Paul Parker

Slender United lead suits Arsenal

Paul Parker

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In theory, Alex Ferguson should be the happier of the two managers following Manchester United's 1-0 win over Arsenal.

Before the Champions League semi-final first leg between the two sides, Ferguson said that he would take that result.

However, Arsene Wenger will see it as a bonus that his side go into the second leg just one goal down considering the way United played in the first-half.

The Gunners' record at the Emirates this year is exceptional and they are a side comfortable with the onus to attack at home being on them.

They were fortunate to have Manuel Almunia back in goal. Things could have been a lot worse if they were still relying on Lukasz Fabianski. Almunia is a great reaction keeper and he earned his corn at Old Trafford. The saves he made last night have kept this tie alive.

Contrast that with Edwin van der Sar, whose indecision on crosses would have cost United dear had Nicklas Bendtner done better with his header.

In fact, the only other Arsenal player who came out of that game well was Kieran Gibbs. For such a young man he handled things on the left well after a shaky start, often marooned out there against two men with no support. Arsene Wenger could so easily have started Emmanuel Eboue and moved Bacary Sagna to left-back, but getting that game under his belt will do Gibbs the world of good.

Sagna struggled against Wayne Rooney, who was a major threat even though he was playing out of position. Sagna was scared of getting too close to Rooney for fear of conceding a foul and getting booked, allowing the England man to do pretty much what he liked. It must only be his discipline issues that kept Rooney out of the reckoning for PFA Player of the Year - no matter what the occasion, Rooney always steps up to the plate for United.

Like their London neighbours, Chelsea were also dominated in their away leg at Barcelona, although that was their game plan. Guus Hiddink's men have come in for a lot of criticism for sacrificing all attacking intent in order to stifle Barca, but their duty to themselves and their fans is to not lose first and foremost.

However, any high fives and hugs following that 0-0 should be kept in perspective, as they still have to do the same at Stamford Bridge and score as well to progress. In my opinion, they will have to score twice to be sure, as it is unlikely Barcelona can be held for 180 minutes. If they can get a good result against Real Madrid at the weekend they will arrive in West London on a real high.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich must look at the team Barcelona have assembled - with four home grown players starting and another two coming off the bench - and wonder how he has paid over the odds for so many players incapable of playing like them. But if he wins the Champions League this year then it will all be worth it

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