It was all over in 11 minutes.
It must have been bewildering and frightening to find the team down by a couple, before your bum had warmed the seat. With Man Utd playing like this a weather advisory was called for so that fans could have stayed home.Yes, Wenger could not have foreseen Gibbs losing his footing or Almunia being beaten by Ronaldo's 40 yard free kick.
We can console ourselves as if these mistakes were the reasons for the loss but the overwhelming sense was that of a team comprehensively and utterly outplayed. Man Utd could have won in any combination of ways even if they were not bestowed these gifts. Even Kafka could not have written this better. Ronaldo was Gregor Samsa, a terrifying figure whose unstoppable presence turned Arsenal's legs to jelly every time he touched the ball.
Think of all the blighted young players on the team after this match and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. Lukacz Fabianski and Kieran Gibbs, in particular. Wenger's cause is noble but it can also be very cruel. They will undoubtedly bounce back from that bloodied nose but there may be sleepless nights, dry mouth, restless legs, and nightmares. Yes, nightmares.
I do hope with all my heart that Wenger does not sugar coat this loss. To his credit he did not do so in the presser. He was quite pensive but justified his approach with the usual noises about experience being over valued and the quality of this young team. The precocity of talent is indisputable but we have had many iterations where it is has proven not enough to take us to the next level. Wenger in the end supplies the answer to that conundrum.
"Tonight we were caught by a team who has the art to kill and take advantage of mistakes."
This will continue to happen if we turn our nose at proven quality. Arshavin has already become invaluable. We need to stiffen our defense, especially at the center. Another quality central midfielder to complement Fabregas. A proven goal scorer of the highest caliber. Wenger of course needs the support of the board which I fully expect will happen but the attitude needs to change. We need to pay good money, even exorbitant money for those players. It takes a certain amount of courage to do that. Frankly, we have gotten so used to the basement bargains, that a brazen offer like that of Man U for Ribery might leave us in need of therapy but Wenger and the board need to start the process of bringing that quality to our team.
As for Man Utd, it never continues to amaze me, with all the titles in hand, the hunger and intensity never dissipates for yet one more. We might talk of moments of inattention which the rest of the league celebrates as a sign that this year might finally prove different but they come right back up, eyes once more firmly on the prize. When it comes to match preparation, Sir Alex remains unparalleled. They fully deserve their place in the finals.