Arsenal FC and Manchester United have got off to contrasting starts this season in the Premier League. While on current form, Arsenal fans are being rewarded for their patience, Man United fans are dealing with the relatively unknown entity called frustration. Here’s a look back and a look ahead.
When was the last time in the Premier League Manchester United fans felt like they were the underdogs while awaiting visit by Arsenal? During the ‘Invincibles’ era? Well, maybe. In usual circumstances, especially during the past 8 seasons, the answer to the above question from all the Manchester United fans would have been a vehement “NEVER”. Such has been the dominance of United and such has been the dismal form of Arsenal in the past 8 years or so. Sadly for Manchester United fans, and happily for Arsenal fans, nothing is permanent except change. Change of managers, change of form, change in attitude and change of fortunes.
The Contrasting Starts
Well begun is half done. Arsenal fans will be hoping that this holds true for them. On the other hand, United fans will take solace from the fact that they have a history of slow starts coupled with a habit of catching up with the competition during the December-January period. The opening 10 games have seen a stark contrast in the fortunes of the two clubs. While Manchester United have been unconvincing to say the least, Arsenal (after defeat in the first game of the season) have been off in a flash. The gap at this juncture of the season is a healthy 8 points in favor of Arsenal, which not many United fans would have anticipated. The league meeting this weekend at Old Trafford will not only hold the key to Manchester United’s recovery but also in establishing the title credentials of Arsenal. Win for either side will be a significant marker in their respective seasons. The least we can hope for is a good game of football.
A Virtue Called Patience
Patience seems to have different definitions at the moment for both sets of supporters. The supporters of the Gunners have been patient for the last 8 years; years which have seen their club fail to win a single piece of silverware. There have been numerous calls for radical change at the club citing the lack of success in terms of trophies, lack of competitive spirit in challenging for the title and selling of key players to other clubs. It has been an agonizing phase for not only the supporters but the players and the club’s hierarchy too. The expectations were not too high this year, until the arrival of Mesut Ozil on deadline day. His arrival seems to have provided the missing spark to the team. They will hope that the early season form does not wane and they get their hands on the one piece of silverware they crave so badly: the Premier League trophy.
United on the other hand are having to deal with a different shade of patience. They have seen their team get off to one of the worst starts this season. After the opening day victory, things have not gone as the supporters, and more importantly David Moyes and the new management, would have hoped for. Defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City coupled with a home loss to West Brom and a couple of drab draws have seen them take only 17 points out of a possible 30 on offer. They started off as third favorites to win the title and honestly, haven’t lived up to even that billing. They find themselves in the 8th position in the league table with just over a quarter of the season gone. The alarm bells aren’t ringing yet, and United is not a club that would have knee jerk reactions to such unimpressive results, but this crunch match against Arsenal will certainly be one that they can ill afford to lose.
Trophies are only handed out in May and defeat for United may not necessarily rule them out of the reckoning for the title, but then an 11 point gap at the top with just 11 games gone would be a big psychological blow to them. United have a habit of hitting back when you least expect them to and the fans will be expecting that this is one of numerous such occasions.
There would be no better person to define the meaning of frustration than an Arsenal supporter. 8 barren years is a test for even the most die-hard supporters of the club. The general feeling was that Arsenal would do no better than a top 4 finish and that Mr. Wenger would be shown the door come the end of the season. It all started on a familiar note with defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the new season and the worst was feared. But that seems to be a distant memory now as Arsenal seemed to have found their rhythm, their team spirit and most importantly the ability to get results. They seem to have passed on their frustration to their fierce rivals, Manchester United.
“Your job now is to stand by your new manager”. These were Sir Alex Ferguson’s words or rather a rallying cry to the United supporters during his last home game. Many of the fans are realizing the weight of that statement now. Transitions are always frustrating and this one has not been different. It has not been smooth sailing for David Moyes and co so far. The feeling of being so far behind in the league table and their team not playing to their full potential is an alien concept for most supporters but it is one that they have to accept. If there were a time show their unflinching support for the club, now is the best time. A win against Arsenal will go a long way in curbing these frustrations and giving more than just hope to the supporters, that they can defend their title.
A mouth watering prospect nonetheless and only time will tell whether Rooney, van Persie and co. come out on top or Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud take Arsenal towards more hope.