Some Final Thoughts on the Farce at Old Trafford

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Since my post from yesterday, “Why Saturday Was A Fantastic Day To Be A Gooner,” really didn’t deal with the actual match itself, but rather dealt with the dive and the ramifications of the match, I’d like to take this wet and gloomy Monday morning to briefly discuss the match. Obviously, there were a few flashpoints, as there almost always are when we play United…

It’s telling that many people, including Rooney, came out after the match praising Darren Fletcher as United’s best player on the day. Fletcher did nothing but freely commit fouls with the absolute approval of Mike Dean. In a match which saw 8 yellow cards, how can Darren Fletcher not have received one of them? But never mind yellow cards, Fletcher’s two-footed lunge at Arshavin should’ve been a penalty and a sending-off. It is possible that only a matter of millimeters meant the difference between Arshavin getting up to then rip one into the United net or lying on the ground writhing in agony and missing 3 months of the season. It was a cynical and desperate challenge by a player whose technical inferiority forced him to commit fouls regularly and Dean let him get away with that while showing Arsenal yellow cards for breathing.

Arsene has come out in the press today criticizing United’s tactics and Fletcher’s “performance.” I think he may not be giving his own team enough credit. I highly doubt United came out with the intent to play the way they did, they were forced into it by an Arsenal side that pinned them back in their own half for long stretches of the game, an Arsenal defense that easily cleared almost every ball sent in to them, an Arsenal midfield that pressed United so high up in their own half that United’s central midfield was useless. For long periods, Rooney was left up top alone and chasing onto balls Bolton-style.

Fletcher’s “attack” on Arshavin was inexcusable and could have easily been a sending-0ff anywhere else in the world but Old Trafford with any other referee in the world except Mike Dean. Only the combination of Old Trafford and Mike Dean could not give something so blatant. And some people have said that the non-call did not matter because Arshavin scored immediately afterward. But that is hardly the point. The point is that the non-call was everything wrong about the entire match in a microcosm.

Arsene Wenger and crowd To speak about Rooney’s dive for a final time, I would like to say that what he did is absolutely no different than what Eduardo did or what every player does. Every player goes down in anticipation of contact, it’s just a natural, instinctual reaction. In Eduardo’s situation, Boruc had just barely gotten his arms out of the way whereas Almunia did not. But in both cases it was not the contact that made the player go to ground but the anticipation of it. Rooney was obviously already falling down before any contact was made. It only became cheating for Eduardo because the referee was out of position and made the wrong call. Why is THAT Eduardo’s fault? I believe that if it had not been given that Eduardo would not have argued about it, like Wenger said.

Can the same be said about Rooney yesterday? Of course, Almunia has no business coming out for that ball. That said, Rooney was obviously looking for the penalty as the ball was already out of play by the time he made contact with Almunia and he was already looking back at the ref screaming for a penalty before he’d even finished his slide. I just don’t understand how the same offence is worth a yellow card if charged on the pitch but a two-match ban if charged after the fact. It makes the punishment dependent on whether or not the referee gets the call right. If you want to have a ban, it has to be strictly based on the player’s actions and NOT on whether or not the referee made the right or wrong call.

I would also like to reiterate one point from yesterday’s piece. It has seemed obvious to many of us that there is a different team spirit this year than last. I expect this match to have the same catalytic effect that our early-season trip to Old Trafford in 2003/04 had. I believe that, especially coming on the heels of the Eduardo vilification, it will further insulate the side and draw them even closer together. If the Eduardo situation wasn’t enough, this should foster that “Us vs. the world” attitude that so many of Arsenal and Wenger’s greatest sides have had. I believe that it will have been increased by Wenger’s outright defence of Eduardo in midweek and, especially, by his refusal to leave the pitch by going into the stand on Saturday rather than just heading back to the changing room with the match still not over.

It seems that Wenger is to be issued a public apology for being forced to go into the stands where he has been viciously chanted at for a decade. That’s all well and good but that decision is in no way nearly as significant as the decision to assign that match to Mike Dean. United did not expect the match that Arsenal brought to them on Saturday especially without Cesc in the lineup. Simply put, this is not the same old Arsenal of the last three years. Don’t let the spin from the press fool you. How anyone can write that United’s performance “emphasised [their] claims on a fourth consecutive title” is beyond me. They never looked like scoring a goal on their own except on a few counterattacks in the stoppage time  when Arsenal were bombing forward in search of an equalizer and they only won the match on a dubious call and two individual errors. Yesterday, my article stressed that the positives from Saturday far outweighed the negatives and I feel far better about our title chances after Saturday than I did last week.

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ARSENE WENGER POST-MATCH INTERVIEW

what Eduardo did is no different than what Rooney did yesterday or what every player does… EVERY player goes down in anticipation of contact, it’s just a natural reaction. Anyone who plays football will tell you that. In Eduardo’s situation, Boruc had just barely gotten his arms out of the way whereas Almunia did not. But in both cases it was not the contact that made the player go to ground but the anticipation of it. Is THAT cheating? It only became cheating because the referee was out of position and made the wrong call. Why is THAT Eduardo’s fault? I believe that if it had not been given that Eduardo would not have argued about it, like Wenger said. Can the same be said about Rooney yesterday? He was already looking back at the ref screaming for a penalty before he’d even finished his slide. If you want to have a ban or whatever it has to be strictly based on the player’s actions and NOT on whether or not a referee made the right or wrong call. And it also can’t start being implemented in the middle of a tournament.

Why Saturday Was A Fantastic Day To Be A Gooner

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First, let me say that following the West Ham-Millwall disturbances, I thought I was done watching fat, bald guys falling over on the pitch. But I was mistaken. There is no doubt that Rooney dove for the penalty and whether or not there was contact doesn’t mean anything. The replay clearly shows Rooney already going to ground before he even reached Almunia. So how is that any different than what Eduardo did as both were efforts to deceive the referee? Well, the difference is that Rooney succeeded whereas Eduardo did not. Even worse, playing at Old Trafford, it works both ways, as no one seems to even mention the fact that we had a clear penalty on Arshavin not given, as well. No team has had more penalty calls for and less against at their home ground in the last 5+ years than United.

And while I can hear all the United supporters saying Arsenal are getting a taste of their own medicine, I would point out that Eduardo has dived once, Rooney does it every time we play them. In fact, it seems to be a United tactic. Luckily for them, it was the only part of Fergie’s tactical plan that actually worked on Saturday. However, instead of dwelling on the cheating Shrek, let me tell you why today was a fantastic day to be an Arsenal supporter…

Mike United Dean

United's REAL 12th man.

Arsenal may have been out-refereed but United were out-classed. Plain and simple. For most of the match, they looked utterly hopeless and devoid of creativity and attacking ideas. The only good spell they had lasted about 10 minutes following the Rooney dive and even then they could not score on their own. Arsenal scored two goals today and Mike Dean scored one… but United didn’t score any. Gallas and Vermaelen took the little that United could dish out and were as solid as they have been in the previous four matches. Even without Cesc, and Diaby having a howler, United’s midfield and defense was no match for Arsenal’s attack. It took a dive and a freak own goal for United to get the points but the points taken from this match will not be what matters in the long-term.

In their hearts, United know they rode the Lady Luck Express and that they had no answers for any of the questions posed by Arsenal. Unfortunately for them, they will not get lucky like that every week and, despite the result, what we saw today was the fact that Arsenal are by far the better team. No matter what they try to project, United know it and they are worried.

Secondly, I expect this match to have the same catalytic effect that our early-season trip there did in 2003-04. Martin KeownWenger sensed the same thing and it is why he made his stand when Dean bullied him off the pitch. This fiasco, coming on the heels of the Eduardo incident, will further insulate the side and foster that same “Us vs. the World” attitude that many title-winning Arsenal sides, especially in the Wenger-era, have had. Yes, it is nice to be praised by everyone for our football but it is much more useful to have everyone hate us like they did in the old days. It fosters a spirit of togetherness and oneness in the team that wouldn’t have even been possible before this season but which this side is primed and ready for. This spirit was evident almost immediately as, after the Diaby penalty, van Persie met Diaby back at the center circle and tried to pick him up rather than chastise him. And, when Arsenal kicked back off, they spent the final 20 minutes pinning United back under intense, unrelenting pressure rather than hang their heads in self-pity or defeat.

Today was a fantastic day to be an Arsenal supporter because, despite the not-overly-significant early-season result, we learned that, even without Cesc, we are a better team this year while United are only a shadow of what they once were, and we have also seen the team’s togetherness in their fight back despite a hostile Old Trafford crowd (that persists in its despicable pedophile chants) and United’s true 12th man, better known as the Referees’ Association. United supporters’ chants of “That’s why we’re champions” was ironically spot on. A year or two ago we would have been worrying about how this kind of loss would mentally affect the team, but this time I can see it doing nothing but bringing the lads together even more. And I believe we will all look back on this as the day the new Arsenal was forged in fire.

Manchester United v Arsenal (LIVE STREAM)

Manchester United Arsenal FC


Note: I will not be around to update the links so don’t bother posting comments asking about the streams. Whether or not they work is beyond my control and I am merely sharing links that are widely available all over the internet.