Manchester United recovered from two goals down to beat Aston Villa and Fulham shared six goals with Arsenal in an equally eventful encounter as the Premier League proved once more yesterday why television companies all over the world pay such vast sums for it.
It led to contrasting moods this morning for the competition’s two longest-serving managers, for Sir Alex Ferguson knows his team will finish the weekend on top of the table whatever Chelsea and Manchester City do this afternoon, while Arsène Wenger is left to reflect on the reasons behind Arsenal’s worst start in the 20-year history of the Premier League.
Ferguson made a decisive change at half-time in replacing the former Villa man Ashley Young with Javier Hernandez, who was last night insisting he should be credited with all three goals that brought a dramatic victory. One of them appeared to be going wide before it deflected in off Villa’s Ron Vlaar.
“We were careless in the first half and had no real tempo,” Ferguson admitted. “We put pressure on ourselves today but we never give in and we got through it. It was a fantastic game of football, a really marvellous game. When they got the second goal we were up against it, but once we scored our first goal you always felt they were going to do it.”
Robin van Persie hit the bar twice in as many minutes but Wayne Rooney had a quiet game and he is now a doubt for England’s friendly against Sweden on Wednesday after he was forced to go off with an ankle injury.
It is now three times in 10 years that Villa have failed to hold on to a two-goal lead against United and they remain only three points above the relegation places.
Arsenal also went from 2-0 up to 3-2 down against Fulham, who have not beaten them away from home in 108 years. Olivier Giroud managed to equalise but in the last minute Mikel Arteta’s penalty was saved by Mark Schwarzer.
“It was frustrating because we had the opportunities to win. The posi-tives are we can score goals now,” Wenger said. “The negatives are to concede three goals at home, of course, and the chances we gave away. Nobody jumped for the ball at all, we just let them score the [first] goal.
“You could see we have played three tough games – we played Saturday, Tuesday and we needed a little breather,” he added. “Some players were a bit jaded before the game, but they gave it their all today.”