Arsenal 3 Man Utd 2

  • By: Martin Lipton, PA Sport Chief Soccer Writer
  • Last Updated: May 22 2012, 10:01 BST

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

United.

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

hang on.

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

leaders.

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

to half-clear.

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

supporters.

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

threatening.

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

Anelka.

With eight minutes left, Wright broke away down the right, and pulled back for

the substitute.

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.

Teams:

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,

Scholes, Berg.

Subs Not Used: McClair, Poborsky, Van Der Gouw.

Booked: P. Neville, Scholes.

Goals: Sheringham 33, 41.

Att: 38,205

Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).