How often have Arsenal spoiled the party for our big city clubs?
On September 23, 2006, Sheffield United turned up at the brand new £390million 60,361-seater Emirates Stadium determined to make Neil Warnock’s 1,000th game as a manager a happy one.
But, from the start, the Gunners showed they were not in a charitable mood as they sought their first Premiership win at the ground which was behind only Wembley and Old Trafford in terms of capacity.
Gilberto’s second-minute overhead kick sailed over after a Fabregas free-kick.
United’s Wright suffered a blow to the head in the melee and required a fresh shirt to replaced his bloodied one.
Arsenal’s movement and use of the ball were terrific with Gilberto, particularly, causing problems. He shot wide after a good run while Ljungberg was also off target.
United had their moments, Armstrong having a shot saved by Lehmann with Gillespie and Hulse also testing the home defence.
Henry headed a Toure cross goalwards with Bennett managing to tip the ball over for a corner.
Czech Republic international Rosicky made life uncomfortable for the Blades with some good runs from deep but the visitors were showing great spirit and fight.
Fabregas was lucky not to receive more than a yellow card for a dreadful lunge on Jagielka with Henry going unpunished due to an unsighted referee for a late tackle on Hulse.
United, indeed, had the ball in the net on 42 minutes with a peach of a strike from Leigertwood, play being called back for a high foot.
United had done brilliantly to reach half time on level terms and it wasn’t untl 20 minutes into the second half that Arsenal went ahead.
Defender Gallas scored, feeding Henry then running on to the return pass to beat Bennett. Arsenal needed a stroke of luck to score the second, effectively ending the match as a contest, four minutes later.
Henry, having a great match, teased defenders on the edge of the box, sent a fierce cross into the middle where Jagialka, attempting to hack clear, succeded only in slicing the ball past Bennett.
The third goal, in the 80th minute, was a simple header for the unmarked Henry after an Eboue cross.
So it was 3-0 to Arsenal, who didn’t have a single British player in their 16-man squad.
Our man at the match James Shield said United could take comfort from the fact that, but for the brilliance of Henry, they might well have taken a point.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger paid tribute to United: “Credit to Sheffield United, they made it difficult for us.”
Warnock said: “All I can ask of the players is that they give their best.
“That’s what they did and although I’m not happy with the result I’m pleased with the committment.
“We tried to make a game of it and Thierry Henry came to me at the end and said it had been a very hard game for them.
“We wanted to win, we tried to win, but there’s no shame in being beaten by a team as good as this.”
* Arsenal: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Djourou, Galla, Ljungberg (Baptista 78), Fabregas, Silva, Rosicky (Hleb 71), Adebayor (Van Persie 71), Henry.
* United: Bennett, Sommeill (A Quinn 78), Jagielka, Davis, Geary (Kozluk 78), Gillespie, Leigertwood, Armstrong, Wright, Kazim-Richards (Kabba 89), Hulse.
* Referee: Alan Willey (Staffs).
* Attendance: 59,912.