Arsenal were the defending Champions but in the lead up to this match, you would not have believed it reading the media reports. Anelka was useless and Seaman past it. An unknown Swede on the bench. Winning one and drawing four of their opening five games was a signal that Arsenal were in decline.
Not that Manchester United were any better. They had meekly surrendered the title the year before, offering little more this season. Liverpool were already favourites to win the Premier League, United had won two and drawn two as their season opened. Qualifying comfortably past Lodz in the Champions League, they had blown a two goal lead in the first group match against Barcelona, drawing 3 – 3.
The match was already won when Freddie Ljungberg left the bench to make his Arsenal debut. The icing on the cake came when he scored the first of his seventy-two goals at the club. It was his only one of the season.
But that did not matter. Arsenal had paid £3m for the Swede not noted for his prolific scoring in his career at Halmstad, averaging a goal every ten games. His game was more than that and Arsenal’s return on the initial investment was many fold greater than the amount of his fee.