Arsenal 3 Man Utd 2
Forgotten hero David Platt ripped the title race wide open with a stunning
late header at hot-headed Highbury.
The one-time England skipper has lost his place for club and country in the
past 12 months, falling completely out of the international frame and forced to
be content with a bench role for Arsene Wenger's side.
Indeed Platt, whose absence from Glenn Hoddle's squad to face Cameroon next
week was not even a matter of conversation, was only in the Arsenal side because
of the suspensions that ruled out Emmanuel Petit and Dennis Bergkamp.
Yet with seven minutes to go in a tension-filled afternoon, marred by missile
throwing from the Clock End, Platt came back from the past to bury Alex
Ferguson's men and give the Gunners only their second Premiership win over
Teddy Sheringham's first half double had clawed the champions back into it
after a French one-two from Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira put Arsenal in
charge inside 26 minutes.
When Peter Schmeichel - who along with Nigel Winterburn had been hit by
objects thrown in first-half stoppage time - produced an unbelievable stop to
foil substitute Christopher Wreh's deflected shot it looked as if United would
But when Ray Parlour swung in the resulting corner Platt rose highest of all
to steer a floated header that gave even Schmeichel absolutely no chance as it
went in just under the angle of post and bar.
Platt set off on a victory dance that mirrored the ones he produced against
Belgium and Cameroon in Italy in 1990 with the roof lifted off Highbury when
Martin Bodenham blew for full-time to mean Arsenal are just a point behind the
Yet there will be concern at FA headquarters at the crowd disorder that saw
one alleged miscreant arrested and a full-scale inquiry started by Arsenal.
After the incidents of last season there were always going to be undercurrents
on and off the pitch, with Schmeichel perhaps wisely electing not to warm up in
front of the Arsenal fans, who pelted him with a bag of chips when he put his
towel in the net.
The story was supposed to be all about United. No Bergkamp, no Petit,
surprisingly no Bould, dropped to accommodate Gilles Grimandi, yet Arsenal had
evidently not read the script.
United, with Andy Cole fit despite the pre-match injury scares, were off the
pace, criminally so when Arsenal took the lead in the eighth minute.
Wright's header set the fit-again Marc Overmars in possession, but the move
seemed to be going nowhere when the Dutchman's shot was blocked.
Anelka, though, was alive to the situation, taking up the ball, and United,
despite plenty of bodies, unaccountably stood off the French teenager.
It was a fatal hesitation, Anelka placing a low right footer from 20 yards
between Schmeichel and his right-hand post for a first Arsenal goal that sent
Highbury into ecstasy.
Hoddle was here to watch 11 members of his England squad in action, but it was
the young French ace who caught the eye early on, forcing a save from Schmeichel
after Wright's great ball.
Then Ray Parlour ran though Phil Neville's challenge to set up Wright.
Schmeichel dived to his right to parry, David Platt fed back, and Anelka spooned
his effort over the bar.
And in the 26th minute, Arsenal appeared to take a real grip on proceedings.
Parlour's corner was aimed for Tony Adams, although Henning Berg got the touch
Vieira had to divert his run outside the box but he turned as he reached it to
flash in a right footer that flew through a crowd and in off the bar past
Schmeichel before the Dane could move.
United were rattled and finally stung into action, Sheringham and Cole forcing
David Seaman into action.
But French players had been at the heart of everything, and so they were again
as United dragged themselves back into it.
This time, however, it was an act of omission rather than commission, Grimandi
going absent without leave when Gary Neville swung the ball in from the right
for Sheringham to plant a header into the back of the net.
All changed, although things seemed to have swung back in Arsenal's favour
when Gary Pallister was stretchered off - and possibly out of England duty -
after a clash with Anelka.
Ronny Johnsen came on, but almost before the Norwegian had touched the ball
United were back on terms as Arsenal lost concentration.
Nicky Butt headed forward from midfield and Ryan Giggs knocked on. There was
still plenty to do, but Sheringham hit the ball as he turned onto his left foot,
a low drive for his eighth of the season that gave Seaman no chance.
Although Phil Neville was booked, United were now in the ascendancy, Ferguson
demanded a penalty when Paul Scholes went over Winterburn's leg in the box.
Then in injury time came the incidents which will cause enormous concern.
Winterburn was struck as he prepared to take a corner and then Schmeichel held
his face in his hands after what appeared to be a coin came from the home
Referee Martin Bodenham raced across to the police chief on duty by the
tunnel, and it was perhaps fortunate that the whistle then blew.
Notwithstanding those events, it had been terrific stuff, and the odds shifted
further towards the champions when Bould came on for Vieira at the break, Wenger
reverting to three at the back and tightening things up considerably.
Scholes was booked for a foul on Parlour - he will now miss three matches
including next month's visit to Liverpool - and although Parlour did force a
sprawling save from Schmeichel, United's speed on the break was more
It was far tighter than earlier, as if the two heavyweights had punched
themselves to a standstill, although Platt fell foul of Mr Bodenham with a
booking for persistent misconduct.
Ferguson gambled for glory with 19 minutes left, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
replacing Giggs and Sheringham dropping deeper.
Instead, it was Arsenal who took the initiative, after Wreh had replaced
With eight minutes left, Wright broke away down the right, and pulled back for
Schmeichel was going one way, on his backside as the ball struck Gary Neville
to divert the other.
Somehow the great Dane thrust up a huge right hand to paw the ball to safety
and was hugged by Neville for the stop.
Yet within seconds it was all changed again, as Platt claimed the glory with a
goal that came out of his golden days in an England shirt, including that Italia
90 game with Cameroon.
Wreh then missed a sitter from Wright with three minutes left but it did not
really matter. All very much still to play for.
Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira (Bould 45), Adams,
Platt, Wright, Anelka (Wreh 79), Overmars, Parlour, Grimandi.
Subs Not Used: Manninger, Boa Morte, Hughes.
Booked: Platt, Wright.
Goals: Anelka 7, Platt 83, Vieira 27.
Man Utd: Schmeichel, G. Neville, Pallister (Johnsen 38), Beckham,
Butt, Cole, Sheringham, Giggs (Solskjaer 71), P. Neville,
Subs Not Used: McClair, Poborsky, Van Der Gouw.
Booked: P. Neville, Scholes.
Goals: Sheringham 33, 41.
Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).