Paul Scholes stands amongst his United teammates, bitterly regretting his missed penalty, as he is fully aware that Vieira’s last kick in an Arsenal shirt could mean another cup final failure, the first time in a penalty shootout.
Vieira explores the goal in front of him, and sizes up the man guarding it. Roy Carroll, the United keeper, looks into the eyes of Vieira and then follows them probing every corner of the goal, hoping to get a hint on where the Frenchman will be looking to place the ball.
The whistle goes, off goes Vieira’s shot, and with it, Manchester United’s FA Cup hope. Gooners all around the world revel in the rapture of the club’s tenth FA Cup triumph and fourth under Arsene Wenger.
What has ensued from then to now, even God has failed to come up with an explanation for it.
And all through the eight years, the once towering personality of Wenger has declined ever so gradually, with the bright bookish face getting increasingly wrinkled with each season of having to drag the team over the line to finish fourth, and the once admirably serene and collected persona having all but died away giving way to a sore, bitter looking one.
One could even say that Wenger is more a sore loser than the beautiful winner he once was. At least going by the standards he set in the late 90s and early 2000s at Highbury anyway.
And now, with the “In Arsene we Trust” losing its purpose and with a large chunk of the Gunners’ support turning against the Alsatian, the time seems ripe to pose the question : “Where does Arsene Wenger stand today?” Where indeed, does he come into the reckoning in today’s new world order where you can be a real genius at finding raw talent and manufacturing world class players out of it and it still won’t matter. Real Madrid or Barcelona or City or one of them are going to take them from you anyway, no?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Wenger revolutionised the way English top-flight football was played and is almost solely responsible for the enthralling brand of footy we watch today. But that doesn’t necessarily book his place as one of the greatest managers in world football or even English football. And neither can he be declared the greatest manager in the history of Arsenal, what with Herbert Chapman’s tragic legacy constantly hovering over his own.
Arsene Wenger has always believed in a much different form of success compared to the novae riche clubs like City or PSG, which is entertainment and achievement while balancing the books in the background, a gift of his which only Arsenal fans with a genuine loyalty to the club will be able to comprehend.
Although, when all the signings a club has made in the summer are on free transfers, with none of them promising to be much of a reinforcement (surely, you don’t consider Sanogo to be the one who guarantees you Champions League football for the next year?) to a squad which looks increasingly vulnerable to conceding that coveted fourth spot to Tottenham, it does get a little frustrating, especially when there was a decent transfer budget at hand.