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? 

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
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…