Monday, March 9, 2015

How Long It's Been: Arsenal Beat Manchester United at Old Trafford

Left to right: Tomas Rosicky,
Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure

Today -- tonight, local time -- Arsenal defeated Manchester United 2-1, at Man U's historic ground, Old Trafford, and knocked them out of the FA Cup.

Arsenal advance to the Semifinal, to play the winner of the Quarterfinal replay between Reading and Bradford City. The other Semifinal will be between Birmingham-based Aston Villa and the winner of the Quarterfinal replay between Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers.

Old Trafford -- also known as the Theatre of Dreams if you love United, Old Tramsheds or Old Trashdump if you have taste -- has been a house of horrors for Arsenal. Although they clinched the League title there in 2002, and a key win there in 1998 set them on the path to winning the title, they'd lost some big games there, often with the "assistance" of United-friendly officials. This includes a notorious August 2009 defeat engineered by referee Mike Dean, a Vladimir Putin lookalike; and the last FA Cup match between the clubs, a 2011 Quarterfinal.

Even the retirement of longtime United boss Alex Ferguson -- I refuse to give that corrupt bastard the knighthood title "Sir" -- didn't stop that, as they beat Arsenal last season, despite having their worst season in over 30 years.

This time, referee Michael Oliver didn't fall (if you'll pardon the choice of words) for United's cheating. Dives were executed by Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria, their major midseason pickup. (But not, oddly, by United captain and diver extraordinaire Wayne Rooney, who scored their only goal.) With Arsenal up 2-1 thanks to goals by left back Nacho Monreal (his 1st goal in 2 years) and former United player Danny Welbeck (thanks to 2 major defensive lapses), Di Maria dove (or is it correct, in this sport, to say, "dived"?), and referee Michael Oliver didn't fall for it. He gave Di Maria a yellow card.

Then, Di Maria did the one thing you must never do to an official: He touched him. Put his hand on him. United players, and Rooney in particular, have surrounded referees for years in the hope of intimidating them into giving them favorable calls, and have even cursed them out. But they don't touch the refs. Di Maria did, and, less than 30 seconds after receiving his 1st yellow card, he received his 2nd: Automatically, a sending-off (thrown out of the game) and a 1-game suspension, taking effect with United's next domestic game. (In other words, their next game, since they didn't qualify for Europe this season, for the first time in over 20 years.)

I wasn't born yet when man first landed on the Moon. I have, however, seen in my lifetime the fall of the Berlin Wall and the election of a black President of the United States. Now, I have seen the sending-off of a Manchester United player, at Old Trafford, against Arsenal, with Arsenal leading.

Even a "Fergie Time" of 5 minutes' stoppage time added at the end of the 2nd half couldn't help the bastards. Full-Time, Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal.

The Manc dragon has been slain. Along with Arsenal having beaten Manchester City away earlier this season, the old saw, "Arsenal can't win big games away" has been shattered.

The last Arsenal win at Old Trafford was on September 17, 2006. That's 8 years, 5 months and 16 days. How long has that been?

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Here are the starting lineups for the teams on that day: 

Manchester United: Tomasz Kuszczak; Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Mikael Silvestre (Evra 23); Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea, Cristiano Ronaldo; Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha. Silvestre was injured, and was replaced in the 23rd minute by Patrice Evra. Rooney was subbed of in the 77th for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And Scholes was subbed off in the 78th by Paul Carrick.

Of these players, only Rooney and Carrick are still playing for United, and both were in the game tonight. Neville, Scholes, Saha and Solskjaer have retired. (So have Ryan Giggs and Neville's brother Phil, who were injured and thus unavailable for this game.)

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann; Emmanuel Eboue, Johan Djourou, Kolo Toure, William Gallas; Tomas Rosicky, Freddie Ljungberg, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Aleksandr Hleb (Julio Baptista 68); Emmanuel Adebayor. Hleb was subbed off for Julio Baptista in the 68th, while Adebayor, who scored the game's only goal in the 86th, was subbed off for Mathieu Flamini in the 88th, as Wenger tried to hold the lead.

Of these players, only Rosicky is still with Arsenal, although Flamini left and has returned; neither got into today's game. Also still with Arsenal is Theo Walcott, an unused substitute that day and also today. Lehmann and Ljungberg have retired, as has Thierry Henry, who was injured and unavailable for this game. Current Arsenal star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was 13, and Gedion Zelalem was 9.

Despite the win, Arsenal, in its 1st season in the Emirates Stadium after 93 years at the Arsenal Stadium, nicknamed Highbury for its neighborhood, would only finish 4th in the Premier League, while United won it again. The FA Cup, then held by Liverpool, would be won by Chelsea, who would also win the League Cup, becoming only the 3rd team to win both domestic cups in the same season -- the "Cup Double." Arsenal did it in 1993, and Liverpool in 2001.

Chelsea beat Arsenal in the League Cup Final, despite Arsenal's Abou Diaby kicking Chelsea's despicable captain John Terry in the face and knocking him out of the game. It was an accident, of course: Knowing Diaby, if he'd tried it on purpose, he not only would have failed, but injured himself in the process.

Adebayor would later leave Arsenal under dubious circumstances, and make an annoyance of himself against Arsenal for both Manchester City and Arsenal's North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Yorkshire club Sheffield United, South London club Charlton Athletic, and Hertfordshire club Watford were relegated out of the Premier League at the end of that 2006-07 season, and haven't returned since. Manchester area clubs Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, Berkshire club Reading, Hampshire club Portsmouth and North-East club Middlesbrough were also in the Premiership then, but are not now.

Alex Ferguson has since retired as Man U manager, replaced by David Moyes, Giggs, and Louis Van Gaal. Wenger is the only Premiership manager still managing the club he was managing at the time. Of the captains of the 20 teams in the League that season, only Terry and, until the end of this season, Steven Gerrard of Liverpool are still captains of the same team. Indeed, most of the other 18 captains are retired now.

The previous May, Arsenal had fallen to Barcelona, in controversial circumstances, in the UEFA Champions League Final. The MLS Cup had been won by the Houston Dynamo. The New York Red Bulls, who had been the New York/New Jersey MetroStars until the year before, made the Playoffs despite a losing record.

The reigning World Champions in the major North American sports were the Chicago White Sox, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami Heat (with Dwayne Wade but not yet with LeBron James) and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was heavily fractured between 5 governing bodies, and none of the pretenders could be taken seriously as the champ.

The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- while the Prime Minister was Tony Blair. The Prime Minister of Canada was Stephen Harper. The President of the United States was George W. Bush. His father George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, their wives, and the widow of Lyndon Johnson were all still alive.

The Mayor of London was Ken Livingstone, and of Manchester David Sandiford, having recently succeeded to the office upon the death of James Ashley. The Mayor of New York City was Michael Bloomberg, the Governor of New York was George Pataki (about to give way to Eliot Spitzer), and the Governor of New Jersey was Jon Corzine.

The Olympic Games have since been held in China, Canada, Britain and Russia. The World Cup had just been held in Germany, with Italy winning, and has since been held in South Africa and Brazil.

Two major films releases that month looked at a pair of long-ago Los Angeles murders: The Black Dahlia (1947) and that of Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland (1959). Remakes of The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage and All the King's Men with Sean Penn did not fare well, either critically or commercially. The Queen premiered, starring Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II, dealing with the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana 9 years earlier.

The Walt Disney Company, which owned both ABC and ESPN, had just moved Monday Night Football, one of the premier franchises of the former, to the latter for its 37th season. NBC had just debuted Sunday Night Football. The Rachel Ray Show, Jericho, Brothers & Sisters, Heroes, and the U.S. version of Ugly Betty all debuted that month. Dexter, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock would debut the next month.

Weird Al Yankovic had his 1st Top 10 hit after nearly 30 years of song parodies, turning Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" (a.k.a. "Ridin' Dirty") into "White & Nerdy." Justin Timberlake released FutureSex/Lovesounds. John Mayer releases Continuum. Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie released her 1st solo album, The Dutchess. Tower Records was liquidated, saddening audiophiles everywhere. Legendary New York music club CBGB closed, with club legend Patti Smith playing the final show.

Twitter and YouTube had recently debuted, but most people were only becoming aware of them and hadn't logged on. Facebook was still a relatively new phenomenon, and MySpace was still more popular. Most mobile phones were still of the flip-open variety.

As Summer turned to Fall in 2006, Australian TV legend Steve Irwin was killed while filming a segment for his wildlife show. Nineteen people were shot in an attempted massacre at a Montreal college; just 1 died. A coup removed the Prime Minister of Thailand from power. A plane collision over the Amazon jungle of Brazil killed 155 people. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, for their "microloans," were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And the International Astronomical Union redefined what is a "planet," demoting Pluto, reducing the population of our solar system from 9 full planets to 8.

Golf legend Byron Nelson, and 2-time Olympic decathlon champion Bob Mathias, and Italian soccer legend Giacinto Facchetti died. No one particularly famous yet was born, but the world had, for the most part, not yet heard of the Kardashian sisters (except maybe Kim as Paris Hilton's friend), Justin Bieber and the "stars" of Jersey Shore.

September 17, 2006. Arsenal went to Manchester United's home ground of Old Trafford, and won.

Now, it has happened again. Man U's last serious chance at a trophy is gone, and Arsenal's last serious chance at a trophy just got a lot more serious, as they head to the Semifinal, at the new Wembley Stadium. "We're the famous Arsenal, and we're going to Wemberly!"

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