black of Manchester United.

Referee Chris Foy and his assistants were jeered off the pitch as the 3D Cameras captures some very poor refereeing. A clear handball by Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic was waved away leaving the faithful at the Clock End stunned along with the Manchester United fans who breathed a sigh of relief.

My seat at the Emirates was directly in line with the position assistant referee Andy Garratt at the moment the incident occurred. Strangely, other than Mr. Garratt, everyone around me including the Manchester United fans, managed to spot Vidic’s hand flying out to deny van Persie a goal scoring opportunity from Walcott’s cross.

It was far from the only mistake within the first 45 minutes that Foy and his assistants were responsible. Challenges from Vidic and Fabio went unpunished while Foy managed to also get himself in the way of 3 Arsenal passes within the first half.

Manchester United also had grounds for complaint in second half for a penalty denied to Michael Owen. It was a big call at that stage of the game as Ferguson pointed out rather cynically in his post-match interview. To suggest his side do not get the big decisions is insane. United have got lucky many a times this season and if Fergie really believes his side are hard done by then perhaps he would join me in the away travels when Dowd done fantastically in Newcastle, or mysterious 4 minutes of added time post Liverpool game. Maybe Ferguson would like to replay the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in the winter when Ferdinand got away with a kung-fu kick on Sagna and Howard Webb pointing to the spot for an alleged "deliberate handball".

Decisions have not been kind to us for a long time now. Atleast not as kind as the blue side of London had yesterday as Chelsea watched Sunday's game eagerly. Arsenal played the better football and the result reflected the quality of football played by two giants of the English League.

The likes of van Persie, Walcott, Nasri, Wilshere, Ramsey, Arshavin and Fabregas pose a better attacking unit than Manchester United have. However, along with a solid defence, Manchester United has something that Wenger cannot teach his talented squad; a winning mentality and a battling quality that only champions possess.

Since February, results have not gone Arsenal’s way and the Carling Cup Final was arguably the most important game in the clubs recent history. Sections of the footballing world write off the importance of the League cup but forget that it is this competition that can push players to an extra level with a positive mental preparation for a final sprint to the finish.

Great players of the past, the likes of Adams, Roy Keane, Vieira and Hansen have all said that to do it the first time is the most difficult. Had we won that game against Birmingham, Sunday’s game would’ve been far from a meaningless game for Arsenal.

Wenger said before the game “90% Manchester United will win the title. They have been efficient offensively and defensively”.

And despite criticism and shortcomings in certain areas, United have used the efficiency and mental strength from past seasons to place themselves in the driving seat this season.

Samir Nasri said in the Arsenal match day programme “For me the difference between the sides is that we always try to play good football, while Manchester [United] are not scared to drop back, wait for their opponent and play on the counter. They are used to playing like that and we are not - that’s the big difference. We are used to playing our football and always try to score one more goal than the opponent. It’s difficult to change that approach just game by game, maybe that’s what we need to add next year”

It’s a valid point made by Nasri who produced an impressive first half performance before being substituted due to a hamstring scare.

The afternoon however belonged to the young Welshman Aaron Ramsey, who ironically snubbed a move to Old Trafford for red and white of Arsenal. He described his performance as, “the happiest day since I broke my leg”.

A year after the horrific tackle at Stoke City, Ramsey produced a magnificent display to cap his comeback from the double leg fracture with a goal. His work rate from kick off made it very difficult for the United midfielders and Ji-Sung Park was the culprit for failing to track Ramsey’s run as the Welshman latched on to van Persie’s cut back to score what proved to be the winner as Park was left watching
The win was justified as Manchester United looked far from champions and out of ideas while the Gunners were out to enjoy their football for the remainder of the season. A strange season continues to unfold and the only thing that is certain is that the title race is still on!

1 comment:

  1. I think Chelsea deserved to win this game more