Manchester United 2 v 0 Arsenal
Old Trafford, Manchester
24th October 2004
This will be remembered as the game in which Arsenal lost control; Of themselves, of their reputation, and of 'their' title. Having been comfortably beaten 2 - 0 the Arsenal players chased after the referee, disputing pretty much every decision made by him, confronted Man U players, and even threw food at a Knight of the Realm.
Clearly not satisfied with their example they made to kids last year at OT, running round the United players in a mob, Arsenal wanted to prove that not only are they not very good at celebrating 0 - 0 draws, but they are the worst losers in English football.
The game was fiesty from the start, with Ronaldo being 'taken down' by Ashley Cole, 'the gentleman of English football'(!). The game was physical, with Arsenal committing 24 fouls to Uniteds 20, with the worst being aimed at Ronaldo.
Whenever United looked as though they were gaining momentum, Jose Antonio Reyes decided that it was time for a break, and promptly fell on the floor clutching whatever bit of his leg he could for a few minutes at a time. That or Lehmann would demand a new pair of boots. (Having warmed-up in them, and not having to do that much running anyway, why did he suddenly decide he needed new boots?!)
The game was scrappy with few clear chances, mainly because Phil neville was blocking everything thrown at him. the defence played magnificently, and its the first time we've had our first-choice back-four out this season. Heinze is an immense signing, whilst Ferdinand's return boosted confidence further.
Half-time came and went, and the game was ebbing and flowing.
On 70 minutes, Rooney burst into the box. Sol Campbell stuck his leg out, and Rooney went down. I thought it was a penalty at the time, but it was a bit precarious, although United should have been given a penalty later on in the gae when Ronaldo ran a few rings round Cole, pulled it back and then had his legs swept from underneath him. Some sportsman!
The scene was set. van Nistelrooy with another penalty, at Old Trafford, against Arsenal. The same thing that had pre-empted the chaos at the end of last years game had happened. Vinny stood up to be counted, taking the ball in his hands, and trying to ignore Henry and Lehmann who were probably being sportingand offering him encouragment.
He placed it down on the floor, set his sights, and rolled it past Lehmann, who had beenled to believe Ruud would put itin his favourite corner. A year's worth of emotion poured forth, and the United players and fans alike went crazy.
Arsenal battled on, but were ineffective in the final third, with Henry being his usual anonymous self against United. Smith was leading United into the challenges, and was more than willing to square up to the Arsenal cry-babies if necessary.
On 90 minutes came the killer blow, as Saha put Smith through on goal. he unselfishly pulled it back for Rooney to score his first Premiership goal for the club, to seal the game, on his Birthday!
Now, there's only 8 points in it....
Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze, Ronaldo (Smith 85), Phil Neville, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, van Nistelrooy (Saha 90).
Subs Not Used: Howard, Brown, Miller.
Booked: Gary Neville, Phil Neville.
Goals: van Nistelrooy 73 pen, Rooney 90.
Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Edu, Reyes (Pires 70), Bergkamp, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Van Persie, Taylor, Fabregas, Cygan.
Booked: Cole, Vieira, Edu.
Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).