Full-time - 90'
2 - 1
15:00 +00:00, April 13, 2008
Old Trafford, England
Full time! And the final whistle also calls time on Arsenal's season. This is only their third league defeat of the campaign but it signals the end of a year which promised so much but has eventually produced very little. Manchester United march on, and can now even afford to lose at Chelsea but still win the title. What a game! Thanks for your comapny, until next time...
Ronaldo embarks on an unneccesary spot of trickery near the corner flag which earns him a whack from Hoyte. A yellow card is produced.
Arsenal continue to press but they know it is a lost cause now, and United have space all over the park when they break. So, it looks like a penalty and a free kick are going to hand them a MASSIVE win. The only surprise is that both goals didn't come from Ronaldo eh?
Don't forget, an Arsenal goal would still keep Chelsea's title hopes in their own hands. Should United draw, and Chelsea win all their remaining games - including the one against United at Stamford Bridge - then they would win the Premier League.
Rooney fluffs a counter attack for United and races a full 50 yards to try and win the ball back. Then Adebayor cleans him up with a thumping tackle, then dinks a useless ball straight trhough to VDS.
Bendtner has forced Van der Sar into an excellent save! Fabregas' free kick was similar to his cross of five minutes ago but the Dutch keeper was equal to it. Four added minutes...
Ryan Giggs is coming on for Owen Hargreaves, who gets a standing ovation, and quite rightly too.
Arsenal have had five minutes of constant pressure now but it just won't break for someone inside the box. Hoyte stabs in a cross there and Bendtner flicks out a leg which only serves to take the pace off the ball for Van der Sar.
Adebayor does well to retain possession inside the box and lay off for Hleb but his left footed cross is weak and easily cleared by Ferdinand.
More pressing from Arsenal as Clichy's cross has VDS back-peddling, then Gilberto once again tries a massively ambitious volley. He's had a solid game but should really knock shooting from outside the box on the head.
Chance for Bendtner! A wonderful, curling cross from Fabregas finds him free at the far post but he can't get the power to trouble VDS, even though the direction was pretty good. That would have made it interesting....
Justin Hoyte is on for Toure as Wenger makes his last substitution.
Manchester United are content just to knock the ball around now and Arsenal are chasing shadows. Only five minutes remain for them to save their season. Don't bet on it.
Fabregas swings in a superb ball from a corner and as the ball breaks first Gilberto can't get his shot off, then Ferdinand steps in as a Fabregas flick fell into the path of Adebayor.
There are gaps everywhere at the back for Arsenal as they go gung-ho. They are fading fast though and it would not surprise me if United pot another one before the end.
Hleb shows far too much of the ball to Wes Brown, who executes a very well-timed tackle then sets United away. The move ends with Ronaldo bristling into the box and firing a shot well wide of Lehmann's goal.
VDS claims the corner commandingly and his throw finds Rooney in space but Gilberto closes him down before he can spread the play to Ronaldo, who was in acres of space.
It is Bendtner's turn to do his Walcott impression, charging 40 yards downfield and winning a corner off Ferdinand, amid a distant lack of support.
United are showboating a little here, far too prematurely.
Hleb wastes a ball when well placed and Arsenal now have a resigned look to their play. A season which promised great things is petering out into the epitome of an anti-climax. And at Old Trafford too. Could it get any worse?
Bendtner is coming on for Robin Van Persie, who has had a good game, but is still struggling for match fitness.
You can't help but feel for Arsenal. Again today they have played some wonderfully slick football, but within seconds of creating their deserved breakthrough they have (quite literally) handed the initiative back to their opponents within seconds of their goal. And now they need two goals in the last 15 minutes. Possible, but highly unlikely.
Arsenal head straight up the other end but Van Persie's tame effort is clutched gleefully by Van der Sar. Wenger looks completely broken for the second time in a week.
It was a very debatable free kick decision but while everyone was waiting for Ronaldo to blast it, Hargreaves has curled one right into the bottom corner. Unstoppable.
Now Evra leps into the air and wins a free kick right in the middle 20 yards out.
Lehamnn saves from Rooney again! A lovely little ball from Evra puts Rooney clear and Arsenal are thankful to their pantomime goalkeeper for a reaction stop with his feet.
Now Anderson has won a corner off Clichy and I don't think I have ever had to type so fast in my entire life.
Now Wes Brown is trying to put through his own net! Clichy is played in by Hleb down the left and Brown shins his cross goalwards before VDS gets a touch to divert it onto the post!
Walcott gets into the action early, working a nice one two with Fabregas then finding the Spaniard again inside the area. Sadly for Arsenal, his shot was always rising and Van der Sar can watch it sail over the bar.
Van Persie has taken a knock and is moving gingerly. He's been very good today given the amount of action he has missed recently.
Ooh, Tevez has hit a barnstormer from 30 yards which has just swerved wide of the post with Lehmann beaten!
The rain is now teeming down at Old Trafford, and this last half an hour is set to be a stupendously stormy affair. What a football slash weather link eh?
Adebayor is now booked after an ugly two-footed scissor challenge, born out of frustration after Anderson robbed him of the football.
Clichy embarks on a Walcott-esque run but can't find Fabregas with his eventual ball. A poor end to a lovely piece of skill.
Theo Walcott is on and Eboue is coming off, a decision many said Wenger should have made before kick off.
Well. the first half was good but this has been breathless stuff in the second period so far. Can you believe Arsenal have committed suicide in an identical way to Wednesday night at Anfield? Unbelievable. Gallas may well burst into tears again when he sees the replay of his handball. Crazy. Just crazy.
Another card is out, for Michael Carrick this time. He piled in late on Van Persie. Had Webb let the game go though, Hleb had put Adebayor in the clear.
Manchester United nearly profit from a corner, which falls to the edge of the box and Wayne Rooney. The shrek lookalike shanks his half volley though and when Carrick pokes goal wards the ball is too deep for Tevez to do anything with it. Phew!
Amidst all the drama I should mention the fact that Ronaldo had to take his penalty TWICE! He hesitated with his first, meaning a bunch of players ran into the box, so even though he scored, Howard Webb made him take it again. He then went the same way, with the same end result.
Hleb has been booked for kicking the ball away after fouling Carrick. And Lehamnn was booked during the penalty row for complaining about something. He doesn't need a reason though does he? Lock him in a cupboard on his own and he'd get into a fight, Lehmann.
Now, Anderson and Tevez are coming on for Paul Scholes and Ji-Sung Park.
Arsenal are their own worst enemy yet again. Just like on Wednesday, when they surrendered a penalty just seconds after going in front, one of their defenders loses his head and concedes a spot kick with a mindless piece of football. Wenger must have aged 50 years in four days!
Ronaldo scores! Incredible!
Penalty to Manchester United. Handball by Gallas!
Rio Ferdinand, at fault for the opening goal, has nearly made it two! He gets his feet all wrong under no pressure in his own area, and ends up crashing a volley towards Goal before Van der Sar gets a vital boot on it. Rio is rocking.
How bizarre! Van Persie deserves huge credit for quick thinking in taking the free kick short, then for a superb cross right into the danger area. Ferdinand seemed to step out of the way, Van der Sar was rooted to the spot and Adebayor leaned into it was his arm and the ball ends up in the net, amid very few protests from any United players. Game on!
The free kick was taken short and after Fabregas had his shot blocked, Van Persie brushed past Brown, whips in a wicked cross and Adebayor's LEFT HAND has bundled it into the net!
GOAL! Arsenal are in front!
Eboue has won a free kick after a mistimed tackle from Evra. Its about 45 yards out, way over towards the right touchline.
United have mixed things up a little up top, Park on the left to begin with this half...
So, after a goalless first half the equation remains the same; Arsenal need to win to keep their season alive. And as their manager will have told them at half time, they should already be in front....
And there is the half time whistle. What a good 45 minutes of football; chances at both ends, full blooded tackles and a few dodgy refereeing decisions to boot too. Perfect. See you in 15 minutes...
Ronaldo cuts inside Clichy and tries an ambitious left footer from 30 yards but Lehamnn looks at the weakly hit shot with disdain as he gobbles it up.
Park does very well to flick a deep Hargreaves cross bacjk into the path of Ronaldo, then as United switch the play Carrick gives Rooney an opportunity to shoot, which he does, but Lehmann is down swiftly to save,
The linesman flags to indicate Toure took the ball out of play on the right, as another chunk of Arsenal possession comes to an end. They've been very good in this first half and will rue those missed chances if they don't go on to win.
Another lovely move from Arsenal, as Van Persie sticks Fabregas in down the left channel. He comes inside Brown and crosses looking for Adebayor but Van der Sar edges out of his six yard box to claim.
Evra wins a corner for United, which Pique gets his bonce too, but Arsenal clear. Five minutes of a throughly entertaining half - which Arsenal have dominated - left.
I'm sorry to say it, because I'm a big fan of Adebayor, but that little cameo just showed how far he has sunk. In form, he'd bang those home for fun all day long, but with zero confidence flowing through his veins he has just got it horribly, horribly wrong.
Howard Webb has given Van Persie a yellow card for a clean, ball-winning tackle on Brown. Awful decision.
United are coming back into the game with a vengeance now. Rooney's ball into the area looks for Park, but Song clears, then Ronaldo's toe poke back into the danger area is hoiked clear by Clichy.
Then at the other end Rooney goes through but Lehamnn gets a vital touch to send the ball just wide of the post. Chances at either end in the space of 30 seconds.
Adebayor has lost it I'm afraid. He's run out of gas. Put clean through by Van Persie he has hit it right at Van der Sar from 16 yards out. A pitiful effort.
Toure lumps it up to Adebayor, who wins the header, but no one had gambled on it.
Howard Webb penalises Evra for a shirt tug on the revitalised Eboue. Old Trafford howls at him.
Eboue is back on the field, much to the chagrin of my Gooner-mad colleague JC.
Arsene Wenger will be very pleased with his side's shift so far - but they really should be a goal to the good for all their dominance. You just know Manchester United can score from anywhere at any time, and are bound to have a tasty spell of their own before too long.
Eboue is down after tangling with Ronaldo. It was an important intervention to be fair, the Premier League's top scorer was bearing down on the lenalty area in full gallop.
Van Persie does well to find Hleb wide on the right and though he comes inside Evra easily enough he can't find a colleague after that. Arsenal win it back though and Gilberto forgets his limitations by firing in a wild 40 yard effort.
Arsenal are creating plenty down their right. Adebayor skips into the area and delivers a devilish cross but none of his team mates gambled on it and the chance is lost.
Adebayor fires one high and wide after a decent ball from Hleb. I'd argue the Adebayor of three or four months ago would have at least forced Van der Sar into a save.
Fabio Capello has dashed over from Anfield to take his place in the stands. He's a busy boy ain't he? Perhaps that's why his finances are a bit dod, err, in order I mean. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.
Song gets away with a rash challenge on Rooney. The young man needs to get tight on the England striker, but not that tight. Rooney rages at ref Webb.
Park flicks one round the corner for Rooney but can't collect the return because Song hauled him down. No foul given though.
Manchester United should be ahead. Evra plays a delightful ball inside Toure and although Song comes across he is beaten by Ronaldo. He squares for Rooney but Gallas gets a vital toe to his shot to concede a corner.
Gallas mops up an interesting interchange between Hargreaves and Rooney, then Song plays his way out of trouble well. He's done ok so far all things considered.
United are on the rack a little here - Arsenal are having plenty of the ball on the edge of the penalty box. Adebayor's ball to Gilberto inside the area is a little strong though and Brown can intercept.
First signs of indecision in Arsenal's rearguard as Tour and Song leave the ball to each other and Rooney nips in to shoot - but he drags it wide.
Another effort from Adebayor after a nice one two on the edge of the box with Van Persie. There was nothing confident about his left footed strike though - right at the keeper.
The visitors are having good possession in the opening 18 minutes. Hleb and Eboue combine neatly but Fabregas' cross is claimed by Van der Sar.
More intricate work down the right but this time Eboue can't pick out a team mate inside the area and the ball trickles into the ridiculously long arms of Van der Sar.
First booking of the afternoon, and it goes to Wes Brown who charges in late on Clichy. Bit harsh from ref Howard Webb perhaps.
At the other end, Hargreaves ghosts into a decent position on the left and his cross is met by Ronaldo but his flicked header bounces wide. Good game so far.
Van Persie's corner is deep and nodded behind by Brown. Another corner, which Van der Sar punches straight to Gilberto but his shot is blocked by a combination of Song and the keeper. Good flurry from Arsenal.
Adebayor has a great chance! lovely move sees Fabregas poke it through to the striker, before he sets Eboue away down the right - his cross finds Adebayor again (much like his goal at Anfield) but Ferdinand gets in a crucial block. Corner.
Crikey, a poor free kick from Ronaldo. He blasts it behind everyone and out for a throw in. Arsenal can breathe again.
The wall does its job, but then Adebayor gives away a silly foul on the left wing and United have another decent opportunity. He's complaining that Ronaldo dived. No, surely not?
Ronaldo wins a free kick, about 30 yards out just to the right. I don't need to tell you he's lining it up. Lehmann beware....
Ferdinand outwits Adebayor after a long punt down field. Very assured from the England captain (I still can't believe that you know).
If Arsenal can pinch a win today their run in looks favourable; Derby and Sunderland away, Everton and Reading at home. But, first things first eh?
Rooney and Ronaldo combine for the first time but Fabregas bundles the Portuguese off the ball. No love lost there then.
Before that chance - which was created by a marauding Adebayor run - I was about to say Arsenal have started well. They look pretty compact shape wise. Their confidence must still be brittle mind.
Fabregas is at it again, collecting Wes Brown's pinpoint ball (yes, you read that right) before blasting his shot over the bar from a tight angle inside the area. What on earth was Brown doing then?
Park has a run at Toure, who stands up well, before Arsenal break and Van Persie can't collect Adebayor's ball. Then Fabregas has a punt at Van der Sar but it is a tame effort.
Some interesting things to look out for in both line-ups. Namely, Gerard Pique in the middle for Man Utd, Toure continuing in his unfamiliar right back role for the Gunners, as well as Song slotting in at centre-half.
Robin Van Persie wins the first free kick, on the centre circle. There's a decent atmosphere at Old Trafford - the very least you'd hope for in a stadium that holds nearly 80,000 fans.
So, Arsenal. What are you made of?
Manchester United have had quite a nice week thank you very much. They rested Rooney and Ronaldo for the midweek stroll against Roma - which saw them progress to the semi-finals - and have generally been giggling at Arsenal's fate all the while. Here come the teams...
So, as I was wibbling on about earlier, this is the definition of do or die for Arsene Wenger. In a rotten run of form, dumped out of the Champions League by Liverpool midweek and five points adrift of Manchester United. Lose or draw here, and their season is officially over.
As you may have gathered, we are having some technical issues at Soccernet HQ (I don't usually repeat myself THIS much).
As for the home side, Manchester United: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Pique, Evra, Ronaldo,
Carrick, Hargreaves, Scholes, Park and Rooney. Subs from: Kuszczak, Anderson, Giggs, O'Shea and Tevez.
The teams are in, and there are a few eyebrows raised at Soccernet HQ for the following reasons - Jens Lehmann and Alex Song. Hmmm. The Arsenal team in full: Lehmann, Toure, Gallas, Song, Clichy, Eboue, Fabregas, Silva, Hleb, Van Persie and Adebayor. Subs from: Djourou, Fabianski, Bendtner, Justin Hoyte and Walcott.
Good afternoon one and all and welcome to a monumental Premier League clash - one that will decide whether Arsenal are to play any more part in this season's title race. The equation for the Gunners is simple. They MUST win.
Join us at 1600 BST to see if Arsenal can upset Man Utd's title charge, or if Fergie's men can give themselves some space at the top.
Edwin van der Sar
Robin Van Persie