Football: Walk away, Wenger

Football: Walk away, Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

ARSENAL 1 (Olivier Giroud 90+5)

MAN UNITED 2 (Kieran Gibbs 56-og, Wayne Rooney 85)

Several years ago, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg played a seniors game in Singapore. The occasion was heartbreaking.

McEnroe adored Borg. It was obvious. He propped him up. One of tennis' pioneering power hitters faced the last of the wooden-racket warriors.

McEnroe could have buried his old friend. Instead he carried him. He reined in the power long enough to avoid humiliating Borg.

The modern game had passed Borg by. The same is happening to Arsene Wenger.

Watching Wenger in the dying moments of Arsenal's home defeat by Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time) evoked memories of Borg against McEnroe. Everything played out in slow motion.

He was a little too late to react. His decisions were always slightly off. His feel for the game was just out of touch.

The occasion was also heartbreaking.

Wenger must consider walking away at the end of the season to preserve the legacy. Nothing deserves to sully his Arsenal sainthood.

Like Borg in his twilight, Wenger's box of tricks feels strangely analog in a digital environment that risks leaving him looking obsolete.

United did everything, absolutely everything, to make this contest a winnable one for the Gunners. By some distance, Louis van Gaal put out the scruffiest, most patched-up United line-up in the Wenger era.

The Dutchman has dealt with injuries to 40 different players in four months; a staggering statistic that forced the return of the dreaded 3-5-2 formation, which fits Man United about as much as the chorus of Blue Moon.

There is a case to be made that a back three of Tyler Blackett, Chris Smalling and Patrick McNair might struggle to replace many other Premier League defences, but Arsenal still failed to score until injury time at home.

Wenger clutched at that most transparent of straws by blaming luck, but Arsenal were lucky to see Luke Shaw go off after 16 minutes.

They were also lucky to keep Jack Wilshere on the pitch after butting Marouane Fellaini in the chest.

And still, the Red Devils threatened to roll over their dithering opponents.

They managed only one shot on target. Robin van Persie's name might as well be added to the missing persons list. Angel di Maria's erratic shooting suggested he'd smothered his boots in Vaseline.

Yet somehow, they won.

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