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WENGER'S HOT SHOTS HAVE FUN IN THE SUN; Arsenal 3 Man Utd 0.

FUNNY, but wasn't this exactly where we finished it all last May?

Arsenal sauntering off the Wembley pitch drenched in sunshine and sporting another easily-won trophy, was a scene happily familiar to the Gooner Army from the FA Cup final win over Newcastle.

The taming of Manchester United on an even hotter afternoon yesterday was a satisfying repeat.

And what surely made it even more enjoyable for the victorious Gunners, was the fact that United, unlike Newcastle, very definitely wanted to make a game of it, even if they are headed for the Champions' League on Wednesday.

For Arsenal it was another canter at the Twin Towers, and they will now hope their European clashes - which are being staged at Wembley - will also prove as easy.

United skipper Roy Keane even turned up with a new skinhead haircut and promptly launched into a very interesting contest with Patrick Vieira early on.

But by the end, his Old Trafford team-mates and poor old boss Alex Ferguson were tearing their hair out too as Arsenal drowned them in an impressive tide of style, simplicity and laser-sharp finishing.

A first-half goal by dangerous Dutch winger Marc Overmars was the body punch to United's ribs that sucked out all the breath after they dominated the opening skirmishes.

Then, a soul-destroying strike apiece from youngsters Christopher Wreh and Nicolas Anelka sent them crashing to the deck after the break.

It was all done with the same sharpness of mind, fleetness of feet and strength of body which carried Arsene Wenger's team to Double glory last season.

In fact, for all the fears about World Cup hangovers, Overmars and the French pair Vieira and Emmanuel Petit could have enjoyed a glass of champagne or two at half-time and it would have done no harm at all.

United looked like they had the same taste early on, but things turned more sour as every minute ticked by following Overmars' decisive opener.

They were left only with injured pride and more questions about their pounds 10.75million Dutch defender Jaap Stam.

Fair enough, just about anyone would have been wrong-footed by the deft back-flick performed by Dennis Bergkamp which led to Arsenal's first goal.

But he was clearly sucked out of position when Overmars surged forward and left Wreh free and unmarked to score the second.

And, finally, he was outpaced and then by-passed by the quick feet of Anelka when he fired in the third.

The slab-thighed Stam looked the part at most other times - like when he executed a superb sliding tackle to halt Overmars in his tracks in the 21st minute.

That was during the spell when United defied the 100-degree heat at pitch level and buzzed around like wasps fired up by the sunshine and eager to sting.

Gary Neville was booked after only two minutes for walloping into Overmars. Then Keane got into a couple of tangles with the long-legged Vieira to underline that United meant business.

All the while, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham looked to prise openings.

It was Butt who tested David Seaman with a low shot in the 10th minute.

However, the Gunners defence, which may now be approaching the combined age that could soon make it a listed monument, showed they are still a formidable barrier.

And slowly, but surely, Arsenal tuned once again into the rhythm that allowed them to waltz ahead of everyone last term.

The first sign of a shift in the balance of power came in the 19th minute when Seaman's long clearance sent Anelka scurrying towards goal and Stam had to keep pace all the way until Peter Schmeichel could tidy up.

Then Keane had to make a timely intervention after a thoughtful pass from Petit sent Overmars on another troublesome dart along the left.

Bergkamp's low 20-yard shot in the 31st minute was the final course of the starters - then he trickily set up the first goal four minutes later.

Vieira found Bergkamp, who was lurking just on the left of the 18-yard box, and the Dutch striker's back-flick to Anelka bamboozled his World Cup team-mate Stam.

Anelka took the loose ball and even if it looked suspiciously like a tug of the shirt he managed to beat the tumbling Ronny Johnsen and Overmars finished off the opening in emphatic fashion from 10 yards out.

A clever one-two between Bergkamp and Anelka almost produced an instant second goal, but Schmeichel did well to hold the French teenager's shot.

It always seemed likely the heat would drain the game of life in the second half. Yet Arsenal seemed to revel in it.

Substitute striker Wreh fired a shot on the run just wide in the 54th minute.

Then one minute later it was the energy of Overmars, surging once more down the left, which carved a second goal for the Gunners.

Gary Neville tumbled as he raced across to challenge while Stam carelessly moved wide too. That left Wreh eagerly awaiting Overmars' simple touch to the right and the young Gunner drove home at the second attempt after Schmeichel had gamely stopped his first effort.

United looked totally sapped. And in the 65th minute, Neville got so fed up with his tormentor Overmars, that he tried to crack him one in the face.

Arsenal boss Wenger stepped in to end Neville's torture by taking the flying Dutchman off immediately afterwards.

A minute earlier, Beckham had flared briefly into life when he directed a 25-yard free-kick just above the bar.

If it had gone in, it would have gloriously echoed his World Cup strike against Colombia. But it was the kind of day when luck was not on United's side.

Instead, Arsenal delivered the final slap in the face in the 70th minute. Ray Parlour's incisive ball from the middle sent Anelka charging away side by side with Stam.

The Arsenal man got himself in front and then drove in a sharp, left- foot shot he should never really have been allowed to attempt.

That came amid a flurry of substitutions which drew any remaining sting from the game. But there was one final, bitter moment to come for United.

Substitute Teddy Sheringham stubbed a 15-yard shot crudely wide, after being sent clear by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and that provoked howls of derision from the Arsenal end.

WEMBLEY ANALYSIS

GOALS

ARSENAL

3

MAN UTD

0

POSSESSION

55%

45%

CORNERS

2

11

OFFSIDES

3

5

BOOKINGS

2

3

SHOTS ON TARGET

7

2

SHOTS OFF TARGET

1

3

SEAMAN

The England No 1 had little to do, perhaps even less than on his last visit here when the Gunners lifted the FA Cup.

7/10

DIXON

The years may be rolling on, but this man seems to be getting younger. He didn't put a foot wrong all afternoon.

7/10

ADAMS

The Arsenal skipper must be developing sore arms with all the recent silverware he has lifted. Steady and mistake free.

7/10

KEOWN

Picked up a needless booking in the 21st minute, but after that looked as though he was enjoying himself in the sunshine.

7/10

WINTERBURN

Yet another rock solid display by the full-back. How England could have used him in France - perhaps he will get another chance.

8/10

VIEIRA

The World Cup winner must be enjoying these big occasions by now as he bossed the United midfield until he was substituted.

7/10

PETIT

Showed no signs of tiredness after France's World Cup win and loves the big occasion. This was no exception, a stroll in the park.

8/10

PARLOUR

As usual, he never stopped running and surely now it can only be a matter of time before he gets back into Hoddle's plans.

8/10

ANELKA

The young French star outpaced Stam for Arsenal's third and he looks certain to start the season as Bergy's strike partner.

8/10

BERGKAMP

A brilliant back-heel helped create the Gunners' first goal, but a quiet afternoon otherwise. Taken off at half-time.

6/10

OVERMARS

Finished the first goal off with an incredible shot from 15 yards, and looks to be taking up where he left off last season.

7/10

SCHMEICHEL

Couldn't really be faulted for the first two goals, although he might have done better when Anelka scored.

7/10

G NEVILLE

The England man put in a couple of rash tackles and didn't look his normal composed self - but he will be back.

6/10

JOHNSEN

The Norwegian, a bit like his defensive partner Stam, was pulled out of position frequently in the second half.

6/10

STAM

At pounds 10m, the United fans may be a little bit worried now about their latest acquisition, but let's reserve judgment.

5/10

IRWIN

The Irishman was never going to repeat his midweek heroics, and he was left exposed by some shaky work by the United midfield.

6/10

BUTT

Tackled like a tiger throughout the first half, but was taken off 10 minutes after the interval and United missed him.

7/10

BECKHAM

Pathetically booed, sadly as we all expected, but made few mistakes from his position on the right wing.

7/10

KEANE

United fans were delighted to see him back, and he did everything he could to stem the tide coming United's way.

7/10

COLE

Another who ran his heart out in the sunshine, but the mean Arsenal defence gave him few scraps to pick off.

6/10

GIGGS

The Welsh winger looked sharp early on but faded badly in the second half and was taken off with 20 minutes to go.

5/10

SCHOLES

The normally bustling England man looked tired and out of sorts and was replaced by Sheringham 20 minutes from time.

5/10

SUBSTITUTES

ARSENAL: Grimandi (6) replaced Vieira 83 minutes. Bould (6) for Adams 78 minutes. Wreh (7) replaced Bergkamp at half-time. Hughes (7) for Overmars 66 minutes. Boa Morte (6) replaced Petit 71 minutes.

MAN UTD: Solskjaer (7) replaced Butt 53 minutes. Sheringham (5) for Giggs 70 minutes. Cruyff (6) replaced Scholes 70 minutes. P Neville (7) for Cole 70 minutes. Berg (5) replaced Keane 76 minutes.

Ref: Graham Poll (Tring, Herts) (7).
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:DILLON, John
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 10, 1998
Words:1696
Previous Article:Smith hits new high.
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