Robin van Persie scored on his return to the Emirates to deny Arsenal a crucial win in the race to finish in the top four
There we go. Arsenal's fans booed Robin van Persie but he scored the goal that denied them a crucial victory. They drop down to fourth place, a point behind Chelsea and two ahead of Tottenham, who still have a game in hand. For half an hour, Arsenal were very good indeed but once Manchester United got a grip, there was always a sense that they would score and so it proved. In the end, despite not having anything to play for, they were the better side. Arsenal will do well not to finish fourth from here though. Their last three games are against QPR, Wigan and Newcastle. Thanks for reading and emailing. Bye.
That's your lot!
90 min+3: Not a lot has happened, I'll be honest with you for once.
90 min: There will be four added minutes.
89 min: Before the corner can be taken, Rooney, who had a good game, is replaced by Javier Hernandez, who then heads the corner over.
88 min: And from the corner, Rooney turns and then pings a wonderful pass from right to left to Giggs, who's got acres to run into. Arsenal are utterly exposed, having committed men forward, and luckily for them his first touch isn't quite good enough, forcing him to check back. Once he does, his goalbound right-footer is deflected wide by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
87 min: Arsenal have suddenly realised they need a goal and Oxlade-Chamberlain's shot is deflected wide for another corner. Which United eventually clear.
86 min: Cazorla has a pop from 25 yards out. De Gea dives to his left and pushes his shot behind. The corner comes to nothing.
85 min: Cazorla slips a pass through to Gibbs, who nutmegs Ferdinand and then falls. Penalty? There did seem to be some sort of contact there. It could have been. But isn't. Gervinho can't do anything with the loose ball.
84 min: Arsenal have been poor in this second half. In the first, they really pressed United hard whenever they had the ball but that intensity has since disappeared.
83 min: Ryan Giggs replaces Nani. United are pressing increasingly hard and Rooney drops the shoulder before sending one straight at Szczesny from 30 yards out.
82 min: "You asked the question "Where else was he meant to go?", suggesting that Utd was his only option," says Adam Murphy. "It wasn't." Ok, I'd rather go to Manchester United than Juventus - or any side in Serie A - especially if I was already settled in England.
81 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain is booked for fouling Jones. "Interesting discussion on RVP," says Mark Walsh. "Just to throw my uninformed conjecture into the mix, I suppose the reason why players appear duplicitous is that they are aware of the consequences of candour. Let's suppose Wayne Rooney greeted speculation of a move to PSG with 'Yeah, I'd love to go. I'd earn oodles of dosh, win a title every year and have a decent punt at the CL too. Plus, I could have moules frites on demand.' The guy would be crucified in the press and soundly booed at every home game. Far better to stick with 'I love being here at [insert club]' and run the gauntlet if and when any move comes along."
I think people are possibly paying a bit too much attention to what footballers have to say about these kind of things.
79 min: Rooney sends Valencia away down the right but he can't pick out Nani in the middle
78 min: The corner comes to nothing. "If we can talk about someone other than RvP for a second, Podolski has only ever done much for Germany and Cologne," says Jonathan Watkiss. "He was largely ineffectual at Bayern too. Baffling decision to buy him." Yeah, I didn't really get it at the time. He's clearly not a bad player but he's not the standard. Oxlade-Chamberlain has come on for Ramsey.
77 min: Walcott shifts the ball to the right and sees his fierce drive deflected over.
73 min: The corner is drifted in and although it's half-cleared, Koscielny volleys over the bar. It was a quarter-chance at best. United bring on one Brazilian for another, Anderson for Rafael. Jones will go to right-back.
72 min: I don't know what just happened but the mic has just picked someone with a Northern Irish accent saying "8-2". Meanwhile on the pitch Jones throws himself at Ramsey's shot from the edge of area, at the expense of a corner on the left.
71 min: Gervinho replaces Lukas Podolski, who hasn't done a lot.
70 min: A lighting United break ends with Valencia's shot from Rooney's blocked cross being deflected away for a corn... hang on, it's hit the corner flag and stayed in! Wakey wakey! Van Persie retrieves it. But nothing happens. Ah.
69 min: Gervinho is going to come on for Arsenal. "A bit more firepower," says Alan Smith.
68 min: "Most Arsenal fans understand and accept why Van Persie left," says Adam Murphy. "What I and think others don't accept is his duplicity. He never had any intention of signing a new contract. Mancini confirms only a few months ago that City and Utd were talking to his reps in February. Yet at the same time he was telling the media that he wanted to stay. Best say nothing a leave it to a simple "We'll have to see at the end of the season", I he was asked a question on his future. As for your "where else was he supposed to go question?", Arsenal accepted a lower bid from Juventus (the Italian champions) as so to subsidise their lower wage offer. However he refused to sign."
Maybe he wanted to stay in England. Is that ok?
66 min: From the left, Cazorla curls his effort harmlessly wide.
65 min: Arsenal's fans want a penalty for handball by Valencia. One problem: it was handball, but it was about two yards outside the area. Free-kick to Arsenal. Valencia is booked.
64 min: Evra, who's having a very good game, bustles his way through a load of challenges but just runs out of steam at the crucial moment. Szczesny smothers.
62 min: Here's Jack Wilshere. Rosicky is off.
61 min: Suddenly the tackles are flying in. Sagna, already on a booking, leaves Evra in a heap with a late tackle but play continues because United are on the break. That lets him off the hook and eventually the move fizzles out as Rooney commits a foul. He's furious though and gives Phil Dowd a piece of his mind, pointing to Sagna.
59 min: United are in total control at the moment. Arsenal are giving them so much space to pick their passes.
58 min: "Footballers are men doing their jobs, but unlike me (same career since 1979) they have a 20-year maximum working life," says David Acaster. "Which is always one bad tackle away from its premature end. I would have moved clubs for more money, no problem. There is no club in the world that I would have felt 100%, badge-kissing, one-club-man loyalty for. If RvP could have got more money at Man City but he chose Man United because of his gut feeling then I admire that."
56 min: Evra swings in a cross from the left and Rooney, who's growing with influence, gets between his markers can only head straight at Szczesny. He didn't quite time his jump right.
55 min: The Emirates has gone a bit quiet. Arsenal need to start snapping into the challenges again. "Just found this on Schnorbitz, it appears that my fears were well grounded," says David Crowther.
Bernie Winters’ lovable comedy sidekick Schnorbitz may have been a St Bernard, but that didn’t stop him from behaving inappropriately. Never without a tiny barrel of brandy around his neck, Schnorbitz prowled the corridors of Thames television on the sniff for any females he could find- who he liked to refer to as ‘his bitches.’ Schnorbitz’ alcoholism was an open secret the cast and crew, and he even once fell into a swimming pool at Terry Scott’s house and was rescued by Barbara Windsor (True story).
54 min: United are bossing this now and Rafael sends a sighter not too far over the bar from 20 yards out. "I think the Arsenal fans are booing because they haven't got over the 1988 Littlewood's Cup Final loss to Luton," says Mark Francome. "And, really, who can blame them?"
52 min: "Maybe you should put some clothes on, Jacob?" says Simon McMahon. "You seem very liberated today. But you speak the truth, and the truth hurts." Oh Simon. If you don't wear clothes, it means no one in the office tries to get you to do anything. Apart from put on some clothes.
51 min: United have more space now and Van Persie fizzes a low cross across the face of goal. Rooney, sliding in, can't quite reach it."I can't help but think you're playing devil's advocate here with the whole 'why are they booing?' shoulder-shrug routine," says Angus Chisholm. "|I mean what did you honestly expect? Or is it just an attempt to get Arsenal fans to admit that he's moved to a better team and been successful where he wasn't with them? All Arsenal fans know that, except the brain-dead ones that do the rapist chant."
It's a lack of gratitude. Players leave. Abuse for Nasri? I get that. Van Persie was justified in leaving. And where else was he meant to go?
49 min: Ramsey shoots. De Gea saves. Here, Aaron Ramsey's nowhere near as bad as some people have made out, is he?
48 min: Every so often, you remember that Tomas Rosicky is class. Ramsey finds him in space on the edge of the area. United back off and although he delays his shot, he cuts back inside Evra and then curves one wide with the outside of his right boot.
47 min: Some sense. "I'm an arsenal fan, and I'm with Jacob here (can I call you Jacob? Maybe Steiny?)," says Ben Lake. "Why fans, of any club, expect footballers (who are actual people, with hopes and desires and dreams for the future) to tie themselves to a club irrelevant of any of their own personal interests is beyond me. With someone like Nasri, fair enough, he's been a bit of moron since he left and has said negative things but Van Persie has shown nothing for respect to the club. He just knew they weren't going to win the title anytime soon. Being a footballer is a job. Would you stay at your place of work if their were no prospects just because they'd invested in training you? It's not a total airtight analogy, I grant you, The point stands though. At least I think it does. I look forward to next season when hopefully some of this seasons buys can bed in properly and score a few more goals. Also maybe we will buy some people who can defend."
46 min: Off we go again. With Chelsea winning, Arsenal really need to rediscover the poise they showed in the first 30 minutes.
I wonder what these Arsenal fans think of Sol Campbell? Have your morals or don't.
Way I see it, if you give everything for your club while you're there, you're entitled to do what you want, as long as you don't slag off the club or fans when you leave, even if you go to a 'rival'. That's assuming that Arsenal and United are rivals at the moment. If they were, United wouldn't have been in a position to sign him. "Arsenal don't seem to have a problem with a lack of loyalty when it works in their favour and they sign up young players from clubs who've nurtured them through their academy but barely had a chance to see that work bear fruit," says Michael Gibbons.
"The way I see it, in football at the moment, if something doesn't go your way, you boo," says Ethan Dean-Richards. "Then, later, you think up the reason why you were morally right to boo and you call in to a phone in show or leave a comment on the internet to tell everyone what that reason is. But it's definitely boo first, justify the boos later."
"I suppose that Arsenal's fans are angry because RvP has a medal and all they have are memories," says Felix Salazar.
He said it, not me.
"I imagine Schnorbitz could lick you to death," says David Crowther. "That was one of my recurring nightmares as a child."
"It's United," says Sam Glover. "Have another quick read of your preamble. That's why."
Joe Cole left West Ham for Chelsea...
"You keep pretending that Arsenal supporters are ridiculous for feeling any ire toward van Persie," says me old mucker Antonio Gramsci. "In addition to being a Spurs supporter, are you an amateur comedian?"
Why do you think I'm a Spurs fan?
"Gave his all?" says Antonio Gramsci. "From the training table? Do you even follow football?"
No, I'm watching this match with my eyes closed.
That was fun. Arsenal were rampant for large spells and took the lead through Theo Walcott - who was offside - but the champions recovered and an equaliser was on the way by the time Robin van Persie inevitably levelled the game.
45 min+2: "It was more the manner/attitude of his leaving," says Clive Jerram. "Both the lack of loyalty towards the club that had supported him through years of issues, and then him taking millions off his transfer fee by announcing he wouldn't be signing a new contract - millions that he presumably then got in wages. Don't know why I'm still surprised and saddened these days by a footballer's lack of loyalty and mercenary attitude, but there you go."
I really don't see the issue here. He got Arsenal into the Champions League. He gave his all while he was there and then wanted to leave on account of them never winning anything. He left for a lot of money - which Arsenal could have spent better - and then won the league. What is the problem?
45 min+1: Three minutes of the added stuff.
45 min: That was Van Persie's 25th league goal of the season by the way. The goal had been coming. United had settled and were starting to create chances.
Was there every any doubt? Van Persie ignores the boos and rockets the ball high into the left corner with his left foot. Szczesny went the right way but that was largely irrelevant. Sagna walks off in despair. Van Persie doesn't celebrate.
42 min: Oh Bacary! This is dreadful. He plays a pass straight to Van Persie in his own half. Van Persie races away and in his desperation to atone for his error, Sagna sends him flying. He's booked. Guess who's taking it.
41 min: United are getting closer. Valencia pings a cross into the area from the right and Jones flings himself at it, heading it down into the ground and past the left post. Sagna's presence put him off.
39 min: Szczesny denies Van Persie with his face! Nani was sent racing away down the left, in behind Sagna, and his cross towards Van Persie was a peach. Totally unmarked, he looked certain to head home the equaliser from six yards out but Szczesny simply spread himself and took the header full in the face. He'll need a bit of treatment but will be fine.
36 min: Rosicky wonks one miles wide from distance. "Did you notice Alan Smith just referred to Arsenal as 'we'," says Steve Waterhouse. "Brilliantly impartial." He's no Niall Quinn.
35 min: "Why are Arsenal fans furious?" says David Berkley. "Same reason West Ham fans are (still) furious with Lampard, Ince and Defoe, probably."
Really? Did Van Persie hand in a transfer request 24 hours after Arsenal were relegated then? Has he repeatedly slagged them off since leaving? Is that what you're saying?
33 min: Walcott is booked for exacting some retribution with a foul on Evra.
32 min: What a waste from Aaron Ramsey. He initially did brilliantly to speed away from Valencia after winning possession but then messed up the final pass. Walcott was in acres of space on the right but Ramsey chose to play it to Podolski on the left. Wrong call. He sent him too far wide, although Podolski did at least force De Gea to beat away his shot from an angle.
31 min: "If I was Van Persie I'd come out for the second half with my premier league winner's medal around my neck," says Michael Herbert.
30 min: Another booking for United, this time for Evans, who caught Walcott from behind. Walcott wasn't especially happy about it. He's well 'ard, see.
29 min: "Being booed by Arsenal fans is akin to being licked to death by puppies," says Jamie. Could a puppy actually lick you to death?
28 min: Now Van Persie, who's had a frustrating first half, is booked for steaming through Mertesacker. A clear yellow card. The Arsenal fans are even more furious with him now! Oh they're furious, all right!
Why are they so furious with him, by the way?
25 min: I'm not sure if being booed by Arsenal fans is a particularly intimidating experience.
23 min: Rafael is booked for cynically hauling back Rosicky on the halfway line. "My favourite Piers pre-match bit was where he compared Arsenal's board to Judas, the Premiership title to Jesus, and thought all the while he was talking about Van Persie," says Nicholas Grundy.
22 min: I'd love to see a diary of United's week. Jones has just knocked a pass straight out of touch. There wasn't even anyone near where he hit the ball. Outstanding.
21 min: Rosicky slides a pass to Cazorla on the edge of the area. He cleverly turns away from Ferdinand but then stumbles, allowing Rafael to nip in and mop up. Only for him to stumble and concede a corner. It comes to nothing. Amusing, though. United have had a fun week, haven't they?
19 min: "What position does Phil Jones Actually play?" says Fraser Duguid. "He plays centre back, centre midfield and right back. He won't have a position until he's in his thirties at this rate." I reckon he'll be a centre-back eventually. He's probably not good enough on the ball to make a proper career as a central midfielder, although he is good there for certain tasks.
18 min: This should have been the equaliser. Phil Jones started this move with a header through to Rooney on the halfway line. Arsenal's midfield was nowhere to be seen and Rooney was able to spray it out to Van Persie on the left, from where he dinked a lovely ball into the middle where Jones, had continued his charge, met it with a header that flew wide. He should have scored, in my humble opinion.
17 min: It was wasted. "Your preamble contained a sensible, logical explanation of Van Persie's summer, and the sentence, 'absolutely no one can argue with his decision to join United.'," says Matt Dony. "Then you give us a link to Piers Morgan's twitter, showing how, actually, yes, someone could argue. But only if they're a self-important eejit. His tweets so far are hilarious (No, Piers. The guard of honour is not like applauding an ex-girlfriend.) Hopefully a few more to come!"
16 min: Phil Jones is booked for fouling Arteta. It's a needles one, really, a because it looked like Rafael was about to win the ball, so Jones didn't need to slide in. Arsenal have a free-kick around 40 yards from goal and Walcott will take it. It will be wasted.
15 min: "Guard of Honour?" says Gary Naylor. "Yadda,yadda, yadda. How about a Guard of Dishonour for QPR and Reading in their next matches? The opposition could line-up and moon the relegated teams as they ran out. Who wouldn't enjoy that? 'arry might even join in, given his opinion of QPR's players." Redknapp looked devastated by QPR's relegation. This one hurt.
13 min: Aaron Ramsey has started like a man possessed out there. What's Wenger put in his pre-match broccoli?
12 min: The first sight of goal for Van Persie and the first decent move from United. Nani rolls a pass inside to Jones, who shuffles it through to Van Persie, who had stayed onside on the left of the area. The angle was tight, though, and pressure from Sagna forced Van Persie to blaze it high and wide.
10 min: This isn't very good from United. Remove their title from them.
8 min: Arsenal are playing as if affronted by the guard of honour.
7 min: Arsenal are all over United here. Cazorla is afforded far too much time and space to get his shot away from 25 yards out and De Gea has to claw his rasping left-footer wide of the left post, at the expense of a corner. He doesn't deal with it especially well but United eventually hack it clear.
6 min: Why can't Tomas Rosicky play like this in winter? He picks up possession again 25 yards from goal and rams a harmless shot wide of De Gea's right post.
4 min: Walcott was definitely offside. Half a yard, but offside. If United hadn't already won the league, you'd probably be hearing more about this.
An assist for Robin van Persie. Sort of. He gave the ball away on the halfway line and Arsenal attacked at a fair old pelt. Rosicky, who's had another of his late-season revivals, turned away from Evans and then slipped a pass behind Evra and through to Walcott. He was a touch offside but the flag stayed down and he raced away to drill a low right-footer past De Gea.
Peep! And here we go. Arsenal, kicking from left to right, get the game underway. The Manchester United fans are singing about Robin van Persie and his first touch, 20 seconds in, is greeted by boos. He tries to turn it through for Rooney, but it's overhit and Szczesny collects.
"I have one eye on the game, and the other on Piers Morgan's twitter feed," says Steve, who's an Arsenal fan. "I want Arsenal to win but, who DOESN'T want to witness a public hissy fit and/or complete meltdown from England's latest export to these wonderful shores. Catch-22 if there ever was one." You can follow his stream of drivel here. It promises to be unintentionally entertaining.
And here are the Arsenal players. They've formed a guard of honour and here come Manchester United, who are booed on to the pitch by the Arsenal fans and applauded by the Arsenal players. Last out of the tunnel? Robin van Persie. "Both pundits in the Chinese studio are kitted up," says Kevin Leonard. "One in an Arsenal shirt, the other in a United one. Will be sure to let you know if they start sparring with each other ala Keane vs Vieira or Keown vs Van Nistelrooy."
The Arsenal players are in the tunnel. But there's no sign of the Manchester United players...
"Tough one today, clothing wise," says Simon McMahon. "Definite end of season feel, for United at least. But still business to do for Arsenal. Deck shoes and shorts with shirt and tie?"
Naked. It's a Sunday.
"I think it's fair to say that Neville and Souness are the best two football pundits that English football has produced," says Brian Kitt.
They're outstanding - but better than Alan Shearer? Do me a lemon!
And now it's Chelsea 2-0 Swansea. Frank Lampard.
At Stamford Bridge, it's Chelsea 1-0 Swansea. Oscar got the goal.
It turns out Robin van Persie went to the home dressing room as a Funny Joke when the teams arrived. And who doesn't love a Funny Joke? In this case, Arsenal fans.
Team news. Robin van Persie does start for Manchester United, while Lukas Podolski does start for Arsenal. Jack Wilshere has to settle for a place on the bench though.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky; Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski. Subs: Mannone, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Monreal, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Nani; Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Anderson, Giggs, Hernandez, Cleverley, Kagawa, Buttner.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
The big news of the week, of course, is that Nasa accidentally drew a penis on Mars. A penis! On Mars! That's the best piece of graffiti of all time. Who knew it was being run by 12-year-old boys?
Afternoon. Ian Wright catching Peter Schmeichel. Ian Wright stamping on Peter Schmeichel again. Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel exchanging views by the tunnel. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger's feud. Nicolas Anelka's first ever goal for Arsenal. Marc Overmars swinging the title Arsenal's way in 1998. That Arsenal fan going mental at Old Trafford. A thrashing for United in the Charity Shield. Freddie Ljungberg's debut goal. Schmeichel saving Dennis Bergkamp's penalty. Ryan Giggs's chest hair. Patrick Vieira and Jaap Stam getting to know each other. Thierry Henry's volley. The 6-1 and a hat-trick for Dwight Yorke. Fabien Barthez giving himself a wedgie after gifting Henry two goals. Martin Tyler screaming Wiltoooooooooorrrrrd. Arsenal winning the league at Old Trafford in 2002. United getting their revenge a year later. Martin Keown screaming in Ruud van Nistelrooy's face. The Invincibles. A dive by Wayne Rooney. A pizza in Ferguson's face. Pick on someone your own size. Out there. Out there. Rooney screaming in Graham Poll's face. Patrick Vieira winning the FA Cup for Arsenal with his last ever kick for the club. A last-minute equaliser for William Gallas. Owen Hargreaves's free-kick. Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick. Abou Diaby's own goal. Nani coming of age. The 8-2. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's substitution.
Yes, it's fair to say that a lot has happened between Arsenal and Manchester United in the past 17 years. And now this. It's actually come to this. A guard of honour.
United, of course, arrive at the Emirates as the champions. But that doesn't tell the full story. Robin van Persie arrives at the Emirates as a champion. Not that Arsenal's fans are apparently about to give him the respect he deserves. No, they're planning a rather different reception for the man whose hat-trick on Monday night against Aston Villa sealed United's 20th title, although Arsenal's fans might want to direct their anger elsewhere. Van Persie merely did what had to be done and left for the sake of his career, not for the money; given what's gone on since, absolutely no one can argue with his decision to join United. While Arsenal continue to fight for fourth place, season after season, he's won his first ever title. You do the math. The blame for Arsenal's sliding standards clearly lies elsewhere.
Sell, sell, sell. Eventually it catches up with you. Moreover the failure to adequately replace Van Persie has hurt Arsenal even more, with neither Olivier Giroud nor Lukas Podolski quite doing enough in their debut seasons. There have been goals, there have been assists and there have been some impressive performances. But it hasn't quite happened, not in the way it happened for previous Arsenal strikers. There will be no Giroud this afternoon after his red card against Fulham last week, so it could be a chance for Podolski to prove that he deserves a central role. It would be a handy time for him to do so, because a win would move Arsenal four points clear of Tottenham - who would still have a game in hand - and the hope for them must be that United turn up bleary-eyed after a week on the sauce. The worry is that Van Persie took all of three minutes to score against them in November.