When We Won The League At Old Trafford

When We Won The League At Old Trafford

With last Sunday not going quite to plan, let’s hope this weekend’s game against Manchester United finishes with a better result. Looking quite lifeless in the North London Derby, a motivation boost is surely in order. So why don’t we have a look back through the archives to find some motivation for Arsene Wenger’s second game against José Mourinho as United manager?
In recent times we’ve shown that we’re able to dismantle a Red Devils defence, most recently in that 20 minute 3-0 demolition at The Emirates, but that’s not the game I’m focusing on, and neither is the 2-1 win earlier that year when Danny Welbeck scored that goal at Old Trafford to send us through to the F.A Cup Semi Final.
The game I am focusing on took place just a couple of years into the 21st century, on the 8th of May 2002, the day that Arsenal added Old Trafford to the list of rival stadiums we’ve won a title at. With only a point needed to win the 2001-2002 season Arsenal went and got three, and of course, we’re not playing for a league title on Sunday but, that’s the only sort of motivation that they need looking at their current form.
But anyway, back to 2002. After winning the F.A. Cup Final against Chelsea four days earlier, which hopefully can be repeated this year, a Gunners squad mixed with the English core of the 90’s and soon to be Invincibles, travelled north in search of Arsene Wenger’s second Premier League and F.A. Cup double, needing only one point to crack out the blow up Premier League trophies after the game.
With Thierry Henry, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp all out of the squad after the F.A. Cup Final this is how the teams lined up.

Sylvain Wiltord led the line in what was his 100th appearance for Arsenal and didn’t he start brightly. Not even two minutes into the match and the Frenchman saw his well-hit volley deflected out for a corner by fellow countryman Laurent Blanc. We certainly meant business.
Paul Scholes was then next to have a notable pop at goal, after a patient, well-worked move from United, which fizzed just over the crossbar after a deflection, luckily nothing came of the corner.
We then saw United’s hard hitting side come out firing on all cylinders after two questionable challenges came one after the other. First to leave their mark on Arsenal was Juan Sebastián Verón, Man United’s £28 million summer signing, who wasn’t quick enough to meet Ashley Cole fairly and resulting in the Argentine up ending Arsenal’s hottest prospect at the time. Only seconds later Phil Neville hacked down Wiltord with a challenge, that most probably would’ve had a red card follow if United’s current right-back Antonio Valencia was to make that challenge on Sunday, Neville escaped with a yellow after referee Paul Dirkin was swarmed by Arsenal players.
The gloves were well and truly off as the battle on the pitch continued without the ball even in play. With Ryan Giggs and Veron setting up a free kick near the edge of the Arsenal box, Martin Keown in classic Arsenal vs Manchester United fashion begins to push and shove Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, provoking Scholes go that extra mile by barging Keown which attracted the attention of Dirkin. Again if that happened today players would probably be sanctioned but thankfully everyone was kept on the pitch.
Now in the second half Wiltord and Freddie Ljungberg combined for the first time on the edge of the box, don’t get excited it’s not the goal yet, after a silky backheel from the Swede, Wiltord showed great footwork to retain the ball before setting up Edu for a shot which almost fell just right for Kanu at the edge of the six-yard box.
For viewers at home, there was then a sight to savour, a banner being held by Arsenal fans that didn’t say ‘Wenger Out’! Instead, it read ‘Old Trafford, Champions Section.’ This was then confirmed only seconds later after Wiltord found himself in space to drive forward before laying the ball off to Ljungberg who cleverly manoeuvred the ball past Blanc after a lung-bursting run from deep, but failed to get his second goal in 2 games as then United keeper Fabian Barthez pushed his shot away… and I think we all know what happened next, don’t we? Carrying his run on into the box the ball fell at the feet of Wiltord who in his 100th Arsenal game swept the ball home with his left foot. Cue the classic knee slide and fist pump as Kanu jumps over the striker.
Arsenal weren’t going to stop there however, after Patrick Vieira won a well contested 50/50 with Scholes, Ljungberg broke through the centre of the pitch finding Wiltord yet again who spread the ball across the pitch to Kanu. The Nigerian then with all the confidence in the world burst past a few players and let a shot fly but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to find its way past Barthez.
In the last attack of the game we were reminded this was infact Arsenal vs Manchester United after a flowing counter attack from Wiltord and Parlour was ended with Barthez having a quick snap at Lee Dixon who somehow found himself in the opposition box. A couple of phases later and that was it, the final whistle blew, Arsene Wenger hugged his staff, the fans roared and of course Patrick Vieira screaming “fantastic!” into the camera during the celebrations.
Yes the circumstances of Sunday’s game are quite a bit different from 14 years ago but with Arsenal 5 points behind United it’ll be paramount that Arsenal keep up with the 5th placed side by winning and then take advantage of their game in hand. So hopefully Sunday produces a better showing from Arsenal as well as 3 points.

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