Insiders todays game needs no introduction… I’ve been talking to the Red Ranter
PGL: Arsenal v United has become a bigger fixture than Spurs for a lot of Gooners, where does the fixture rank with your fans?
RR: To be honest, in terms of games we would absolutely hate to lose, it’s still Unite v Liverpool — although it’s always due to the history between the two sides. But games between ‘Pool and United have often been fraught with fear of losing — for both fans and players on either side — that the game as a whole rarely is enjoyable. But in terms pure, competitive, rivalry borne out of on-pitch incident, United-Arsenal would have to take the cake for me. Of course, even if Arsenal’s star has waned in recent times, in terms of league trophies, the games between the two hardly cease to disappoint.
PGL: United have started slowly in previous seasons and still ended up with the title. We’ve had a mixed start and there have been questions raised in some quarters of the Arsenal faithful, some even calling for the managers head, we’re there similar concerns during difficult periods at your club?
RR: Surprisingly, yes. Towards the end of the 05/06 season. We saw Chelsea take the league for two consecutive seasons. In the summer of 06, leading up to the 06/07 season, we didn’t buy anyone other than Carrick and we let Ruud van Nistelrooy go without buying a replacement. All that when we didn’t get past the group stages of the Champions’ Leage, the previous season. Fan morale was low during the summer of 06, the doom-mongerers brought up the Glazer takeover a season earlier and that we were going down under. Moreover, the Ronaldo red card waving incident happened that summer. Many fans started saying that Fergie had lost the plot and we were generally written off by everyone.
Whatever feeling fans had against Fergie, however, was washed off in a couple of months. The rest, as they say, is history. I doubt anyone will have anything against Fergie, anymore, after all he’s given to us. We don’t dread the day a star player leaves us for Real or someone — we only dread the day Fergie decides to call it a day.
PGL: United fans were fierce (and quite inspiring if I’m honest) in their objections to the arrival of the Glazers, it even lead to the foundation of another club, FC United of Manchester, how do your fans feel about it now?
RR: There is still an uneasiness about the takeover. It divides opinion. The current economic climate isn’t helping to assuage fears. Success on the pitch has papered over the initial apprehension. However, considering the drama that unfolds on a daily basis with sides like Liverpool, or the meddling by Abramovich in Chelsea’s footballing matters, the Glazers must be given credit for their full trust in David Gill and Fergie’s judgment. No one will forever feel easy about the amount of debt, but there is always a hope that if things don’t work out for the Glazers, United, as a global brand, will still find buyers.
PGL: Wenger has launched an attack on the standard of tackling in the Prem. This fixture used to be full of blood and thunder but it has become a more free-flowing fixture since the departures of Keane and Viera. You see Ronadlo kicked up and down the pitch every weekend, do you think Arsene has a point?
RR: Wenger has a point to some extent. But the league has always been physical. I think all managers sing a certain tune based on the way their players get treated on the pitch. Ferguson rants about Ronaldo not getting protection, while Wenger seems to think the whole league is on a conspiracy to injure his team. He may have a point but, at the end of the day, creative players will get kicked; the better teams will be hustled by the mediocre.
It’s how one learns to deal with it that would separate the Champion from the chasing pack. That’s something Fergie has learned but, fortunately or unfortunately, your manager hasn’t — and it appears increasingly so.
PGL: Having played mid-week in the Champions League both teams will need to rotate. Do you think United’s squad depth was the key to winning the double last year?
RR: Without a doubt. In 05/06 when we limped to second place with a central midfield of O’Shea/Giggs there was always a thought that, while our first XI was as good as any champion side, our second XI won’t trouble many bottom of the table sides. Your Arsenal side, with their outstanding first half of last season was similar in that respect: first XI – very good, second XI – not quite. Squad depth is always important if one is gunning for more than a trophy, but we also had players who were versatile enough and were happy to come off the bench to do a job. Rio and Ronaldo hogged the spotlight, but the roles played by Fletcher, O’Shea, Park (even Hargreaves who could do a job at defensive midfield, right back and right wing) will never be forgotten by most United fans.
PGL: This season has seen something very strange happen, Wenger and Ferguson have appeared to be getting on! What do you think has caused their icey relationship to thaw?
RR: I think their relationship began to thaw ever since Jose Mourinho’s arrival. Chelsea were the new team everyone loved to hate. Mourinho always had a word or two to say against Benitez or Wenger. And Arsene had enough on his plate to tackle Mourinho that Fergie went off the radar.
Of course, Ferguson is a cunning man, and knew that his mind games would always be directed at the team that was most likely to challenge his for the title. He did it to Keegan’s Newcastle, he had his famous wars with Wenger during the Keane-Viera days. And he attempted some during the Mourinho era. But it’s also old age, and a grudging admiration the two have for each other that have cause relations to thaw.
Of course, had Wenger sufficiently replaced Flamini, got a central defensive pair that gels well together, and had enough depth to mount a serious challenge till May or April, you’ll see the war of words begin right away between the two!
PGL: I think its fair to say this is a must win game for Arsenal. How do you think Sir Alex will set up your side?
RR: I think it is a must win for both sides. Of course, I wouldn’t say that I’d be disappointed if we don’t win; I’d take a draw at the Emirates. But a win would put us in touching distance with Chelsea, with a game in hand. After this, all our games against the ‘Big Four’ will be at Old Trafford.
My team choice would be a 4-4-2: EVDS, Brown, Rio, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Ronaldo with Rooney and Berbatov up front. I say Fletcher because he usually gives a lot in these games and has been in excellent form this season. His constant running and ability to get in to the box into scoring positions has helped him goals already this season. Anderson could be brought on later to give impetus, if things don’t go right.
PGL: We are without Adebayor and Robin Van Persie so we’ll be starting with a relatively inexperienced forward pairing, are United fans confident of stopped the Arsenal attack?
RR: If we are on our A-game, as they say, I think it’s nigh impossible for anyone to stop us. I’m sure Arsenal fans will think the same of their side. But the addition of Berbatov hasgiven our side that extra e dge to it. That said, our performances this season has been a case of flitting between “do-I-give-a-damn” or “come-on-lads-we-need-to-win-this-real-bad” modes. And this seems to be happening during games. Which is why you see us absolutely stomping and murdering teams in some periods, and at other times, just relaxing and inviting the opposition to score. It’s been a strange pattern.
But I suppose there’s enough motivation for the lads to be up for this one. And if United play like United we should easily win. It’s a question of which United turns up. Arsenal are certain to raise their game, though. I don’t have any doubts about that. They always seem to raise their game against United — barring last season’s FA Cup — and even if we win this, it would be only just.
Not having Adebayor and van Persie is certainly a big loss for your side.
PGL: And finally, what’s your prediction for the game?
RR: 2-1 to United.
PGL: So thats it Insider. We all know how important todays game is so I’m not gonna say much more. I’m going for a ‘One – Nil to the Arsenal’. Fingers and toes crossed.
ARSENE WENGER DAY!
Are you fed up of fans booing our team?
Are you a Wenger loyalist?
then Lets sing “THERE’S ONLY ONE ARSENE WENGER” what ever the result as many times as possible through the game.
Where your Arsene Wenger mask with pride., like PGL below…
Adobe reader required Download your AKB mask from here;
Copy and print off this mask below, don’t forget to enlarge it to A4 size.
or for you car or programme
And don’t forget to learn by heart the AKB manifesto…
The AKB Manifesto
- Arsene knows. There exists no higher power, therefore all are fallible, however no man is as enlightened more often nor wrong as rarely as Arsene. It naturally follows that there is no better man to lead us and when he errs, as we all do, loyalty shall be unswerving.
- We are the Arsenal. We have the best manager in the world. We have the best stadium in the world. We have the best team in the world. It has not been like this always, nor may it always be, so we must enjoy this. As we do we give thanks to Arsene who created this, made it all possible and lifted us to such exalted heights.
- Football is our medium; art, defined as beauty, is our aim and inspiration. Appreciation of beauty connects all people and transcends narrow identities. It is more than a means to an end, it is the end in itself. We shall pursue it at all times, and with the greatest dedication when we have fallen short in this endeavour. If we do this our soul will be pure, our triumphs all the sweeter, and history will remember us as something more than champions. We have history, that cannot be bought, and we are making it this very moment.
- Arsene understands that some things matter more than winning, there are pyrrhic victories. Our club shall not become a trinket to entertain the immorally wealthy. We shall not sell ourselves for uncertain benefits and potential titles so that in the future we can make the rich richer and ourselves poorer.
- Not all questions will be asked of Arsene. At these times Cesc Fabregas will be the first port of call. For he also knows.
- It has been foretold that the Champion’s League will be lifted. At this time all those who kept the faith will be uplifted as the righteous, their victory shall taste the sweetest.
- Arsene has prophesised that one day Big Phil Senderos will be a world class defender. When this happens the second coming of Dennis Bergkamp will arrive, so it has been preached and so it shall be.
- Thou shalt not shout fucking “shoot”. Lynch that twat, maybe shoot him. Anyone under 70 shouting “sit down” should be somewhere else, perhaps, doing whatever they were doing when we had terraces.
- All those who get up during the game to go for overpriced pies, piss warm lager, or any other oddity fundamentally missed the point long ago. They will never understand point 4.
- Our concession to the modern reality of football’s marriage to money is our new stadium. This was necessary, but we sacrificed the passion and atmosphere of Highbury for it. This is a tall and tragic price to have paid, we now have the sombre where once there was the exultant and cathartic. We shall give no more. Whores sell you their charms for money, no man has the riches to make us part with ours, they are simply not for sale.
- As once there was Henry, Vieria, Ralph, Bobby, Freddie in the future there will be Theo, Big Nick Bendtner, Denilson, Diaby, Gael, Sagna, RVP, Ade, and King Kolo. These names will make history and be remembered just as those who came before them. Cesc Fabregas, say the name, have the faith. Arsene knows.