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Arsenal's Old Trafford humiliation is injustice to the glorified past

Martin Keown and Ruud Van Nistelrooy argue

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Martin Keown of Arsenal shows his feelings at Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Man Utd after Van Nistelrooy missed his penalty during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on September 21, 2003 in Manchester, England. 

What a waste of an era! Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford or any match against Manchester United would have generated nationwide and worldwide interest that bordered on the entertainment front that any soap opera offered day in and day out to the hard working masses, but definitely not anymore, considering that only the name Arsenal reminds the Emirates faithful of the glorified by gone days of Denis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, David Seaman, Jens Lehmann, Robert Pires and those stalwarts that felt a touch of history and pride having put on the red and white jersey with so much passion and tenacity that even Sir Alex Ferguson had to put his side’s league fixtures against the Gunners right on top of his job priority alongside his eternal clash against Liverpool.

Well Arsenal fans might just have to dwell on nostalgia a bit more often as the reality has thrown a hard truth in front of us. This Arsenal, and I mean every word of it as an ardent fan of the team that were once Invincibles, will for some years could be condemned to being called a mediocre mid table Premier League side unless the so called ‘Professor’ Arsene Wenger’s economic view points rather than tactical ones make him understand that selling best players and saving money to refund the long term debt that building an expansive stadium like the Emirates created would mean nothing to those long suffering fans that have been loyal all through their lives unlike many of the players that have departed or were made to go given the radarless direction where this huge ship is moving towards.

Last evening’s lame and timid Old Trafford show replaced the legendary quote of “In Arsene We Trust” with calls of “Wenger, Wenger sort it out” to “We want our Arsenal back”. No one can complain. The way in which United toyed with Arsenal, with Robin van Persie’s master show adding a deserved insult to injury, even made the wily old Sir Alex Ferguson to term the “whole day was disappointing” as reported by the BBC. Even the great Scot is nostalgic about the feisty encounters that he had to endure over the years when Arsenal’s brand of football, and not money power, took the Premier League to a new level as it hurt Manchester United’s domination of English football where it hurt more, winning Premier Leagues and FA Cups with records that won’t be broken easily in the near future like going the whole season unbeaten. United fans hated Wenger for he was a threat to their long-thought impregnable domination of the English game but that feeling has now turned into sympathy and sometimes ironic cheers for the spent force that Arsenal are now.

FA Cup Final - Arsenal v Manchester United

CARDIFF, WALES – MAY 21: Patrick Vieira of Arsenal and Roy Keane of Manchester United battle for the ball during the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United at The Millennium Stadium on May 21, 2005 in Cardiff, Wales.

A rivalry that was once heralded to be one of its kind in a generation and that produced sub-plots within a major plot, a rivalry that gave the world the chance to see on and off field theatrics involving Patrick Viera, Roy Keane and Rudd van Nistelrooy that would last the whole season and a Manchester United-Arsenal showdown was the only peak encounter throughout a Premier League season putting any Merseyside or Tyne-Wear derbies in hindsight as this particular match would have surely involved everybody in the football world. 2004’s “Pizzagate” incident was just one of the little things that were associated with any Red Devils-Gunners clash. The incident that could have stopped Sir Alex exchanging Christmas greetings with Arsene Wenger and heralded the birth of a famous duel can now be put aside to rested in peace.

“I can’t believe it. The chances we had to bury them … we should have scored five, six, even more. I’m disappointed. I spoke to the players at the start of the season about the importance of goal difference. We lost the league last season on goal difference and I don’t want it to happen again. We had the chance to add to that today.”

This is how Sir Alex reflected on the whole game yesterday. How the water has flowed by since 2004 is evident enough on this post-match quote of England’s most successful Premier League manager. Once this fixture’s outcome rested on feisty incidents and match winning class and quality of players from both sides that developed this rivalry over the years and also a certain mutual respect between the camps amidst all the class, chaos and controversies that surrounded any duel but as an Arsenal fan now this fixture is just like any other Premier League match where United, with title ambitions, try to roll past a mediocre team that is struggling to hold on to its history that was made not so long ago and playing with a damage control strategy rather than a winning one. Any future Arsenal and Manchester United duel would no longer be a glamorous Premier League tie anymore unless the Arsenal boardroom do something similar to that of Chelsea and Manchester City, luring best of the world’s players with money power and high wages which are strictly limited in the red half of North London.

Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 03: Robin van Persie of Manchester United shoots during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 3, 2012 in Manchester, England.

It is not too difficult to imagine how this change took place at such a short notice. While United continued to find ways and players to keep on winning trophies and maintaining their status as the team to beat in a generation that has seen Chelsea triumph under Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti and Manchester City signaling their intentions of new force to reckon with by pipping their great rivals on goal difference last season, Arsenal, more consistent than Chelsea and City in keeping managers constant, can now be called a bewildered force dwelling on finding a new team identity due to some mindless thinking of the management aided somewhat by Arsene Wenger’s effort to offer stable economic viewpoints of the Gunners’ financial direction rather than footballing direction. With all that the cool Frenchman has achieved with this team over a staggering sixteen year stay with his beloved club is now on the verge of going into distant memory as Arsenal descend into player instability whereas many teams have achieved success despite being financially unstable.

Robin van Persie showed on Saturday why his decision to move to Old Trafford is an astute one and he will be one player who will not care for not being on the Arsenal payroll anymore. The Arsenal faithful also worry that with the January transfer window on the horizon Theo Walcott’s stay at North London might just be limited as confusion reign over his signing of a new contract with plenty of suitors ready to pounce, notably Liverpool who themselves need to replace Andy Carroll and reduce the added burden on Luis Suarez.

One just cannot compare what happened to Leeds United a decade back with where Arsenal are heading because the financial goings-on at the club are sound enough to be among the top ten richest clubs list for the next five years and more, if they continue to be in the Champions League, yet trophies will be hard to come by if players such as Andre Santos continue to be Arsenal’s first choice left back considering he is probably the worst of the Brazilian internationals that have plied their trade in the Premier League. For now this team is not good enough to be in Europe and it could be hard for them to be in the top four come next May.

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