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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
The roar, when the whistle finally came, was loud enough to shake the stadium to its foundations. A late Rafael strike and six minutes of injury time almost proved too much for the Arsenal fans who were in anguish at the prospect of another late capitulation, clutching their heads in their hands, terrified that this magnificent result might be snatched away from them at the death. But lightning rarely strikes twice.

So with three points in the bag and Arsenal back on track it's time to ask, what was all that fuss about then? After ten days of taunts that they were too young, too weak and too small, Arsenal secured victory, poetically enough, two one. Crisis? What crisis? It was always too early for that. Defeat for Manchester United means that they have picked up just a single point from three games against their big four rivals, but for this they have no-one to blame but themselves.

In a spellbinding encounter that lit up what began as a drizzly, grey day in North London, United's intelligent, incisive build-up play produced no shortage of chances, but they couldn't take advantage, with Wayne Rooney the worst offender. The England striker, who hit three from three in the EPL last month, has drawn a blank in his last three league games and he never looked comfortable here, blazing over in the first half, slicing wildly in the second and providing catching practice for Manuel Almunia with a few unconvincing headers on occasion as well. He wasn't the only one to leave his shooting boots at home. Cristiano Ronaldo poked wide from close range when it was easier to score and, for all of his bewitching stepovers and dazzling runs, could provide nothing of any substance.

This, as you can imagine, went down very well with the home support who came out in force to support their manager. Ludicrous stories of Arsene Wenger's impending resignation had appeared in the Saturday papers, almost certainly the cause of the repeated, 'There's only one Arsene Wenger,' and certainly for the mood of defiance that hung threateningly in the air. The familiar chant of 'Come on Arsenal' was no longer mere encouragement, it was spat out into the rain by the masses like a warcry.

Those rainclouds faded away, literally and metaphorically, when Samir Nasri smashed home a second goal shortly after the break, but instead of putting the result beyond doubt, it just intensified United's desire to come back. Arsenal were forced to bunker down and hold their lines against a team who had pushed up all the past the half-way line in pursuit of goals. William Gallas produced a fine performance, banishing some of his own demons in the process, and the Gunners managed to launch enough counter-attacks to keep United on their toes as well. As both managers said at the end, this was a marvelous game of football, end-to-end and packed with chances. In truth, United probably deserved a share of the points, but as shots repeatedly flashed over or wide, it seemed less and less likely that it would be their day

Nasri will hog the headlines for his goals, but this was a victory for the whole club to savour, especially after their mauling in the press. At times, they can be a source of huge frustration, wasting possession, passing back and forwards on the fringe of the penalty area or wobbling under aerial assault. Today was a reminder that, when everything clicks into place, Arsenal can be counted as serious title contenders.

The Gunners are back in business.



Manuel Almunia (Lukasz Fabianski), Abou Diaby (Kolo Toure), Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, William Gallas, Theo Walcott (Alexander Song), Denilson. Mikael Silvestre, Gael Clichy, Nicklas Bendtner

Man Utd

Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville (Rafael), Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anderson (Ryan Giggs), Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney (Carlos Tevez), Ji-Sung Park, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick

Yellow Cards - Gallas, Clichy, Sagna (Arsenal), Evra, Carrick (Man Utd)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 60,106