It’s interesting how certain Premier League fixtures come and go as being a ‘must see’ or a top of the table clash, but one that has always whet the appetite is whenever Arsenal come up against Manchester United. However this Sunday will mark the first time I’ve missed the visit of United in nearly 12 years.
Back in 2000 I was still a humble TRS member and couldn’t get through on the phone lines for the game when Thierry Henry exquisitely lobbed the ball in from 20 yards in front of the Clock End leaving Fabian Barthez as a spectator as it dropped into the net. Since then I’ve managed to attend 26 out of 33 fixtures between the club, this has always been a must see for me, if not live then I’ve been glued to the TV.
This year however the fixture fell very close to my brother’s 27th birthday and I decided to give my season ticket to him for the game as a present. But why did I give my ticket away so easily? Do I dare suggest this game isn’t as big as it used to be?
There are many memories from these fixtures, home and away, you can reel off so many incidents in just the last 10 years; Wiltord to win the title, the Beckham FA Cup boot match, the 2-2 draw at Highbury in 2003 when it felt the entire world was watching the game, van Nistlerooy missing the last minute penalty and the ensuing fracas, Adebayors late winner in 2006, Henry’s last gasp winner in the first season at The Emirates, United pushing us aside in the Champions League in 2009, and the forgettable 8-2 score line earlier this season.
It’s very rare to see a game finish between the two clubs with nothing to talk about. (the only one I can think of is the 0-0 in January 2006) The battles and needle between the players has gone on through the years too Wright vs Schmicheal, Reyes vs Neville, Keown vs van Nistlreooy, Sheringham vs our fans, Fabregas and the pizza vs Ferguson and of course Vieira vs Keane, However these days I do look at the Arsenal team and think, who is ready to fight tooth and nail for the team, and unfortunately I don’t see too many leaders or players who want to take the game by the scruff of the neck and do battle.
Perhaps with Henry back in the dressing room he might install some more fight into the team, but after the display at Swansea last Sunday, I think we do miss a true leader in our side, an Adams or Vieira or even a Keown, someone to pick the lads up when the chips are down. This is not to mean I think we will lose the match on Sunday, I think our first choice eleven can mix it with the best of them, but there just seems to be that little something missing from our game, and as we all know it’s very rare for us to have a first choice starting eleven in the side.
United go into the match as clear favorites and it will be interesting to see where the match will be won. Will there be a midfield battle between Scholes and Ramsey, who didn’t have his best game against Swansea, or will it be up top with Rooney and van Persie going against defenses that haven’t performed well over the last few weeks. Perhaps it will be down to the goalkeepers, will Fergie stick with Anders Lindegaard or bring back in de Gea? Whatever the outcome, I expect it to be explosive, and the atmosphere will be cranked up to the maximum at the ground. Expect the unexpected. Actually, thinking about it, why did I give that ticket away again?