The current incarnation of the Arsenal are picking up notices reminiscent of those handed out to Matt Busby's youthful charges some 50 years ago. With Wenger as Philosopher King and Cesc as a 21st century Duncan Edwards, those plaudits are not too fanciful. Of course, Busby's Babes weren't to see out their destiny, cut down at Munich. When the 50 year anniversary rolls round in February, look out for one of your correspondent's favourite football clips. At an Old Trafford re-opened less than eleven years earlier after wartime bombing, representatives of the German medical staff who treated the victims of the crash are introduced to the crowd. They walk around the perimeter to tumultuous applause from the terraces as they sheepishly wave, palpably overcome with the reception. And there's a lump in my throat just writing that.
So it was High Noon at Highbury (well 12.45pm at the Emirates, but that sounds like an appointment with a powerpoint presentation) for this week's Match of the Millenium as the Wenger Babes faced up to the Old Age Pensioner's XI. After a dull first period, the game came to life with Little Cesc's clever equaliser just after half-time. Quite how the Boy-King was left alone on the penalty spot to pass the ball into the net is anyone's guess. Sir Alex stopped swearing at the officials long enough to introduce ace-card Louis Saha, who soon played in Evra to give Ronaldo an open goal for 1-2 and that looked like the match, with just some bullying for the officials from Sir Alex (preparing the ground for the return match you see) to occupy us. But up popped Willam Gallas' silly haircut for a smart finish (and a smarter call from the linesman) and it's 2-2, honours even and off to a whinging press conference for the managers and the pub for the fans. The quietly impressive Avram Grant's Chelsea, 0-2 winners over a eerily passive Wigan, proved to be the beneficiaries, along with the inevitable one billion viewers who saw a fine game in the end. (Are they the same one billion viewers who tune into Miss World and the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics?) Such passivity at the JJB cost Chris Hutchings his job - nobody was surprised; everyone was sympathetic.
The Toon Army had barely sat down at St James' before they were up again and storming out as Portsmouth took advantage of defending that would have shamed a Beach Football team to take a 0-3 lead in the first 11 minutes. It ended 1-4 with Big Sam looking as out of place in the North-East as Happy 'Arry looks suited to the South-West. With Jose Mourinho still not employed, Rafa Benitez picked a bad week to shuffle his pack (though forced by injuries) and serve up a monochrome performance, as Liverpool racked up a fifth draw in their last seven league games. With Rafa's team treading water in seventh, would it be wrong to claim that Liverpool's entire season could finish with a midweek draw against Besiktas? Even if a win is secured, Liverpool appear too reliant on the goals of Torres to mount a challenge for the PL or CL.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, there were some fine goals and empty seats. Tottenham welcomed Juande Ramos by typically conceding a lead to draw with Middlesborough - Dimitar Berbatov, left out of the starting XI, was unavailable for comment, but might be available for Liverpool. Injury-hit Fulham picked up a much needed win over Reading at the Cottage, where Mark Clattenburg showed no feel for the game at all in sending off an 18 year-old debutant for a marginal second yellow in the last play of the match - I hope Clattenburg enjoyed that frisson of power. It was Villa's turn to beat Derby, which they did by a predictable 2-0, but Everton left it late to run out 3-1 winners over Birmingham City, the last goal coming from James Vaughan on his return from injury - mark that name.
Sunday's game saw West Ham live up to the stereotype by conceding a late equaliser to a desperate Anelkaless Bolton - who might just have the dog in them to fight their way safety. Sunderland's manager has the dog in him, but does his team? After their 1-0 reverse at Eastlands, they hover above the trapdoor with the fatal "points fewer than games" ratio and overly dependent on Kenwynne Jones for goals. Manchester City, incredibly, are third just two points off the lead - Sven knows his football, as well as his babes.