United's confidence is based on goals, says Van Nistelrooy

Glenn Moore@GlennMoore7
Thursday 14 November 2013 02:11
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It is a long way up the A1 from Highbury to Sunderland and those Arsenal supporters who had planned a trip on the travel club's coach on 11 May (departure 7.00am) might now be contemplating a lie-in.

Most of the Stadium of Light has been booked for a wake for months, the match being Sunderland's last in the Premiership, but until Wednesday night the away section had been planning a party. That ambition is now in doubt.

Arsenal's failure to defeat Manchester United, the dismissal of Sol Campbell and hobbling of Patrick Vieira all combined to tilt the Premiership odds further towards Sir Alex Ferguson's challengers. That, revealed Ruud van Nistelrooy, was certainly the view in the United dressing-room.

"There's a good feeling in there," he said. "After we'd gone 2-1 down it looked like it was going to turn into a very hard game but we reacted to that and it was a good team performance.

"When they went in front everybody in the ground was going mad, going crazy about the goal. You need experience in that situation and we stayed calm, kept playing, worked hard and came back.

"It's great to be part of a team that can do that. We feel we've shown we have the strength to handle disappointing moments in games. We were 1-0 down at Newcastle and won there and then went 2-1 down here.

"We're playing with confidence that comes from scoring goals. We got four against Liverpool and then six at Newcastle. Now we've gone to Highbury and scored two, and that's not something that happens a lot.

"It's vital that you have that confidence in your team. We've come back into the race from a long way behind. We've caught Arsenal up and gone in front of them. Now it's up to us to finish it off."

The Dutchman added: "It's obviously a big blow for them. At 2-1 they thought it was going to be in their hands."

While United have everyone available except for John O'Shea and Juan Sebastian Veron, both of whom are unlikely to be absent for long, Arsenal have problems. David Seaman should recover soon from his cold but Vieira, even if he plays, is unlikely to be fully fit again this season. Campbell, unless Arsenal succeed in an appeal against his red card, will miss the last three matches. With Pascal Cygan struggling to cope with the demands of the Premiership, Campbell could be missed more than the captain.

While Fredrik Ljungberg's response was to say: "I hope they're not going to miss three or four games each," Thierry Henry was more sanguine. "If we are without Patrick and Sol then that's just the way it is," he said. "When we went 1-0 down and Patrick had to go off people might have been thinking: 'They're gone'. You have to give us credit for coming back into the game. It didn't look as if we were going to do that, but we did and that needed character."

Arsenal look to have the more difficult run-in, with demanding fixtures at Middlesbrough on Saturday and Bolton a week later. United, though, would want to have the title settled before the last day, when they visit buoyant Everton.

The result completed a bad day for Arsenal, coming after the admission that their proposed new stadium will be delayed. With United taking £1m more in gate receipts every match, Arsenal's need to move is urgent, but they have already spent £48m on the Ashburton Grove site with no guarantee it will ever be ready. Even if it is built the doubling, to date, of the budget to £400m does not augur well.

For the time being, Arsène Wenger must try to match Ferguson's huge spending power with shrewd signings. Vieira, Henry, Ljungberg and Robert Pires, purchased for £21m between them, are proof of his eye for a player even if Sylvain Wiltord continues to look overpriced at £11m. Defensively, he has been less successful, with gambles on Cygan, Oleg Luzhny and Igor Stepanovs all failing.

It might help if, like Ferguson, Wenger put faith in his youth system. Surely Don Howe and Liam Brady have another Ashley Cole under their wing? Something for Arsenal fans to ponder as, at 7.30 tomorrow, they board the coach to Middlesbrough.

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