Football: Robson feels the full force of Sweeney: Strange dismissal caps an off day for United while Wright is spot on with his punishment to give Arsenal victory over the champions

Dave Hadfield
Sunday 25 July 1993 23:02

Arsenal. . . . . . . .2

Manchester United. . .0

BRYAN ROBSON could miss the FA Charity Shield after being sent off as Ian Wright and an eccentric local referee extracted the full penalty for a ragged Manchester United performance here yesterday.

Wright, already a hero with black football fans in South Africa, dispatched two spot-kicks in the first half - both of them awarded in the most arguable of circumstances - and Robson was later shown the red card for insisting too forcibly that it was United's turn for a gift.

The opening match of the United Bank International Soccer Festival and their first match as Premier League champions proved to be a bad day for United captains. Steve Bruce, returning the armband to Robson for the occasion and the side's most popular player on their coaching foray among township children last week, conceded both penalties; the real villain, however, was the referee, Errol Sweeney.

The first penalty, in the 10th minute, was debatable enough, Bruce seeming merely to stumble in front of Kevin Campbell. That was enough for Sweeney and Wright slammed the ball low past Schmeichel's right hand.

The second award, after 27 minutes, was sheer farce. Bruce mistimed his jump for a Paul Merson centre, took a shove from Campbell and was struck on the back of the arm by a ball he could not even see. Wright's disbelief at his luck did not extend to missing the penalty, struck this time high and to Schmeichel's left.

Penalties aside, Wright was only challenged by Ryan Giggs as the man of the match in front of a big crowd at Ellis Park. He had two other efforts well saved and posed constant problems with his acceleration.

Unlike Arsenal, United left key players at home and without the drive of Paul Ince and the touch and imagination of Eric Cantona, it was too often a case of Giggs having to take on the FA Cup-winners on his own.

A flashing volley and a long-range cross-shot both demanded the best from David Seaman in the first half and, in the second, he provided a series of inviting crosses which had United's huge indigenous support oohing and ahing for a Cantona to convert them into something tangible.

It was from one of those crosses that the Sweeney penalty saga continued. The ball was initially cleared but a fierce shot from Dennis Irwin appeared to strike Lee Dixon's hand. Robson, perhaps additionally frustrated by the difficulty he was having in keeping up with the pace of a fast and competitive match, said too much and was dismissed.

It was a decision that gave South Africa a first, mild taste of English football hooliganism, a deputation coming on to the pitch to present Sweeney with a red shirt to match those worn by Arsenal.

An afternoon of many United disappointments was compounded by a thoroughly undistinguished debut by Roy Keane. He had one ugly tussle with Martin Keown, a substitute for Tony Adams after the Arsenal captain went off with a knock to the head, and then conceded the free-kick that led indirectly to the second goal.

Eddie McGoldrick was a far more impressive new boy for Arsenal, slotting in comfortably on the right side of midfield.

Arsenal: Seaman (Miller 69); Dixon, Winterburn, Davis (Selley, 69), Linighan, Adams (Keown, 22), Jensen, Wright, Campbell, Merson, McGoldrick (Heaney, 69).

Manchester United: Schmeichel; Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Phelan, Keane, Robson, Blackmore (Ferguson, 60), McClair, Hughes, Giggs.

Referee: E Sweeney (Johannesburg).

(Photograph omitted)

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