Danny Welbeck's late winner settled the match and kept Manchester United in touch with Manchester City
"I don't pick on you because I don't think you can take it," The Janitor from Scrubs tells one particularly irritating character. Now, no one wants to make enemies, but in some ways it's preferable to going unnoticed. Better to be someone capable of eliciting a visceral reaction than an insignificance, after all. For years, that's what Arsene Wenger brought out of Sir Alex Ferguson, and vice-versa. Not any more. On Friday, Ferguson said the bad blood, which threatened to become so vicious at one stage that Cesc Fabregas was willing to waste some perfectly good pizza, between the two sides was easing off. Arsenal v Manchester United is probably the defining fixture of the Premier League era, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira butting heads on the pitch and clashing in the tunnel, Thierry Henry's Wassup Moment in 2000, the mad-eyed fan celebrating Marc Overmars's goal in 1998 and Ryan Giggs's rug at Villa Park.
Ferguson and Wenger positively loathed each other – "He's come here from Japan!" – but here's a rare example of familiarity not breeding contempt. That should be more worrying for Wenger than it is for Ferguson. You don't want to be friends with Ferguson. Steve Bruce is friends with Ferguson. Sam Allardyce is friends with Ferguson. If you're his friend, you're not a threat. Isn't that right, Rafa? But that's where Arsenal are right now. In the grand scheme of things, they are not a threat to United, even if they can be this afternoon, in an isolated encounter. It's arguably seven years, the end of The Invincibles, since Arsenal went into a game against United as the favourites – when United were genuinely scared of them.
You'd find more confidence in Mark Corrigan than in an Arsenal fan today. What happened the last time these two sides met goes without saying. Wenger said losing 8-2 to United wasn't the lowest point of his career (presumably it was the day he first laid eyes on Igors Stepanovs) but it was certainly up there. There were mitigating circumstances that afternoon though: injuries and suspensions meant they played Carl Jenkinson and Armand Traore, they missed a penalty to make it 1-1, they ended up playing Theo Walcott at right-back and Wenger admitted he gambled by taking off Francis Coquelin near the end of the match.
But just like last time, Arsenal do not come into this match on a great run of form. The warm glow caused by Thierry Henry's return was dulled by the farcical defeat to Swansea last week and once again, they have been disrupted by injuries to key players in defence and midfield. United, for the time being, seem to have got over their winter slump and though they lost here last season, there is the potential they could run riot again.
Some required reading before this game: Daniel Taylor on Ravel Morrison, United's troubled youngster. And a potential genius in the making, if he can ever sort himself out, however unlikely that seems.
Team news: Thomas Vermaelen starts for Arsenal after he was a doubt with a calf injury, but the big news is that the exciting and fearless Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starts in attack in place of the complete waste of time that is Andrey Arshavin. Manchester United are without Rio Ferdinand, regularly seen outwitting Piers Morgan on Tw*tter, so their defence is very young indeed. In fact it's the same one that started against Arsenal in August. Paul Scholes, 37, is not risked in midfield. Instead Ferguson goes for the sprightly legs of Ryan Giggs, 38.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Song, Ramsey; Walcott, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Van Persie. Subs: Almunia, Park, Squillaci, Arshavin, Benayoun, Miquel, Yennaris.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Lindegaard; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Nani; Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: De Gea, Rafael, Fabio, Scholes, Park, Berbatov, Hernandez.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Manchester City have won 3-2 against Tottenham. Mario Balotelli, who should have been sent off for a stamp on Scott Parker's head, won and scored a last-minute penalty. That means they are six points ahead of United, who now really need to win. The fine margins of a title race, eh? Just before Balotelli's winner, Defoe missed a chance that Sandra would have put away, which would have meant United could have gone level with City with a win. Now they three points will merely mean they keep stay in sight of the leaders.
We get Gary Neville as a pundit. America gets Piers Morgan, who is Fox's "expert" pundit today. Did the universe lose a bet? It's the only explanation for this man's staggering presence in the public eye. Here's what "expert" pundit Piers Morgan said after Arsenal took the lead against Swansea last week:
"Imagine being a Swansea fan, watching @Persie_Official skinning you in first 5ms, and Thierry laughing on the bench, waiting to do the same."
Yes. Imagine. Here's more, this one written before the 2009-10 season:
Portsmouth will be absolutely fine. I know the guy who is buying them, Sulaiman Al-Fahim, and he is not only a very serious businessman, he's also stinking rich. So relax, Pompey fans."
There's more where that came from here. Tipster also had England to beat Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
I should have mentioned that Thierry Henry is out with a calf injury. "Why is Henry not even on the subs?!" asks Rohit Kapur. "How can it be a smarter decision to have Arshavin or Park on the bench and not Henry?"
Rohit Kapur again. "Ah. Well, then (he said, sheepishly). A better email to send you would've been about how Henry has barely been back at Arsenal and has already settled into the new Arsenal way by picking up an injury. Legend."
Heresy corner: "Thank God for Piers Morgan!" says Nathan Phillips, who I assume is drunk. "At least he's better than the typical us commentator many of whom I suspect landed the position on the strength of their accent alone." Behave.
"I certainly take your preview's points, but surely any opponent of a team that includes Jonny Evans is always in with a decent chance of a result?" says Lou Roper. He's no Savic, to be fair.
"The Universe lost a bet or Piers Morgan's success is the result of an Eddie Belcher style experiment," parps Niall Mullen.
The players are in the tunnel. Arsenal, of course, are in their red strip. United are in their stripey blue away kit. Patrice Evra is their captain today.
Peep! United, attacking from right to left, get us going. Boos greet them as they stroke the ball around at the back, before Lindegaard launches it into orbit. "The stars have aligned to keep Piers Morgan off the air in Cleveland area at least," says Mark Elliott. "After all the fanfare about the first live EPL game on broadcast TV, our local Fox station is not showing the game live, but later today. So I'll be watching the game live with Spanish commentary on Fox Deportes in standard definition. This is like going back to the early 2000's in terms of coverage."
2 min: Vermaelen's presence is a massive boost for Arsenal. They would have been extremely worried about Valencia getting a free run at the fairly hapless Miquel. Oxlade-Chamberlain gets his first chance to take United on down the left, nicking the ball off Jones. He charges into the area, plays a one-two, and then tries to slide the ball across for Van Persie. Crucially Evans hacks away in the six-yard box. "I live in the good USA and can't, for the love of all things holy, understand this American obsession with Morgan. He is everywhere on TV, spouting hot air," says Shawn T. "They replaced Lrry King with this piece of work! I wish he could support some team other than my beloved Arsenal. Makes me feel dirty he supports the same team as me."
4 min: Rooney is dropping back into midfield when Arsenal have the ball. That's regularly Park Ji-sung when they play Arsenal, who he's often brilliant against. United get into their groove around the Arsenal area, Rooney finding Nani on the left. He cuts inside on to his right foot, but then gets the ball stuck under his foot and the chance to shoot is gone. Rooney then tries to play Giggs in on the left, but Djorou slides in ahead of the 38-year-old.
5 min: There's a rather subdued air about this after the dramatic. events in the earlier game. Arsenal's fans are taunting United about Thursday nights on Channel Five. Careful lads, that could be you next season. "This is Fox's attempt at making a sort of "buddy buddy-yuk it up" style of pre-game show that they have for the NFL," says Joshua Reynolds. "That version is also awful."
7 min: Now Oxlade-Chamberlain pops up on the right. He manages to whip a cross into the area, but Lindegaard claims it easily enough.
8 min: Martin Tyler says there's some "early sparring" going on here, which is what they said of the City game. Boxing on the mind. Speaking of which, do you think you could beat Lionel Messi in a boxing match? Ramsey has a dig from distance, but it's straight at Lindegaard.
9 min: This has been a reserved start from United, who are patiently sitting back and allowing Arsenal to see most of the ball. Arsenal will have to be wary of United on the counter-attack; United have scored plenty of goals on the break against them at the Emirates, not least that exceptional Ronaldo goal in the Champions League semi-final.
11 min: It's almost as if everyone inside the stadium is coming to terms with having to make do with second billing today. Another shot for Arsenal here, but Walcott's effort is more of a backpass than anything else. "I thought Morgan got all of his American employment because of his accent?" says Lou Roperr. "In terms of this footy gig, though, Murdoch Broadcasting has shown its mojo hasn't been entirely shredded: the casual viewer (all gearing up for the American football [sic] playoff match later] won't know or care that the 'analyst' doesn't know what he is talking about while everyone else will be reminded of the stupidity of Murdoch rivals CNN in hiring Morgan to succeed Larry King every time he opens his gob.
13 min: This has not been very good so far. No one has any rage. In 1999, there would have been at least 14 headbutts already and every player would have tried to commit an act of GBH.
15 min: A scare for United as Walcott runs at Jones, who falls over and is in some distress after twisting his ankle. He's hurt himself, but Walcott's not to know that and hares away down the left. Fortunately for United, it's Theo Walcott, not Thierry Henry, and with little clue what to do with the opportunity that's presented itself, he crosses to no one in particular.
16 min: These are worrying scenes for United. The stretcher has been called for Jones and his afternoon is surely over.
17 min: Rafael comes on for Phil Jones. I give it five minutes before he goes off injured. "What takes the cake for Fox's coverage today (other than "expert" Piers Morgan) is their attempt to make it as similar to NFL coverage as possible," says Sean Gohman. "Nothing says Premiership Football like using their bombastic NFL theme music. At least they don't have their very strange football playing CGI robots dibbling balls in the corners of the TV. Though I expect that will happen next year."
18 min: Arsenal go to sleep as United work a short corner routine on the right. Valencia plays the ball back to Giggs and when no Arsenal defender bothers to go over to him - after all, why would you, it's only Ryan Giggs - he dashes into the area, steps past one Arsenal defender and hangs a cross up to Smalling at the far post. It's headed away though. "I feel fairly confident I could wipe the floor with Messi, provided the bout takes place in a 2' x 2' ring and he's chained to the post," says an optimistic JW Taylor.
20 min: Arsenal fans are surprisingly informing us that they love Arsenal. Yes, it is that dull. Lindegaard and Szczesny are both taking the opportunity to have a wee nap. "Phil Jones got carried off by Pitch Medical Support," says Graham Randall. "Could they not think of a better acronym?"
23 min: United are starting to get a grip on this game, and it's mostly being played in Arsenal's half now. Valencia plays Giggs inside the dozing Ramsey on the right, but from the byline, his cutback is straight at Szczesny. What a waste. We've seen this pattern before in this fixture though - Arsenal possession early on, followed by United slowly taking the upper hand. Still, neither keeper has had to make a save worth remembering.
25 min: This is the best chance so far. But it's more of a half-chance. Or even a quarter-chance. Oxlade-Chamberlain isolate Evra on the right and shows remarkable bravery for a youngster playing against Manchester United, skipping past Evra with a lovely piece of skill. He gets into the area and pulls the ball back for Walcott, who slams an awkward shot high and wide from 15 yards out.
27 min: Arsenal's defence is caught horribly high as Welbeck lays the ball off to Valencia, who then stabs a fine pass over the top for the striker to run on to. He races away but Vermaelen shows great recovery speed to get back and put him off as he bears down on Szczesny, and Welbeck can only loop the ball over the top from 12 yards as he tumbles over. "Walcott really is very fast," says Ben Dunn. "Can you imagine the damage he could do if he was actually any good at football?"
29 min: Ramsey is let down by a dreadful first touch after getting in behind the United defence on the left. The pass was just behind him and he couldn't quite take it in his stride, putting him off balance and allowing United to get back and tackle him. "Shawn T's lucky he only has Piers Morgan to square with his conscience," says Kit Harrison. "As a Chelsea fan, I've had to cope with the shame of sharing a team with countless Tories and Tim Lovejoy."
31 min: Giggs rolls back the years - say, to April 1999, Villa Park - with a weaving run down the right, taking on both Vermaelen and Ramsey at the same time. He cuts inside like a 38-year-old Leo Messi and is hauled to the floor by a rather ragged Vermaelen, who may well be a tad peevish after being out-paced by Giggs. The free-kick is awarded and Giggs whips it into the six-yard box. Evans meets it, but the ball is behind him as he heads it, and can only direct it miles off target to the right. It wasn't really a chance at all.
33 min: [kevinkeegan]There's only one team who's going to score here[/kevinkeegan]. Nani spins away from Djourou on the right and plays the onrushing Evra into the area, the left-back having got half a yard on Oxlade-Chamberlain. His ball to Welbeck is cut out by Mertersacker though, but the pressure continues. Nani curves a superb cross into the six-yard box. Again Mertersacker's positioning is impeccable.
35 min: The signs are increasingly ominous for Arsenal. Evra saunters past a feeble challenge from Song, who is embarrassingly left in a heap on the floor. He cuts the balll back to Nani, whose instant placed shot from eight yards out with his right foot is pushed out by Szczesny low at his near post.
37 min: Rooney wants a penalty after going down in the Arsenal area, but Mike Dean is unmoved, mainly because it was a risible dive. Valencia tricked his way inside and found Giggs on the edge of the area. He took too long when he might have shot but somehow managed to poke a ball through to Rooney, who fell down under a non-existent challenge from Song. Oh dear. He should have been booked there.
39 min: Valencia tries to race past Vermaelen again, but this time the Belgian times his tackle to perfection and even wins a free-kick out of it. "Good to see that Oxlade Chamberlain's bright start is being balanced out by the other British players' (Walcott and Ramsey) lack of technique stinking the place out," says Chris Sturrock. "How on earth Wenger can watch them week in week out and still refuse to buy new players is genuinely beyond me. Ramsey in particular has been awful all season, contrary to erroneous reports in the press." It's possibly the after-effects of his broken leg. Don't underestimate that.
41 min: Nani goes close again after yet more terrible defending from the increasingly clownish Johan Djourou. He leapt through the air, trying to cut a fairly aimless ball from the back, but make a total hash of it and let Nani get there before him. He seemed in two minds about what to do from an angle on the left and in the end, he tried to curl the ball into the far corner with his right foot, only to get it all wrong.
43 min: Ramsey is being given something of a lesson by Giggs. Now he's been booked for bringing him down in the middle. That's no way to treat your hero.
44 min: Rosicky has Arsenal's first shot since the opening exchanges, but it's screwed well wide from 25 yards out. Rafael then manages to talk himself into a booking for something or other.
45 min: Djourou needs help, because currently Nani is being allowed to run at him as and when he pleases. This time he rolls inside and then backheels the ball into the overlapping Evra's path. He goes over in the area after a hefty challenge from Song, but it looked like the midfielder's tackle was fair.
GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United (Valencia, 45 min+1): This one had been coming and United have the goal their dominance deserves. Arsenal were always likely to pay for giving United the freedom of the left flank, but the only surprise is that it wasn't Nani who created the goal, but Ryan Giggs. He had all the time in the world, enough to reflect on his entire career, to hang a beautiful ball up to the far post, where Valencia was left free to get above Vermaelen and plant a header back across goal and into the far corner.
Peep! Peep! Boos greet the half-time whistle, Arsenal's fans seemingly upset with their team's flimsy performance. United are comfortably on top, with Arsenal offering very little. It's hard to see that changing.
Half time: Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United. At this rate, Arsene Wenger's going to be guest of honour at Ferguson's 71st birthday.
In the Africa Cup of Nations, it's Ivory Coast 1-0 Sudan.
Half time emails:
"I'm sure it is the after effects of his broken leg," says Chris Sturrock. "The question is, why hasn't be loaned out to regain form and new players bought to properly replace Nasri and Cesc? It's genuinely sad watching Rasmey being asked to do something he is clearly not capable of." Arsenal? Buy players? Where have you been these last few years.
"Does it say anything about the World's Greatest Football League Ever that the best player on the pitch is a 38 year old man?" says J.W. Taylor. "If so, what?" Mainly that Ryan Giggs is still a very, very good player.
"Thing about Messi is that for Barcelona, he is the heavyweight," says Joe Balfour. "In a boxing ring I imagine there would be plenty of tiki-taka (jabs) but no actual finishing (knockout punch). I couldn't catch Messi in a ring, but I wouldn't be that scared about stepping into a ring with him. He's the reverse of Sergi Busquets in a boxing ring, whom I would be scared of facing."
"I'm very, very worried at this point, a loss can really put a dent in Arsenal's goal to avenge that penalty heartbreak loss to Galatasaray in the 2000 UEFA Cup final," parps Tai Kaku.
"THe Premiership has been robbing the NFL "play book" for years, from
scheduling the fixture list, to Super Sunday," says Stan Lee. "That said, I have lower expectations than Sean Gohman. I'm just happy regular tv is showing this game. Great progress for football!"
"Arsenal fan here," sighs Daniel Finucane. "I'd like to vent by way of a couple of observations. First, the myth that the Gunners are the most techincally proficient side in the league. Arsenal aren't particularly great passers, movers, dribblers, or shooters. Ramsey's dribbling hiccup? Most teams would've gotten a goal out of that. Even RVP isn't blameless, with his wildly failed attempt to spring Rosicky down the right. Financially mindful Arsenal haven't stayed in the top four because of their skill; they've stayed there because to date they've been the fourth most talented club. Second, how will the Arsenal conditioning coach survive this match? Djourou and Song in particular are looking willing to give up a penalty just to fall down for a breather. Inexcusable."
46 min: Bad news for Manchester United: Johan Djourou has gone off with twisted blood and is replace by Nicholas Yennaris, who'll be making his Premier League debut. Against Nani. By the way, the first assessment of Phil Jones is that he's twisted his ankle.
47 min: This is the last thing Arsenal fans want to see - Robin van Persie is down after being accidentally caught on the knee by Valencia. Get your cheque-book out, Arsene.
48 min: Van Persie is hobbling about on the touchline. He probably should be ok to continue, but the silence that descended over the stadium when he went down is another timely reminder of how much Arsenal rely on the Dutchman.
49 min: The Arsenal fans are making no noise at all. There is a real lack of belief both in the stands and on the pitch. "Arsenal are very poor," observes Muhammad Akhtar Arshad. "This year's vintage can not even entertain like the teams from 2006 to 2011. They are on downward spiral and introduction of Wilshere and both centre backs is not going to hide the obvious flaws in Wenger's future plans for the club. Wenger has turned Arsenal into Liverpool after that great club's glory days."
50 min: Van Persie is back on the pitch by the way. That's a collective sigh of relief you just heard in north London. "Joe Balfour (any relation to Hot-Shot?) would be scared of Busquets in a boxing ring?" says Matthew Lysaght. "Why? You just have to pretend to punch him and he'd be on the deck."
51 min: Robin van Persie, of all people, has just missed an absolute sitter. The chance came from an awful slip by Smalling in his own half, which allowed Rosicky to nick possession and hare clean through on goal. He could have gone for goal himself, but this is Arsenal, so there had to be one more pass. He rolled the ball to the right for Van Persie, who could have shot first time with Lindegaard out of the picture, but this is Arsenal, so he took a couple of touches. He dodged inside Evans and then had the whole goal to aim for from close range, but this is Arsenal we're talking about, so he blasted wide of the left post. Astonishing. Like Fernando Torres at his Chelsea best.
53 min: I can't believe Van Persie missed that. Still, he's allowed one.
55 min: Another chance for Arsenal. Ramsey breaks on to a loose ball outside the area, steps forward and then arrows a drive inches over.
56 min: Yet more high farce, this time from Antonio Valencia, with both sides determined to keep the DVD blooper trade going on their own. Arsenal switch off from a throw-in, allowing Evra to release Nani down the left. He hooks it back to Valencia, whose shot from the middle of the area is closer to being a throw-in than a goal. Dear me. That was astonishingly inept.
58 min: Having created the square root of bugger all in the first half, Arsenal have now had three good chances to equalise. Van Persie's cross is deflected to Rosicky 12 yards from goal, but on the stretch, his drive is blocked by Evra's chest.
61 min: "Van Persie's miss - would that be considered a "Bendtner," a "Carroll," or a Torres"?" asks Tracy Mohr. "My vote would be for the last." At the moment, sadly, a Torres.
62 min: Arsenal have been so much better in this half. Koscielny strides forward and sets up Oxlade-Chamberlain, around 20 yards out. His firm effort flashes this far wide of the left post. "Arsenal aren't missing Gervinho - not if his performance for Ivory Coast today is anything to go by," informs Gary Naylor.
63 min: United come alive again and Nani scampers inside and then plays a clever disguised pass through to Evra, whose shot is smothered by Szczesny. Evra was flagged offside, but he was actually level.
64 min: How is this still 1-0? A header from Carrick from deep flies over Mertesacker's head and Welbeck speeds away from him and through on goal. There's only one winner in this race, but he's knocked off-balance by Mertesacker as he dinks the ball over Szczesny, meaning his shot lacked power and the German got back and just managed to clear as it rolled goalwards. He was lucky Welbeck did shoot, because if he'd gone down it could have been a red card and a penalty.
67 min: This is ridiculous. Rooney slides Welbeck in again but his touch is heavy and runs away from him, allowing Szczesny to come off his line and try to smother the ball. He can't quite hold it though and is injured as he challenges Welbeck. The ball squirms away from him and back to Welbeck, but his ball back into the six-yard box is poor and Song clears. The ball went back to United and they stayed on the attack, despite Szczesny clutching his arm and hopping about on the spot. Evra charged past Yennaris and fired a cross into the area, Koscielny hacking over his own bar. This has been a charmingly shambolic second half.
69 min: If United contrive to throw this game, the title is more or less over. "Loving the anguish shown by the ridiculous Arsenal 'fans' who are emailing in," says Alistair Hann. "In the past fifteen years, they've seen their club win titles, cups, go a season unbeaten and get to a Champions League final. Fans of most other clubs would give a leg and an arm to witness ANY ONE of those things in their entire lifetime. Oh, and Wenger did all that. If he never wins another game you should still be on your knees to him."
GOAL! Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United (Van Persie, 71 min): One minute United were streaming forward on the counter again, with Arsenal all over the place, the next they were picking the ball out of their own net. The move started when Koscielny tackled Rafael in Arsenal's area. The ball was spread out to the left for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who romped inside and then played a canny reverse-pass to Van Persie. He had plenty to do, but turned a surprise first-time shot through Evans's legs and past the despairing Lindegaard's dive, the ball nestling neatly in the bottom-right corner. He's back. Well, he was only gone for 20 minutes, but still, you get the point.
74 min: What a rabble. Wenger brings off Oxlade-Chamberlain and introduces Andrey Arshavin, a decision that is greeted by loud boos and plenty of effin' and jeffin' in the stands. Arsenal's fans have collectively spat the dummy out.
76 min: The game was delayed for a few minutes there, as Nani had picked up a knock after a tackle from ... someone. He goes down the tunnel and is replaced by the fresh legs of Paul Scholes.
77 min: Park, slayer of Arsenal, is brought on for Rafael, who of course was subbed on in the first half. This is a very strange game.
78 min: Yennaris, who hasn't let himself down at all, curls a fine cross into the area. Walcott bursts on to it and his touch takes him in between the United centre-backs, but Lindegaard spots the danger and snatches it off him. Walcott falls to the turf and then manages to headbutt the ground, knocking himself out in the process. Now he's off for treatment. He looks to be in some pain.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United (Welbeck, 81 min): Maybe the Arsenal fans were right about Andrey Arshavin. His first contribution is nothing short of a disgrace, as he just lets Valencia stroll past him, like a man politely holding the door open for a little old lady. After you! United then proceed to Barcelona the ball into the net. Valencia skitters into the area and plays a one-two with Park, leaving him one-on-one with Szczesny. He wasn't able to shoot though and instead knocked it back to Welbeck, who hammered it into the empty net. Arshavin skulks off with the face on, but he sort of looks like he couldn't care less.
83 min: Aaron Ramsey, who was slightly fortunate not to pick up a second yellow for a clash with Smalling, is replaced by Arsenal's Park.
86 min: If the full description of the goals aren't showing up, refresh the page. Rosicky is the latest player to go into the book for a foul on Rooney.
88 min: Here's the table as it stands. United will be three points behind City and five ahead of Tottenham if it stays like this. Arsenal will be five points behind Chelsea in fourth.
89 min: It would be disingenuous to say that Oxlade-Chamberlain would have defended better than Arshavin though. His defensive work during his time on the pitch was more or less non-existent. "The problem isn't Arshavin," says Christopher Price. "It's defensive communication. For the first goal Djorou was directed to defend Giggs but he didn't make a move until Giggs approached the box and then played like Giggs was going to dribble against him. For the second Arshavin stayed with Valencia when he should have had assistance from the right back. However Vermalaen is a Gooner hero while Arshavin isn't, so the winger is the one who gets the blame."
90 min: Evra is booked for clattering Walcott from behind, and even his hammy acting, pretending he hurt himself as he made the challenge, isn't enough to save him. There will be five added minutes.
90 min+2: Oh Andrey. First he plays a dismal pass straight to United's Park. Then he gives away a free-kick. Teddy Sheringham would be popular than him at the moment.
90 min+4: Arsenal twice nearly snatch a dramatic equaliser. A high, hanging ball comes to Walcott at the far post. He heads back across goal but with Lindegaard flapping, Smalling's flick takes it away from Van Persie. Then a deep cross is met by Mertesacker but his header towards the bottom-right corner is blocked by Evans and Lindegaard claims it.
90 min+5: At some point, one of these players is going to whip out a custard pie and a funny flower. United catch Arsenal on the break and Rooney plays Welbeck in. He should wrap it all up. Instead he falls over. Both sides have been staggeringly useless in front of goal. Song is booked for catching Rooney.
Full time: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United Mike Dean blows the final whistle to give United a crucial victory in the title race, one that allows them to stay three points behind Manchester City. The Arsenal fans boo. And well they might. It's finished Manchester 5-3 North London. Last time it was 13-3, so it's progress of sorts. Thanks for reading. Bye.