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Arsenal set to romp home as United fall from grace


Within the space of one minute, Arsenal took control of the English premier league and defending champions Manchester United fell from grace.

At 3.11 pm, in north London, Arsenal's veteran defender Tony Adams opened the scoring for Arsenal against Wimbledon, the first of a five-goal blitz.

A few seconds later, 200 miles north in Manchester, Swede Andreas Andersson rifled home a goal for Newcastle against Manchester United. The defending champions equalised, but could not claw back a victory.

Arsenal's crushing win put the Londoners on top of the premier league with a one point lead. They still have five games to play, while Manchester United have just three.

Saturday's games were a fair reflection of how everything is going smoothly for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and how everything has gone sour for Manchester United's Alex Ferguson.

As well as Adams, Dutch strikers Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp, France's Emmanuel Petit and Liberian Christopher Wreh got their names on the scoresheet as Arsenal turned in a confident and clinical performance.

Manchester United lost Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel with a thigh injury seven minutes after Newcastle's goal and he will be out for the rest of the season.

The defending champions, so confident and clinical just two months ago, looked nervous against a Newcastle team playing to stay in the premier league.

David Beckham snatched an equaliser seven minutes before half-time with a diving header from a perfect Ryan Giggs cross that reawoke memories of United at their best.

But the old confidence and razor sharp passing has disappeared and Newcastle were able to soak up the desparate Manchester attacks.

In the dying moments, United's Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hacked down Robert Lee from behind and was sent off for his profession foul, a sad end to a grim day for the illustrious Manchester team.

Ferguson said he was being realistic about United's title chances - Arsenal are now 7-1 on favourites - but that he would not be giving up. 'We can't surrender yet. Anything can happen, it's such a strange game.'

Wenger, who was reported on Saturday as saying he hoped to stay with the club until 1999, refused to say his team were certainties.

'There's still a long way to go. We have to stay cautious. It means a lot to win a championship but my only problem at the moment is that there's still a long way to go,' he said after the confident Arsenal performance. More

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Sunday, April 19, 1998, 1:39 AM London Time


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