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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Arsenal still in pole position

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Arsenal may have lost at Manchester United but they are still hot favourites to win the Premiership.

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates the win over Arsenal
Sir Alex Ferguson has been criticised for his tactics recently but he has the Midas touch over Arsenal

And although Arsenal's 49-game unbeaten run ended at Old Trafford it was in no way a comprehensive defeat.

Arsene Wenger's team played every bit as well as United and I don't think they will be massively disappointed with the way they performed.

Some of their multi-talented players really never got going but I think Wenger will be relatively happy with their defensive display and the way Arsenal moved the ball through the middle of the park.

In a tight game like Sunday's a couple of decisions going against you can result in defeat but the secret for any great team - and Arsenal are one - is to recover quickly from a setback.

The biggest consequence of Sunday's result is the effect it has on the rest of the Premiership.

Arsenal had a great unbeaten record and were scoring three or four goals in a match on a regular basis.

This drains confidence from other teams and until someone finally defeated Arsenal the perception would have remained that Wenger's team would walk away with the title.

I still think there are only three teams who can win the Premiership - and Sunday's result was great for the other two.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has always said Arsenal will inevitably lose at some point and that his team must take advantage when that happens.

In thrashing Blackburn on Saturday they certainly did that.

And it was a great day for Manchester United.

Rio Ferdinand (right) tangles with Freddie Ljungberg in one of the game's key moments
Ferdinand (right) tangles with Ljungberg
To me they are still third favourites but they are obviously better placed than they were on Sunday morning.

They are at Portsmouth next weekend and I think you will see a rejuvenated, revitalised United.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been criticised for his tactics recently but he has the Midas touch over Arsenal.

He got men behind the ball, often doubling up and not allowing the opposition time and space to play in the final third.

I don't think you will see United adopt those sort of tactics against any other team at Old Trafford.

Rio Ferdinand was masterful in defence.

He was a massive presence both on the deck and in the air and his positional sense was superb.

In fact I thought the game was great news for England given the form of both Ferdinand and Sol Campbell.

Both teams have expensive, talented forwards but it was the defenders who really shone through.

Having said that, on another day Ferdinand might have been sent-off after tangling with Freddie Ljungberg.

It was a major decision for the referee because with Ferdinand being the last man Mike Riley would have had to send the defender off if he blew for any sort of foul.

I definitely think it was a foul and next week you will see a defender sent-off after an identical incident.

Campbell was penalised for United's penalty and I think that as a centre-back if you stick your foot out you are asking for trouble.

But to be fair to Sol what people don't understand is just how brilliantly he withdrew his leg after he'd stuck it out.

You have to be really sharp upstairs to do that - though Wayne Rooney took advantage of his initial movement in the same way that Ljungberg was looking for Rio running across him earlier in the match.

But what definitely wasn't a clever tackle was Ruud van Nistelrooy's challenge on Ashley Cole.

It was over the top, high, late and could have done a lot of damage.




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