|1||Van der Sar|
Slowly, United began to find gaps in the Gunners’ midfield and defence, and Wayne Rooney was agonisingly close to opening the scoring after 17 minutes, as he glanced Michael Carrick’s measured back-post cross narrowly past the upright.
From there, chances were few and far between for either side. United found Arsenal’s reshuffled backline hard to penetrate, while the visitors struggled to find the killer ball to crown their impressive approach play.
Giggs drilled over the bar from a difficult angle, but the half ended on a nervous note for United as Samir Nasri lashed a half-cleared corner goalwards. The Frenchman’s effort was heading off target, but could have deviated anywhere as it hit the unmarked van Persie. Fortunately for the Reds, the loose ball fell kindly and Nemanja Vidic was able to clear.
At the break, United had the required point to seal the title. However, the growing air of nervousness inside Old Trafford suggested a foreboding that Arsenal, with no great motivation of their own, could still gatecrash the party.
The Gunners were clearly in the mood to do so. The second half was barely underway when Cesc Fabregas was booked for following through on Evra. Moments later van Persie, already booked for hacking Ronaldo down, also caught the Frenchman. Referee Mike Dean lectured the Dutchman on his behaviour, before promptly booking Nasri for a cynical trip, again on the battered and bruised Evra.
As if to add a more dramatic backdrop to the now simmering atmosphere, proceedings were subjected to a brief, but torrential downpour which the the turf further zip. Both sides continued to pop passes around,