The mood in North London was a strange one on Sunday. When Aaron Ramsey scored to put Arsenal 1 – 0 up against favourite foe Manchester United, the roar that rang out of the area’s packed pubs was throaty and heart-felt. Strangely going into the game though, a sense of anti-climax amongst those same fans was palpable – the visit of Manchester United used to be hugely significant in deciding the destination of the Premier League title. This weekend it was too – although Chelsea, rather than Arsenal, were the beneficiaries of the Gunners’ victory.
Only two months ago, on 1 March, United were 15 points ahead of the Blues. Now, with only three games remaining the gap is down to three points. Curiously both sides have the same goal difference, which means should Chelsea win when they visit Old Trafford on 8 May, they will reclaim top spot in the table, setting up a unlikely but thrilling grandstand finish to this season’s Premier League. That equation will not cheer Arsenal, on the outside of the title race looking in, but a win over Manchester United is a win nonetheless and a tonic after a miserable spring. It was engineered by the 20-year-old Welshman Ramsey, who only 14 months ago lay in a crumpled heap on the turf of the Britannia Stadium, his leg broken in two places by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross. It was a stomach-turning injury to a player who had been the young Arsenal midfielder du jour (Jack Wilshere had not emerged yet) – a creative, mobile and elegant playmaker who was blossoming quickly.
Aaron Ramsey – Man of the match
After frustrating loan spells this season at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City in his fight to regain fitness, he made only his second start of the season for Arsenal at the weekend and sparkled. In the first half alone he made 29 passes in the opposition half – more than any player on the pitch – and filled in ably for the injured Cesc Fabregas. His goal, swept in from the edge of the box in the 56th minute, was a hugely rehabilitative step – both for Ramsey and perhaps also his club, who must make up ground on Manchester United and Chelsea this summer after a sixth trophyless year. A Ramsey-Wilshere axis might just be central to Arsenal’s future aspirations – especially if Fabregas leaves for Catalonia.
There was strangely little fight left in United after the day’s single goal. They had clearly been perplexed by their trip to Gelsenkirchen during the week, and the staggering superiority they had demonstrated over Schalke. Although that excuse will please Sir Alex Ferguson none, he might take some consolation from the fact that the Champions League proved a distracting factor across Europe as all four sides involved in the semi-finals lost in their leagues. Suddenly, the 2 – 0 win in Germany looks like it could be vital to United’s progress at home. Ferguson will rest players on Wednesday and ready himself for the potentially title-deciding visit of Chelsea at the weekend: “In terms of ability, a game at Old Trafford … the league at stake … our supporters will be ready for it and so will my players,” said the United manager. But he must be sweating inside his club blazer to see United’s record 19th title in jeopardy. Now is the time that players like Ryan Giggs and Edwin Van Der Saar must exert the calming influence and steely resolve that comes from serial winning in the Old Trafford dressing room. Sir Alex Ferguson is blessed to have fellow veterans alongside him and it may be their contribution that proves decisive.
For whom the bell rings?
Chelsea though are suddenly bullish. Captain John Terry says: “There’s no bigger spur than going to Old Trafford and winning to put ourselves right in the frame for bringing the Premier League trophy back to the Bridge. It’s the feeling that will drive us on.” He is well aware of the veterans in United’s ranks – but has himself now won three Premier League titles and will not surrender his latest timidly.
After much circling around the ring then, and a near count-out on the canvas for Chelsea, next Sunday’s match will be a clash of the League’s heavyweights. Will it be the red corner or the blue corner cheering when the bell rings?
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 37: Thursday night, Channel Five!
Die Anhänger von Tottenham Hotspur und Liverpool hören im Augenblick diesen Gesang von Gegner sehr viel, vielleicht mehr als sie mögen würden. Channel Five ist das englisches Kanal, dass die Europa League sendet und hat einen Ruf für Schundsendungen der schlimmste Qualität. Sich qualifizieren zu Europas Turnier für Losers ist schon den Preis, der niemand (Trainer, Speiler und Fans gleichermassen) will und sich auf Channel Five zeigen zu werden ist die ultimative Schmach. Ach die Englander – immer noch die widerwillige Europäer…