Link to BBC Homepage

Front Page

UK

World

Business

Sci/Tech

Sport

Despatches

World News in Audio


On Air

Cantonese

Talking Point

Feedback

Low Graphics

Help

Site Map

Thursday, April 30, 1998 Published at 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK



Sport: Football

Title run-in: United steel or Arsenal grit?
image: [ Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson face test of nerves ]
Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson face test of nerves

Premiership table:

  1. Arsenal P-35 Pts-75
  2. Manchester United P-36 Pts-71
  3. ChelseaP-36 Pts 60
  4. Liverpool P-35 Pts-59

The 1997/98 Premiership season has turned out to be a classic. How things have changed since Christmas.

Then, Manchester United were in the driving seat, their main rivals seemingly incapable of putting any consistent run together.

United's confidence was also soaring after a brilliant display in the European Champions' League - the best results of any team in the competition.


[ image: United have won the Premiership five times]
United have won the Premiership five times
But as winter turned to spring, Alex Ferguson's dream machine started to cough and splutter. Defeats at Southampton and Leicester were followed by draws at home to Bolton and Barnsley.

At first, it did not seem to matter: Chelsea, Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers - United's main rivals - continued to drop points themselves.

But in North London, Arsenal fans were singing their favourite victory song: "One-nil to the Arsenal."

Forgotten and written-off after a miserable pre-Christmas spell, Arsene Wenger's team started to put together a run of unspectacular, low-scoring results.


[ image: Tony Adams: Rock in the middle of the Arsenal defence]
Tony Adams: Rock in the middle of the Arsenal defence
It was like the "boring" Arsenal of old, except this side had some French flair in midfield - Petit and Viera were dominating games with neat and accurate passing.

And their brilliant young keeper, Austrian Alex Manninger, had combined with one of the oldest defensive units in English football to produce what seemed an impenetrable wall - it would eventually lead to a record-breaking eight successive clean sheets.

The message was received in Manchester where injuries to key players were now adding to the problems of loss of form and confidence. And when Arsenal went to Old Trafford and secured a memorable 1-0 victory on March 14, the worried faces of the fans said it all.


[ image: Alex Ferguson had to lift his side after European defeat]
Alex Ferguson had to lift his side after European defeat
To United's credit, they could have folded completely when they lost to Monaco in the European Champions League quarter final. But the return from injury of Peter Schmeichel, Nicky Butt, and crucially Ryan Giggs, seemed to steady the nerves.

The 3-1 victory away to Blackburn confirmed that United were determined to hang on to their title. And even the draw at home to Liverpool appeared to leave them in the more comfortable position.

But Arsenal's 4-1 demolition of Blackburn showed why the bookmakers were making the London side 8/11 for the league and cup double.

Since then, Arsenal have set a Premiership record of nine consecutive wins.

As Arsenal began to pile on the pressure at the top, the United manager, Alex Ferguson, said the London club "can only lose the title with games in hand", taken by many observers as a ruse to return the pressure.

The Gunners still have a game in hand before they play away at Liverpool and Aston Villa.

The game that may seal the championship comes when Arsenal meet struggling Everton on Sunday, May 3. If the Gunners take three points from the match, the title goes to Highbury.

Many teams would have found the prospect of taking the championship and appearing in the FA Cup final too much to cope with.

But even Manchester United must be admiring the way Arsenal, until now, have maintained their composure. It may take more than wishful thinking from Alex Ferguson to trip up the Gunners now.

Remaining fixtures:

Manchester United
Leeds United (H)
Barnsley (A)
Arsenal
Everton (H) - Three points secures the title
Liverpool (A)
Aston Villa (A)


 





Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

©

Link to BBC Homepage

  Relevant Stories

25 Apr 98 | Sport
Fiery Gunners march on

12 Apr 98 | Sport
Gunning for United

11 Apr 98 | Sport
Ten-men Reds hold United

06 Apr 98 | Sport
Man Utd pull away

06 Apr 98 | Sport
Bergkamp honoured by PFA

05 Apr 98 | Sport
Arsenal brush off Wolves

31 Mar 98 | Sport
Arsenal close in on Manchester United

29 Mar 98 | Sport
Johnsen keeps gunners at bay

28 Mar 98 | Sport
Man Utd leave it late

28 Mar 98 | Sport
Gunners use maximum firepower to stay in chase

 
  Internet Links

Manchester United

Arsenal

FA Carling Premiership


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
 
In this section

Collins calls it a day for Scots

Derby double swoop fails

From Special Report
Keegan accused over late night

White Rose rivals meet again

McIlroy tipped for NI role

League to rule on Sky shares

Keane talks to resume

From Special Report
We'll be back for World Cup - Brown

From Special Report
Keegan insists England can triumph

Irish to appeal after brawl

Israel demands soccer sex scandal inquiry

From Special Report
I've rarely seen anything worse

From Special Report
An almost unbelievable turnaround

SA kidnap shocks soccer coach

From Special Report
Police claim play-off success

From Special Report
England book Euro 2000 place

From Special Report
We've a long way to go - Keegan

Turks bury Irish dream

From Special Report
We deserved to qualify - Hendry

Slovenia to make Euro debut

From Special Report
England v Scotland - picture gallery

From Special Report
What they said





Football Contents

Africa