Beating Arsenal Is About More Than Just The League

Ahead of tomorrow’s match that is not at all important, Magnus ponders the latest installment in the rivalry that makes shows Liverpool and Chelsea a thing or two about bitterness.

Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas. The very mention of the names of Arsenal’s premier players, past and present, is enough to send must of us Manchester United fans into a blinding rage. Manchester City be damned, for no club, big or small, has provoked us more over the last decade than the Goons.

From their intolerable French arrogance, to their delusions of grandeur, to their claim of being the most entertaining team in Premiership history, everything about the b******s at Arsenal disgusts me. Nothing gets my blood boiling like seeing that ugly ape Keown hit Ruud van Nistelrooy over the head, or Vieira taunting Neville before the game, or hearing of their players throwing pizza at the great Sir Alex Ferguson. They have no respect for others, think too highly of themselves, and will never, EVER, be as big of a club as Manchester United.

This is why the games between Manchester United and Arsenal remain the most important of the season, even if they are not the “title deciders” they used to be. We simply despise the Arse and everything they stand for, and I suspect they feel the same way about us.

United’s and Arsenal’s starts to the season could not have been more different. Whereas United have won four games out of four in the Premiership, and ten in a row in total, Arsenal have managed only two points in three games, already lying near the bottom of the table – ten points adrift of United.

This is why I’m so scared of this particular game. It mirrors closely the situation of a couple of years ago when United beat Arsenal’s “Invincibles” to end their 49-game winning streak. Back then, Arsenal’s team was hailed as the greatest thing since sliced cheese, and virtually nobody gave us much of a chance in stopping their unbeaten run. United, however, led by general Ferguson, responded like a wounded animal and gave the Arsenal team a lesson in physical, attacking football that they’ll never forget. It was beautiful to watch. I would say Arsenal have never fully recovered from that day.

On Sunday, Arsenal could do the same to us. Our recent string of wins over Arsenal has to end sometime – I wonder if that time is now upon us. Sure, Arsenal’s results have been poor, but their level of play not so. Their finishing is what has let them down, but in Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie et al., they have a potent strikeforce that sooner or later will start scoring the goals they so desperately need.

United, on the other hand, have played progressively worse in each game since the season started. The victory over Fulham in the season opener was magnificent, and so, to a lesser degree, was our win over Charlton in the next game. Against Watford, we struggled, although the margin of victory somewhat flattered the Hornets. Against Tottenham, we were lucky not to concede a goal, and on Wednesday, only Louis Saha prevented a humiliating loss of points against Celtic. It’s going to take a gargantuan effort to turn the tide against an Arsenal side that’s improving game by game.

If we manage to come out on top, it will show the rest of the world, and indeed ourselves, that our assault on the Premiership is for real, that the empire of Manchester is back. Lose, and all the momentum we’ve built up over the past month will vanish in a single afternoon. That’s why this is the most important game of our season.