The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Arsenal 1 – 3 Manchester United: Dot Dot Dot

I’m assuming no one here is going to blame me for not breaking down the tactics or looking up appropriate Lorca quotes. Maybe history would usually shiver if the world’s second-most-idealistic team played the world’s second-most-pragmatic team in a Champions League semifinal, but history was busy reading Chelsea-Barcelona previews and passed this game right by. 

At the moment, I’m struggling even to care about the end of the Premier League season, and this was every reason why, right down to the way Ronaldo increasingly looks like he’s doing the Church Lady’s Superiority Dance when he buds out his lips after a goal. For the first few minutes, I was trying to nourish hope and convince myself that anything could happen, but fifteen minutes in, it was clear that Manchester United are still just a lot more grown-up than Arsenal, and that this was going to be less about opposed philosophies or poised forces than a heavy weight leaning on a light one. Which just isn’t that interesting, even if Ronaldo’s free kick was stunning. Which, of course, it was.

One serious question. We all know what Arsenal “means,” or what they’re supposed to mean. But how much has that meaning changed over the last few seasons? The background question here is whether the commitment to their style of football, or any style of football, can sustain itself indefinitely as a positive idea in the absence of the ability to win.  Or is there an underlying sense of tragedy in that case that eventually blots it out.

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Arsenal 1 – 3 Manchester United: Dot Dot Dot

by Brian Phillips · May 5, 2009

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