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A Missed Opportunity For United

United were a little more than a minute away from breaking Arsenal's unbeaten run with a dogged performance at the Emirates.

Oh, god. Let's start with admitting that I would have signed if anyone had presented me a contract that this game will end in a draw. And I had even foretold it would be a stalemate but I had not foreseen this unbelievable heartbreak.

Fergie opted for an interesting 4-3-3 with Giggs, Hargreaves and Anderson to stifle Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini. The usual 4-2-3-1 was replaced by this strategy and I think it isolated Tevez a bit and deprived him of the chance of linking up with Rooney in the devastating manner which we've grown accustomed to.

As a result, the first half was pretty dull. Arsenal knocked the ball around well but they were toothless in front of goal whereas our counter-attacks rarely resulted in anything meaningful. One of these breaks found Giggs nipping in front of Sagna at the post but the Welshman was surprised by the chance and therefore spurned it.

Arsenal's best opportunity came when Anderson appeared to foul Hleb on the edge of the area: Fabregas whipped in the free-kick and Gallas headed straight at Van der Sar when he really should have done better.

Anderson and Hargreaves did very well to squeeze the life out of Arsenal so it's quite a shame that the Brazilian theatrically rolled around after Fabregas' late challenge which earned a booking for the Spaniard but gave us the blushes. Really, guy, these sort of antics are unnecessary, sort them out.

It was a bit of a shock when we took the lead thanks to Wayne Rooney and William Gallas. Ronaldo got the ball on the right, ran to the byline and sent in a low cross. Rooney mishit the ball but it deflected in from Gallas' arm.

After the break United tried to attack quickly and put Arsenal on the back foot. However, we managed to concede a stupid goal due to terrible sloppiness in defence and moments of panic came.

Arsenal found their rhythm after the equaliser and came forward relentlessly though they could not create clear-cut chances. United were struggling as we were clearly shocked by their quick goal and the manner of it. Fortunately, the back four was more or less solid while Hargreaves and Anderson gradually got back to harassing Fabregas and co., therefore we survived a long period.

After that it became just as even as in the first half. The best chance of the second 45 minutes fell to Rooney who headed wide from 12 yards after brilliant build-up play from himself and Ryan Giggs who started at the expense of Nani.

Wenger wanted to win the game: he introduced Walcott then Eduardo but it was United's sub Louis Saha who produced a moment of brilliance: he released Evra with a delightfull pass and the left-back, probably the most impressive United performer, cut the ball back from the onrushing Almunia and Ronaldo was left with the simple job of tapping it into the net from 6 yards.

Arsenal almost equalised when an otherwise harmless low cross was almost turned into his own net by Patrice Evra but it seemed we would comfortably survive these last few minutes. However, it did not go that way. After some truly horrible confusion in the box, the ball found the way into the net in stoppage time due to Gallas and to our defenders' incredible mistakes. Probably five of our players could have cleared the ball as it was bouncing this way and that in the penalty area...

All in all, a fair result but I can't help thinking what a great opportunity it was to break Arsenal's unbeaten record and take all the three points away. Both teams deserve their point but it is Arsenal who can be happier with it: their celebrations after the final whistle told that clearly. They passed yet another test I think: they've shown they have the resolve and determination not to collapse after a serious setback. Not many teams come back if United go up in the last 10 minutes...

The game itself did not live up to the hype: it was dreadful in the first half and very exciting in the second but hardly football magic. Our second goal was probably the only thing that really justified all the superlatives dished out before the match. Arsenal had more possession and more shots but we had the better chances - I will say again that it's a fair result.

But I can't help to be disappointed though I keep telling myself that at least our lads won't get carried away. This sucker punch ensures that they will maintain their concentration, won't rest on their laurels and underestimate other opponents. They will fight out of sheer anger over this late goal. I salute both teams for serving up an exciting game and hope for a thrilling title race. And another note: all sequences end sooner or later so it's better that our winning run ended with a highly creditable draw at the Emirates.




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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday November 3 2007

Time: 6:13PM

Your Comments

well written mate.. i dare say now that its gonna be either one of us lifting the trophy come may but whoever wins it will be worthy victors.. looking forward to the return leg
McGooner
Good read. Cheers.
Wenger_Knows
Good article for a Manc ;) Although you did fail to mention the penner we should have had after Vidic tried to swap shirts with Hleb in the first half. I thought the game was spoiled quite a bit by that whistle happy **** called Howard Webb. He wrongly gave free kicks to both teams on so many occassions, how can this complete incompetant tosser be allowed to officiate on so many high profile matches?
Rocky7
don't write Chelsea off - we're on a run and you just never know :-)
merlin
Good write-up and fair, surprisingly for a Man U fan :-) I don't think we can write Chelsea off just yet. I did think we could exploit Wes Brown today but he looked quite solid for you boys today. Ronaldo was fairly subdued, looks like he's having to share the limelight in your team play with Tevez and Rooney now.
Gooner_Vin
Well, Liverpool are out of it: they just do not have enough quality. Otherwise, it seems to be a three horse race. I thought Arsenal never had a chance but they have and I dismissed Chelsea after Mourinho's exit but I was wrong. So anything can happen... but I'm still fairly certain that Liverpool have no chance.
midlothian99
As for the match: fair result but I'm bitterly disappointed that we failed to win. Dealt well with Fabregas but he still scored. We've shown that we're still the best team in England, the quality of our bench was frigtheningly good today and we still do not have Scholes and Gary! Webb blew his whistle way too often, I agree with that. The penalty incident: it's judged very inconsistently. Half of the referees give penalties for those sort of things, the other half don't. Should be sorted out.
midlothian99
Going by how your previous opinions were proven wrong, midlothian, you will excuse anyone if they think Liverpool still have a chance ;).
prits
the ref didnt know what he was doing, 1st half terrible second very good but gutted we didnt hold on.
rooneyisgod
excellent write up and fair comments throughout. Opinions on the penalty claim for Hargreaves' handball?
G4L
g4l, i think it would have been extremely harsh. his arm was in a perfectly natural position near his body, it did not move toward the ball and clichy hit it from very close range. it wasn't deliberate by any means.
Vidicinho
prits, that's why I have written my previous mistakes down - this way you can judge the soundness of my opinions :-)
midlothian99
Midlothian99 its wierd how these things work. I felt like Hargreaves dealt with Fabregas pretty well, but he still got a goal. And i also thought Clichy handled Ronaldo extremely well but he still ended up with a goal and a assist. 2-2 a fair result IMO. And Vidicinho neither was Caraghers handball on opening week against Aston Villa but it was still given for a penalty. And Hargreaves hand wasnt even close to his side. His hand was almost parallel to his shoulder. I guess im tryin to say is i have seen much less delibrative handballs given for pks.
gunnerkid107
one word come to mind CHOKERS just like the old days of the 80's for qpr
ozanne park rangers
Sorry, opr, the only choker out there yesterday was Howard the Coward
bseymour
A good open game to watch as a neutral between two fiercely competitive teams.
dazza71
Great game to watch and probably the right result at the end of the day.
will it ever happen
gunnerkid107: i've also seen penalties given for such handballs but what i want to say is that all these were refereeing mistakes, serious ones, including the carragher v villa incident.
Vidicinho
Ironically the Carragher handball against Blackburn Saturday was a far more obvious penalty shout than the one against Villa, or Hargreaves...but, no call. Of course that's been true the previous two weeks for him...seems Jamie's become teflon lately. Anyway I thought Howard was part of the problem the first half didn't live up to billing, but the second half was a total thrill ride. I figured a win would be tough to get against Man U, so I'm pretty happy with a draw...especially when we were a couple minutes away from something worse.
Shinobi
at least it keeps things nice and tight and entertaining at the top of the premiership.......
ernshaw
The sooner you lot realise that we aint a write off the better! all this "its between fancenal and manyooo for the title" its just a load of old ballacks! write liverFOOL off by all means! but keep an eye over your shoulders boys, cos we're right on your asses, and dont intend on staying behind you.CAREFREEEE WHERE eVER YOU MAY BE WE ARE THE FAMOUS CFC!!!!
SMOKIEJACK
 

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