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United Draw & Start A Blame Game!

 Posted by on January 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm  European Champions League
Jan 212013

Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United
The secret, they say, is to contain Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele. Sounds good. Contain those two, every so-called pundit and expert insists and you’ve got the same old weak-willed bunch of North London sob sisters. What every one hadn’t counted on, however, distracted by the obnoxious desire for attention of the club’s Mephistophilean Spiv Chairman Daniel Levy. is that the club has finally hired a brilliant manager in Andres Villas-Boas. Late in the game, with an exhausted Manchester United team no longer able to control the match’s tempo, Sir Alex Ferguson gambled on playing rope-a-dope from the 80th minute on. Knowing exactly what Dembele and Bale do is intellectually do is one thing, dealing with it in practice is something else again. Left to his own devices, Aaron Lennon is the most predictable overrated winger in the Premier League. Carefully marked, he has been little but an ooh-ah distraction against the likes of Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers for years. One on one in a foot race with the stubborn Peter-Panish Patrice Evra, Lennon got his own bit of pay back for at least seven seasons of getting his head handed to him, by rubbing the faded French left back’s nose in a giant pile of poo for final thirteen minutes.

For those who appreciate footie ironies, both started playing in the Premier League in January 2006. Lennon, eighteen at the time, one of Levy’s usurious bargain purchases from the diseased bankrupt body of Leeds United and Evra from Monaco as a replacement at left back for the brilliant, but constantly injured Gabriel Heinze. In combat for six seasons, it was never any contest. The contest for fastest but least brightest between Jermaine Jenas, Jerome Thomas, Aaron Lennon, Matty Etherington, Ashley Young. Theo Walcott and Lennon was always won by the spring-heeled latter. Despite the onset of early senility in many athletes, however, Evra at the age of 31, has finally been gobsmacked by the vicissitudes of time and fate. As the French say, “Cette fille sexy et jeune est maintenant une grosse, négligée femme au foyer!” *A team-player of the first order, a hard worker, and a real gentleman, Paddy is much loved by the fans, the Gaffer and most of his teammates. Unfortunately, although he still succeeds with many aspects of his attacking game, including his admirable leapimg ability for corners, his legs have gone. When you can no longer run with a player who has no more to his game than speed and step-overs, the end is no nigh. The prospect of him facing the combined switcheroo antics of Angel DiMaria, Mesut Ozil and CR7 has me reaching for my trusty bottle of Johnny Walker Black.

Consequently, United exposed themselves to the cruelty of a late late dagger into its tubercular defensive underbelly, when United’s thus-far heroic goalie, a partially blocked David De Gea weakly punched a cross towards Lennon and Evra. The speedy little Yorkshire pocket rocket, simply had to skip around the knackered veteran before tapping the ball into Clint Dempsey’s path. Poor David De Gea, awesome all afternoon, was totally exposed as the whole back line, petrified of Gareth Bale shifted right with the Welshman and the ‘Texacutioner,’ despite being utterly, toothless throughout the rest of the match was there on the spot to spare his club defeat and destroy United’s seven point lead over the Abu Dhabian rent boys of Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have barked at the officials and the press about the dreadful refereeing of Chris Foy and his awful assistant Simon Beck, but it just seemed to be more of the same of what the fiery old Scot. always does after tight draws and losses. Doubtless United did deserve the penalty call they did not get when Steven Caulker blatantly upended Wayne Rooney to the turf in the penalty box in the 61st minute. The truth is, however, that despite often being surprisingly imperious in midfield and deserving a one goal lead from a superb Robin Van Persie effort in the 25th minute, United just did not take advantage of the scores of counterattacking breaks they had in both halves. In spite of the incompetence of Chris Foyle, United should have been leading by three or four goals, so dominant and brilliant was their counterattacking play. Unfortunately, chance after chance was squandered. For me, however, despite the dreadful ineptitude of Evra, this was the best team performance by Manchester united this season. If the team’s major weakness on the left flank can be solved, however, the big picture is much improved for the club.

Of course, the obvious will hold true if you look at Spurs’ statistics,. The north Londoners controlled possession for close to 60% of their home match, but their finishing was so repeatedly, inexcusably dreadful United always looked the more likely to get a second throughout. With David De Gea pulling off three fantastic saves from Defoe, Bale and Lennon, and Emanuel Adebayor off playing for Togo in South Africa, striker Jermain Defoe simply never seemed truly up to the task against Rio Ferdinand. After what was probably his worst display ever in a United shirt in the 3-2 loss to Tottenham at Old Trafford in September, the Peckham Kid has learned to keep his perimeter tight of late and the proximity of a fit Nemanja Vidic didn’t hurt, either. The way Ferdinand has adjusted to doing less better of late ought to have been both a lesson and a warning to Patrice Evra, but the Frenchman has not yet adjusted to the cruelties of time.

For one of the few times this season, United played truly well for 80 minutes and were always dangerous. Danny Welbeck, although not much of a scoring threat these days, was a worker bee throughout, and, along with the twinkle-toed Shinji Kagawa, who was in his element in a winger-less midfield next to a frolicsome Tom Cleverley and a marvelous Michael Carrick who, although he always plays well against his old club, seems to be at a career high level of confidence.
And just how good is Robin van Persie? RVP’s 22nd goal of the season midway through the first half was a little bit of burglary out of Mission Impossible. After Kagawa picked the ball up in midfield, he pushed it to Carrick’s path. Carrick hit an exquisite cherry to Danny Welbeck on his left and the young Manc striker cut inside, seemed to dither a moment about taking a shot, before cleverly locating Cleverley. Just how Cleverley’s cross was found by the flying Dutchman, who was double marked by both Dawson and Caulker, managed to get to the ball is a miracle us mortals can contemplate upon. Once the cross reached Van Persie there was an inevitability about where it would finish. Shrugging the Spurs center backs aside, Van Persie headed the ball home. He now has 10 goals in his last 10 league matches.

Just how well both teams performed is the snow is to their credit as professionals. The pitch was only passed fit for play an hour before kickoff. Two of the more amusing sights on the sidelines were Spurs’ boss Andres Villas Boas, swathed in blankets, attempting to remain warm and still and Sir Alex Ferguson, so absorbed in the game’s second half, that he didn’t notice his woolly club tam was then wrong way round on his head.

Meanwhile, after the inevitable post-mortem on the match. Super Gary Neville


*That sexy young girl is now a fat housewife!”

Jan 142013

Manchester United 2 -1 Liverpool
Michael Carrick Mancheste 008 Carrick Has a Career Day at the Expense of the Scousers!Victors by the hairs of their chinny-chin-chins, Manchester United kept their fans hanging on and praying to the football Gods until the very last second of injury-time on the watch of football’s real King of Showbiz, referee Howard Webb. Nevertheless, at the end of the match, United had retained their ten point lead over champions Manchester City and 24 points over their savage Scouser nemeses Liverpool F.C. Goals from Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic proved just enough to keep the advantage after a fight back over the game’s last thirty minutes led by their brand-new striker, substitute Daniel Sturridge.

Yet despite decades of rancor, gamesmanship and flying handbags between both teams players and supporters, the two managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Brendan Rodgers kept their troops on a short leash. Indeed, the red Scousers were shockingly passive throughout a first half as United pressed them tight in midfield and Michael Carrick, freed up by the clever running bursts of both Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa, waited patiently for passing lanes to open up. Then, nineteen minutes in, with the ball buzzing around Liverpool’s box, Carrick, Kagawa, an energetic Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, threw together a flowing sequence of one-touch passes before feeding a flying Patrice Evra as he moved at express speed down the lane between the throw-in line and the penalty box, keeping his usual low sense of gravity before firing a low Bangalore-style cross that the predatorial assassin, Robin Van Persie, seized on before giving Daniel Agger the slip and shooting past goalie José Reina.Manchester United v Liverpool Robin van Persi 2885345 1 Carrick Has a Career Day at the Expense of the Scousers!

A flat Liverpool’s response was to barely hang in there. Minutes on, Cleverley was desperately unlucky not to double the lead with a a superb left-footed volley as he picked off a soft spinning header from Joe Allen and was centimeters away from the net. And, later, just before the half time whistle, young Rafael Da Silva dummied Glen Johnson before picking up a pass from Carrick. The little Brazilian tripped, but kept on his feet before passing to Van Persie. The Dutch striker, ever alert as always, had the presence of mind to back heel past Reina. A brilliant block by Martin Skrtel saved the Scousers and then a brave dive from Pepé Reína saved Kagawa’s stinging rebound.

For the second half, Brendan Rodgers added Sturridge to aid a lonely Luis Suárez. Yet, despite Liverpool’s improvement up front, United drew first blood in the 55th minute as Nemanja Vidic headed home yet another beautiful Robin Van Persie free kick after a Skrtel foul floated up to the high-flying Patrice Evra, whose header was touched further toward goal by Vidic as each flirted with the margins of being offside.

Four minutes later, though, there was a game-changer moment as Liverpool’s skipper Steven Gerrard picked off a weak pass by Cleverley, and a flying David De Gea made his first save of the match. All reflex, De Gea could only parry the ball away, and Sturridge was on the spot to speed past a flat-footed Rafael and fire home his second Liverpool goal in two appearances since his £12m transfer from Chelsea.

From then on, United fell into a state that verged on the cusp of panic. Meanwhile, it was impossible not to notice a hooded Jose Mourinho animatedly making notes as the tired pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand labored to contain the slippery Luís Suarez. Yet, with the the diligent, but often awkward Danny Welbeck pulled back to support the ebbing center back pairing, the biggest worry was that of anyone in defense committing a stupid foul to the Machiavellian Uruguayan Liverpool striker. Indeed, outside the relentless threat offered by Robin van Persie in Liverpool’s penalty area, Mourinho surely drew lines under the names of Shinji Kagawa, quick-footed and impressive with a very deft touch getting better and better at making connections with Cleverley and the more delicate leadership of Michael Carrick. Yet, just as impressive as United’s central core was behind Van Persie, the Real Madrid manager will have noticed how weak and vulnerable a slowed-down Patrice Evra will be to the shifting flank wizardry of Angel Di Maria and CR7. It doesn’t require the help of a soothsayer to predict that Ronaldo will hone in on Paddy’s weakness like a school yard bully. Although Rafael and Evra played well against Liverpool’s wingers, Raheem Sterling and Stewart Downing, they are about to have their plates overflowing from competition with Spurs’ Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale as an appetizer before the fun games begin in Madrid with DiMaria and Ronaldo.

Despite the danger from Sturridge and Suarez, Liverpool remained  more or less toothless and United deserved their win. There is no substitute for hard work and preparation. Sir Alex Ferguson did his homework on this one, getting his first half tactics dead right. Indeed, although our goalkeeper was savagely criticized by the usual crop of Haters after the match for fisting the ball into the opposition’s path before Sturridge took a goal back, I  thought the young man–with so little to do throughout the match–kept his concentration well and needs to emphasize being in psychological tune with his fellow defenders. It’s called communication! I don’t want to talk too much about Carrick, who was brilliant on the day. This was the position he used to play in for West Ham United and Spurs.  He is not a natural defensive midfielder!

Finally, there are the injuries. Jonny Evans seems to have hurt his right knee during pre-match warm-ups. Ashley Young got on the team bus wearing crutches and Nemanja Vidic did not look happy about his hamstring before being taken off for Chris Smalling.. With Wednesday’s looming F.A.. Cup replay fixture at Old Trafford against West Ham, United look like they won’t be getting any respite for weeks to come.65252501 van persie2 getty Carrick Has a Career Day at the Expense of the Scousers!

Sassy Swans Outhustle United!

 Posted by on December 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm  European Champions League
Dec 242012

9cf6b3a8 68f4 4748 ba50 99662eda319e 140 Sassy Swans Outhustle United!Swansea City 1 -1 Manchester United
Manchester United were simply too inept in front of goal to maintain their six-points lead over Manchester City. Well and truly thwarted at the noisy Liberty stadium on Sunday by Swansea’s gutsy, youthful show of commitment. More often than not United looked jaded and bored; their collective lack of commitment against ‘smaller’ teams and lazy dependence on the club’s forward line once again telegraphed like a beacon to each opponent they face

United scored early enough that it seemed to hurt them. After the brilliant Michael Vorm–also returning for the first time after a long injury break of ten games– saved a wicked shot from Ashley Young. But Robin van Persie’s superb corner from the right was in a perfect spot for a high-leaping unmarked Evra, six yards out, to head home his third goal of the season. Yet, Swansea,  who have already beaten Arsenal and clearly view their home as a fortress, were really in a committed mood after two successive defeats. This was a very ironic moment in the game as the Swans, particularly their tough little wingers Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer made life miserable for the way past-it Evra and the positionally challenged Phil Jones, in at right back for the injured Rafael. The clueless Evra, incapable of getting close to either winger, spent the whole half commiting petty fouls on both, slowly chipping away at the good work Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick were trying to do as they had to repeatedly get back and commit to double coverage.

Playing at relentless full tilt for every second of the first half, Swansea also gave a returning Nemanja Vidic, back for almost the first time in a year, much grief. Their converted midfielder of a striker, Michu, tall, sleek and muscular, was the Serbian’s master in the first half. Able to sprint readily past Vidic and repeatedly able to spin around the slow of wit and foot Evans, Michu always looked bound to score. And, 29 minutes in, when David de Gea seemed to have plenty of time to try and smother or punch away a soft effort by Julian De Guzman, Michu was exactly in the the right place to tap home De Gea’s weak attempt to parry the ball and make it 1-1.

Shockingly, when the Welsh hustlers equalized and kept up their pressing game, United simply shut up shop. While Swansea played their pretty passing patterns, United lay back and made only one good attempt at scoring. A weak attempt at a volley by Wayne Rooney that was easily caught by Vorm. Clearly rattled when they left the field, one hoped that Fergie hair dryer time in the dressing room would save the day.

Swansea, clearly tired after their relentless pressing of United in the first half, gave up midfield to United in the second half. Somehow, however, United just could not get it together to muster up the usual moments of magic. Rooney, looking tired and hung over, was just not putting in the crisp no-nonsense passes we’ve become used to of late. And 65 minutes in, United sent on an extra striker in Javíer Hernández. Minutes later, a stupendous reflex left-footer from Van Persie fooled Vorm but clipped the crossbar, allowing the catlike Dutch goalie claw the spinning ball away with the tips of his fingers. This would prove to have been United’s best clear chance of the game and illustrative of what happens on those bad days every team has. Indeed, it is the sixth time a van Persie effort has hit the crossbar this season!

After more chances went begging from Hernandez, Van Persie and Young, Swansea, supposedly the cleanest-playing team in the Premier League, got a more than a little desperate and were very fortunate to get away with a number of vindictive petty fouls. Indeed, things almost took an explosive turn in the 75th minute when an amped- up Ashley Williams deliberately smashed the ball into the back of Robin Van Persie’s head at pointblank range, after the Dutchman had already been fouled on the edge of the penalty area by the outstanding Chico Flores. Flores, who was on a yellow card and had been repeatedly warned by the referee about his bad behavior, definitely dodged a bullet with the help of the crafty Williams. Not surprisingly, Robin Van Persie was outraged and a near riot took place. The referee, the very young James Oliver, who was less than masterly all day, saw fit to solve this little problem by giving both players yellow cards.

At that moment, with Rooney about to be substituted by Giggs, anybody but the out-of-sorts Scouse should have taken a very crucial free kick. Unfortunately Rooney’s halfhearted effort, was casually blocked by Ashley Williams. As Rooney left the field for Giggs, Williams stood there grinning, clearly aware that he had out-hustled, outfoxed and psyched out a vulnerable, psychologically troubled United side in a moment that seemed to be a metaphor for the whole match.

United kept up their relentless attacking, but Vorm, Williams and Chico Flores were all particularly outstanding all the way to the bitter end. It was, all in all, a fine, exciting match. Getting United ready for their next two games over the holidays should indeed be an exciting challenge for Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Cardiac Kids Forever!

 Posted by on December 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm  European Champions League
Dec 122012

Manchester City 2 -3 Manchester United
09pic3 The Cardiac Kids Forever!A very good win of a very fine derby match at the El Etihad. Most surprisingly to his detractors, it was a tactical victory of the first order for Sir Alex Ferguson. Definitely his best bit of strategic business since the departure of Carlos Queiroz. Having attempted to simultaneously be both ultra cautious and cavalier against City’s ebb and floe game of bulk and physically in midfield and lightning quick up front, the Gaffer had genuflected in the aging direction of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes and paid a price for it in a 6-1 one-off loss at Old Trafford and a far more devastating 1-0 loss at the El Etihad..

Robin Van Persie–a Rolls-Royce of a performer Roberto Mancini had desperately wanted to enhance his toybox of expensive rent boys and offered far more to Arsenal for in wages and transfer fees–showed exactly what City’s divaesque manager missed when he chose to join Manchester United for a bargain £24m instead. After a silly foul by Gael Clichy on the edge of the box, Van Persie’s free kick deflected off the weak link in City’s wall, a turning Samir Nasri, wrong-footing goalie Joe Hart to score the winner. Van Persie’s exquisite strike, his fourteenth goal of the season ended the sky-blues year-long 37 match run without a loss at the Etihad since December 2010.

It was as the aging master had said repeatedly over the week leading up to the match, about as important a single win as he’s ever had over a long, glittering career. Alternating this season between a diamond-formation that reminded some of the 2007-08 team minus Mourinho and something more orthodox utilizing wingers, no clear conclusion could be made as to what was going to happen or how Ferguson was going to do it because his back line of defenders has been both repeatedly devastated by injuries and repeatedly found suicidally inept, mostly because center back has never been able to understand the fundamentals of positioning. At any rate, whatever voodoo has been messing with the noggins of Ferguson’s preferred back four of Rafael Da Silva, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra was banished by the simple art of concentration. Easier said than done, of course. City did dominate for the first twenty minutes, but it was more a case of the Red Devils taking their rivals’ measure than ceding dominance.

Instead of sticking to the diamond or the wing game, Fergie let Valencia and Young improvise. And with Mancini clearly seeming to prefer Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré laying back , just in front of their defense, seemingly content to practice the dark arts against the injury-prone Tommy Cleverley and his partner. Michael Carrick, both Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young were both as free as a happy pair of promiscuous courtesans to make short little diagonal runs on and off the wing. The ghost of Cristiano Ronaldo remains, to be sure, but his wise, brilliant less selfish replacement. Robin Van Persie. although less direct in his attacks on goal, poses more panic and endangerment to his opponents.

Yes, United were clearly on the back foot for the first twemty minutes, but slowly Antonio Valencia and the brilliant Rafael on the right-hand side slowly grew in confidence against a lonely Gael Clichy. Having put a bridle on the aging Patrice Evra for the first time this season may actually have been Lord Ferg’s wisest move. The French full back was able to double-clutch and head inside to enhance his own play, rather than worry about backing up an enigmatic Young.

United’s first goal came out of nowhere sixteen minutes in. A gorgeous bit of razzmatazz saw Robin Van Persie chest down an Evra pass while still simultaneously, almost casually, sprinting forward before connecting with the whippet-like Ashley Young. His laser-like pass found an unmarked Rooney, who scuffed his first attempt, but had the presence of mind to recover and hit it awkwardly again past a dumbfounded, double wrong-footed Joe Hart. Thirteen minutes later, Rafael Da Silva, hoovered up a pass from and chipped a lovely pass which, this time, Rooney had no hesitation about surgically slamming it home.

With no quarter being given by either defense, it was difficult to understand why Mancini had picked and persisted with both Samir Nasri and Mario Balotelli. To be sure, both are brilliant on their day and Balotelli had been awesome a year ago at Old Trafford, but this was a genuine derby game allowing no quarter. Indeed, it was only when Carlos Tevez, an ex-United star turn and a fanatic hater of Sir Alex Ferguson, came on for City that the game changed. In these situations, Tevez plays like his hair is on fire. His presence was an absolute necessity because things went collectively awry in the 58th minute as Ashley Young, clearly played onside by an advancing Zabaleta, fired home after a beautiful set up by Van Persie.

Yet the referee, Martin Atkinson disallowed it and then,suddenly the game was back on as Yaya Touré scored, letting loose a low-lying corker through a packed United penalty box after both Tevez and David Silva both had brilliant efforts blocked. United hung in there and the midfield combat was a war of attrition as crunching tackles and off the ball combat were the order of the day. And 79 minutes in, after a fantastic weaving Silva run, the Spaniard stepped inside past Ferdinand’s slow marking and watched in horror as his obtusely angled shot careened off goalkeeper David De Gea’s shoulder onto the bar and out of play.

Exhausted, United’s defense hung in there. But, then, seconds later, Ferguson was fuming on the sidelines, justifiable livid as Kolo Touré, on for the injured Vincent Kompany, blatantly tripped Patrice Evra inside the penalty area and the referee, Martin Atkinson, waved play on. Then, in the 86th minute, when Phil Jones and Evra failed to clear a Tevez corner, Zabaleta fired home between Jones’ legs and just inside the post to send the crowd into paroxysms of emotion and place the game on a 2-2 knife edge.

At them very end, United seemed to have utterly blown it. Then Tevez fouled Da Silva and Van Persie stepped forward to deliver the killer blow.

Much nastiness followed RVP’s winning free kick. Rio Ferdinand had a coin thrown at his eye. All’s well that ends well, and Rio–lucky not have been hit in the cornea–still took a masochistic macho pleasure in walking over to the United fans as rivulets of his own blood glimmered down his face. It was soon after this moment of fist-pounding bravado that an enraged City fan invaded the pitch and had his way blocked by an equally irritated Joe Hart. The game’s the thing, they say, but the big games United have been playing against rivals Liverpool and Arsenal have long been mostly disappointments. Yet this season has been special, a 3-2 victory over Chelsea wa sa definitely surpassed by this wee masterpiece. Consider the final whistle, as Carlos Tevez and Sir Alex Ferguson baited one another. Tevez, a/k/a ‘The Trier’ to Sir Alex Ferguson, walked away and, instead of joining City’s defensive wall, spent the next few minutes screaming insults at the Gaffer and Mike Phelan. Why Tevez wasn’t in the wall is one question City fans ought to ask. Gareth Barry clearly heard screaming obscenities at Roberto Mancini,

Mentioning David De Gea is apt, too! The Spaniard may still not successfully communicate with his back four colleagues too well, but his work in the air was commendable and much improved. With those superb reflexes and the confidence in taking chances (even though he clearly gets it wrong sometimes) De Gea is a far superior talent to a a repeatedly dither-prone Joe Hart.

Last, but not least, Manchester United played with pride and discipline. Win or lose, this is all I dare ask for! Still my Cardiac Kids, they have left us all a big one for the memory banks.09pic6 The Cardiac Kids Forever!

Nov 052012

Manchester United 2 -1 A r s e n a l
Patrice Evra of Mancheste 006 DOh Trafford










It was a miserable day for football fans in general, particularly so for Arsenal supporters as they not only got to watch their former star Robin Van Persie pay a major part in their defeat, but were also reminded, ad infinitum, of the reason he chose to leave them in the first place. On a day where United were so far short of even their usual trademark fluidity that even Wayne Rooney cocking up a penalty proved meaningless, Les Gooners were, by comparison, like your Uncle Fred’s pub team.

“Coming out of the changing room, you would have thought we had lost the game,” Rio Ferdinand said after the match.‘The game went dead at stages. We created a number of clear chances but we always left them with a little sniff. It was 2-1 in the end but it could have been five or six..” A far less even tempered Sir Alex Ferguson put it this way. “We should have won by four or five, it was a strange game. The whole day was disappointing .”

How silly the traveling Arsenal fans must have felt. How ironic that, having booed him relentlessly during introductions before kickoff, that, as they kept their relentless noise going, their hapless Dutch center back Thomas Vermaelen, while stepping in to block a poorly executed Rafael Da Silva cross, made a dreadful hash of his clearance, putting it right at the tricky feet of Van Persie. The ruthless Dutch striker did not hesitate, slotting his tenth goal of the season past goalie Vito Mannone. Unlike other, more embittered expatriates of Wenger’s Premiership profit machine like Adebayor, Gallas and Cole, RVP did not celebrate ostentatiously or gesture toward the Arsenal crowd. He simply wheeled away in triumph, bobbing his sleekly coiffed barnet hither and thither. A player who simply oozes class, he is worth every single penny Sir Alex Ferguson spent on him.

The football throughout the rest of this dreadful duel is barely worth discussing, and to be fair to United, expectations should never have been too high after the two fantastic exhibitions they give in combat at Stamford Bridge last week. It was awful football throughout and a game which the Red Devils controlled throughout save for their predictable lapse in concentration to allow Santí Cazoría to score a consolation goal at the very death. Only Arsenal’s goalkeeper, Vito Mannone managed to cover himself with glory, making a fantastic save of a rising Van Persie rocket after Wayne Rooney had supplied him with a sublime dish midway through the half.

Indeed, with left back Andre Santos repeatedly humiliated by Luís Antonio Valencia–having a distinctly average day, I might add–Mannone had his work cut out, repeatedly making brave saves from Rooney, Valencia, Young and Van Persie as his back four repeatedly seemed hapless and flat-footed. Then, on the cusp of half time, the referee Mike Dean blew for a penalty after Cazoría blocked a Young pass inside the box with an upraised arm. Rooney hit it low, soft and wide and Mannone was there again to keep the margin at one.

For the rest of the second half, misery reigned for Arsenal fans, as, apart from a botched miscue of a pass from Carrick, which Cazoría himself also botched with little but De Gea and an open goal in front of him. United squandered opportunities repeatedly and, to some booing fans, flippantly. Eventually, however, 67 minutes in, as Van Persie hit a weak squib for Mannone to make a meal out of of a fingertip save , Young tapped his corner short to Rooney. His diagonal cross was well headed home by a high-leaping Patrice Evra.

To pile on the misery even more severely, Jack Wilshere, desperately trying to put out fires all day, after a yellow card followed by repeated warnings from Mike Dean, put in one too many hard studs-up challenges on Patrice Evra and was dismissed. Everybody has bad days, but, as they go, for the Jekyll and Hyde Gooners, this was indeed a doozy! Santiago Cazoría who has by far been the club’s best player all season looked like he was hobbling into March for most of the match. Like Wilshere, he was simply trying to do too much to compensate for his lackluster teammates. When the clever Spanish play maker pulled one back, threading the needle through a packed penalty area it actually made the score line of 2-1 seem like an injustice. For those of us who were there  at Old Trafford a year ago in September, Arsenal played far superior football in their 8-2 loss. Such are the ironies of the beautiful game!

United now top the Premier League. Considering the porous nature of Our defense, it is almost a miracle. Clearly, though, Chelsea own defensive issues of their own and Manchester City will have problems of their own throughout the season related more to commitment and psychology than excellence. This thing can indeed be won!

Robin van Persie applauds 003 DOh Trafford