Arsenal 0-0 MSN Messenger United
Arsenal win the cup by the hair of their chinny chin chins
At some point, we’re going to need to deconstruct that cup final in the cold light of day: Why such an insipid performance? Why did it take 97 minutes to have a shot on goal? How come creaky-boned Dennis played as a lone front man? Even with a red-hot poker up his butt, could Lauren have had a more uncomfortable afternoon?
But you know what, that time is not now.
All you need to know is that, in a smash and grab raid of epic proportions, we won the cup on penalties. Despite playing like drains for the entire match, we somehow emerged with the silver pot. I can honestly tell you that at no time during the first 125-odd minutes did I enjoy myself, but the last three seconds were brilliant.
The lucky hat came off at half-time, in case it was lucky no more, but then it went back on again, as I thought I’d dissed it prematurely, but then off it came again, by which point it looked as if beavers had been building a dam in my hair. The hat clearly made no difference whatsoever. We were still dreadful and we were still waiting to be beaten. It was just a matter of time.
The best player on the field wearing red kept us in it with a string of fabulous saves, and as the ref blew his whistle for penalties, I had a secret feeling we might do it, based on his performance alone. At the other end, United’s keeper Les Dawson had barely got his studs muddy, whereas Lehmann had been forced to concentrate his arse off for most of the game.
I say “secret feeling” as I wasn’t foolish enough to say it out loud. Instead, I tried to convince everyone around me that, as we had played so badly, we wouldn’t mind so much going out in such a cruel fashion. Who was I trying to kid?
During the penalty shoot-out itself, I actually started shaking uncontrollably. And in one of the brief pauses between one penalty and the next, I managed to look around me. What I saw made me feel an awful lot better: There wasn’t another man, woman or child there whose idea of fun would stretch to this.
But the moment the Pat-man knocked the winning kick in, the place went absolutely spare. Everyone hugged everyone else, and I swore an awful lot. To anyone offended by a profanity-screeching flat-capped lunatic, it was me, and I apologise.
Reading the papers today, and the achievement just gets better and better. Absolutely chuffing blinding. It really doesn’t get much better than this…