Arsenal 1 – 0 Man Utd | Oh, what could have been…

Arsenal produced their best performance since beating Barcelona to dent Manchester United’s title hopes in an impressive display at the Emirates, although the victory was tinged with regret that the three points hardly helped our own title chances.

We set about Man Utd from the start, pinning them back and knocking the ball around with accuracy and verve. There was a determination to our play, both with the ball and without, and the team coped well without the injured Fabregas.

El Capitan’s replacement Ramsey showed the same promise we saw prior to the Shawcross assault and he linked up well with Wilshere in midfield. Alex Song provided an effective screen in front of our centre backs and I suspect this trio will be our first choice midfield if (when?) Fabregas joins Barca in the summer.

We should’ve been a goal and a man up when Vidic palmed a cross away with van Persie about to head in, but the ref and lino somehow missed an incident just as controversial as yesterday’s at Stamford Bridge. While that was funny as it probably denied Spurs a place in the Champions League next season, this was most definitely not – the cheating Mancs got away with one there.

Ramsey's goal against Man United

Ramsey slots home the deserved winner

No matter though, because on 58 minutes we righted the wrong by scoring the only goal of the game. Ramsey took it well, starting and finishing a good move after Song broke up a Manchester attack to give us a deserved lead. He showed the kind of composure in front of goal that Wilshere is still lacking with a neat side foot finish (I have no doubt that young Jack will add goals to his game in the future though). Ramsey was helped by Wilshere, Walcott and Arshavin all making driving runs into the box that dragged defenders towards their goal allowing van Persie to cut it back to him once he’d ghosted into a great position.

After that the inevitable questions about whether we would hold on or choke again came to the fore. Szczesny had to make a few good saves (including a terrific one on one block from Nani) and Vidic made a nuisance of himself from a couple of corners, but we held firm until the 87th minute when yet another lapse in concentration from Clichy allowed Owen to turn away from him inside the area. Clichy trod on his calf as he attempted to stop the tiny Scouse has-been running onto the ball and a penalty should’ve been awarded. But the ref – perhaps mindful of his earlier Vidic mistake which he’d have seen at half time – waved away the claims. It was brilliant to see Fergie ranting on the touchline, apparently having forgotten that Vidic should’ve been showered and sat alongside him by halftime.

So we got through a nervy final period when in truth a more ruthless attitude on the break would’ve put the game to bed. Arshavin in particular impressed me – he was calm and collected on the ball but still diligent enough to make a number of tackles and track back effectively. His calmness may have transmitted itself to the youngsters who were certainly less panicky than against Liverpool or Spurs, but the cynic in me thinks that had we been in the title race with more riding on the outcome, the pressure would’ve resulted in less composure. We shall never know.

Ramsey was the Man of the Match for me, closely followed by Wilshere, Song and Szczesny, although the whole team played well. Wenger certainly got the players up for this one, but the question remains why couldn’t we produce this kind of performance against West Brom, Sunderland, Blackburn and Bolton? If we had done we’d have been 6 points clear instead of 6 points behind. Although I’m delighted with the win and our response to recent disappointments, it is a shame that I am not enjoying putting one over Fergie’s mob as much as I should be.

But I don’t want to end on a low note after what was after all a victory over the league leaders and title favourites. Putting my most optimistic Gooner hat on, I suppose if Chelsea beat Man Utd next Sunday and we beat Stoke then we still have a slim chance – 3 points behind with two games to go. It’s extremely unlikely, but let’s focus on the positives from today:
1) The players restored some pride and gave us a win over Manchester United to enjoy
2) The title is still mathematically possible
3) We’re not Spurs fans.

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