There are four months left in the Premier League's title marathon but, according to the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, Manchester United were "10 minutes from being champions" yesterday. Then Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry scored for Arsenal, transforming a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory over the League leaders.
However, Wenger's joy was tempered by the news that Van Persie had broken the fifth metatarsal on his right foot in scoring his goal. It is the same injury Wayne Rooney suffered before last year's World Cup and can be expected to keep the Dutchman out until April.
Arsenal's victory completed a compelling weekend's action at the division's summit which has resulted in bringing Arsenal and Liverpool, who beat Chelsea on Saturday, back into contention. This might seem to be an exaggeration since Arsenal remain 12 points adrift of United, but there may be psychological ramifications to the pair of results.
"This opens it up for everybody, for us less than Liverpool, but you never know," Wenger said. "With 10 minutes to go Manchester United were maybe champions, but you cannot say that now. It is more open."
He added: "To be 1-0 down against the leaders of the League, and to win, can only be good for the morale of the team and make the team stronger for the coming matches. This team has developed into a team of young hungry lions led well by Thierry Henry - and they are getting stronger with every game."
Wenger's United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, was sanguine. He said: "At the moment we are so disappointed, but when I look at it we have some important away games to come and this will be good for us - we won't be making the same mistake. We lost two goals from a position I didn't think we would.
"It's not all doom and gloom. We have a game less [to play] and are a goal better off [than Chelsea, following their 2-0 defeat]. I thought we had the best player on the pitch in Michael Carrick. He was magnificent. With players of that quality we will be all right."
Wenger was equally keen to praise his team, who fell behind to Wayne Rooney's first goal in eight matches early in the second half.
"We started a bit nervously and it took us time to get into the game," he said. "We gave them too much space. But in the second half it was all us, then they scored with the only chance they had in the second half. That made it a test of character and resilience but we went on to the end because we really wanted to win. In the last 20 minutes it was all us and United tried too much to use up time.
"That counted against them as they tried so much to kill the game they lost momentum."
Ferguson did not quite see it that way, insisting that: "They resorted to long balls and I didn't see us having a problem with that. We were coping well."
Arsenal won at Old Trafford earlier this season and Henry said: "Doing the double over them is a pleasure. A win against Manchester United is always special but especially the way we did it today. It can't be better than to be 1-0 down and come back at the end and win."
Henry, who wasted a chance when he put a free header straight at the United goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, in the first half, added: "I scored with my head so it must have been pretty special. I wanted to make sure to at least make it difficult for Edwin and I got the ball in the back of the net."Reuse content