Tuesday 12 November 2019

United rub it in for Wenger

Dion Fanning at Old Trafford

The Poles, unsurprisingly, have a saying for it. "Hope is the mother of fools." When Arsenal saw the Manchester United teamsheet at Old Trafford for yesterday afternoon's FA Cup quarter-final they would have experienced that dangerous emotion.

John O'Shea and Darron Gibson were named in the centre of United's midfield and after a midweek experience of watching Xavi and Messi play in a game they were nominally taking part in, this news would have brought a lift.

By 7.30, Arsenal were the fools and they were out of another competition, losing 2-0. It has been a calamitous fortnight for Wenger who again made so many claims for his side but has seen them dismantled one by one. They remain in the title race but the effect of the past fortnight will surely tell.

"Subconsciously the disappointment of Tuesday night has played its part. You could see something had gone," Wenger said afterwards before insisting that his team will now show their potential. They were supposed to do that last week.

For United and Alex Ferguson, this was more significant than reaching the semi-final. He came roaring back on Friday and his side, after defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool, demonstrated again that at Old Trafford everyone must quake.

Wayne Rooney, too, gave the strongest indication yet that he has a great contribution to make. This is not the old Rooney returning. The new Rooney seems less interested in his team-mates, more interested in being acknowledged as the central figure in the side.

Ferguson had criticised the short memories of Kenny Dalglish and Graham Taylor in his programme notes. Ferguson is one of the few men who could turn the normally anodyne vehicle of the programme into a declaration of war but he did it again yesterday.

The United manager has survived on a long memory so having a pop at Taylor for something he said nearly 20 years ago was no surprise. Dalglish, too, has always demonstrated an ability to irritate Ferguson by, like a select few, treating him as another human.

Right now, Ferguson can feel like a master. Arsenal had been vanquished and there are enemies on every corner. He can never have been happier and Arsenal have nearly lost all hope, which is just as well.

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