By Ian Grant
The result confirms that the Premiership title race is a joke.
No-one wants to admit it, least of all the press and media. The Premiership race has ceased to be competitive. Football – the national game, which is supposed to be competitive, has ironically been destroyed by money.
Manchester United eased up in the second half and played well within themselves. Maybe they didn’t want the Monopolies Commission on their back. But 16 points is proof enough.
Their hegemony of the national game even more shored up by US dollars and the recent New York connection.
Had Adams, Dixon and Keown been playing – would it have been different? Perhaps. But that is no excuse. Cole, Giggs and Sheringham didn’t start for United.
Arsenal’s back four of Cole, Grimandi, Stepanovs and Luzhny had a strange look to it. Silvinho started on the left of midfield. And Wiltord was paired with with Henry.
The match had barely started when Pires was ominously muscled out of it by Keane. Soon after, a Scholes dummy in the Arsenal penalty area was too clever for Stepanovs and the England international took a ball from Yorke to clip it back for the Trinidadian who had ran past the watching Luzhny to thigh the ball past Seaman.
Arsenal kept their heads and possession well and levelled after quarter of an hour. It was an incisive passing movement between Luzhny, Vieira and Pires, who delivered a good ball for Henry to shoot past Barthez.
Jerome C’est pour toi, said the T-shirt. If it was Jerome Anderson, then irony indeed.
But the joy didn’t last long. Grimandi lost out on a through ball with Yorke who ran through and beat Seaman.
Then Ashley Cole, who was out of position too much, lost possession near the United area. Beckham ran with the ball and delivered a brilliant cross-field ball. Yorke beat Stepanovs, who was deceived by the flight of the ball and ran on for number three.
Soon after Yorke broke free from Stepanovs on the left and sent in an accurate centre for Keane, who shot across Seaman for United’s fourth.
Then Butt broke free from Grimandi on the right, faced a three on two, centred low to Solskjaer who beat Seaman.
After 35 minutes, with the score at 5-1 some Arsenal fans asked the Manchester United stewards whether they could open the gates to leave.
The remaining 55 minutes were academic. Would Arsenal fall to a worse defeat by United – 6-1 in 1952?
Wiltord could have made things better if he had put Henry through, but made the wrong choice by shooting. He didn’t help matters by losing the ball around eight times in the first half alone.
Pires too lost possession far too easily, putting pressure on the Arsenal back four, which looked far more unprotected than of late. Patrick Vieira played a bit more forward.
The gutsy Ljungberg came on for Cole after half-time, as Silvinho dropped back. And Arsenal, who had to play for pride, did appear to make more of a fist of it. Although there was no attacking penetration.
The only memorable Arsenal attacks were when Parlour shot well over. And Henry fired a free kick into the wall.
Vivas came on for Parlour who had a hamstring twinge. And ex-Arsenal player Chadwick and Sheringham came on for Yorke and Keane.
Sheringham pinched a goal on 90, taking it off Solksjaer and firing into the corner.
It was Wenger’s worst defeat since arriving at Arsenal. He said: “Everything went wrong. In the first half we gave too much space away and too much room individually to players.
“The first and second goals were jokes. To be 5-1 down in the first half was down to a poor defensive performance.”
And so endeth the so called Premiership title race….until August, until the dishonest money making farce, where fans continue to pay extortionate prices only to be treated like the lowest of the low, starts all over again.