Ramsey winner for Arsenal caps fairytale comeback

In turning in a matchwinning display in Sunday’s encounter between Arsenal and Manchester United, Aaron Ramsey offered the clearest indication yet that he has bounced back to his very best since suffering that terrible double-leg fracture at the Britannia Stadium 14 months ago. Making only his second Premier League start of the season, the 20-year-old Welshman’s winning goal capped a fine performance in which he formed a dynamic, best-of-British central midfield partnership with PFA Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere.

Ramsey’s goal marked the pinnacle of a comeback over a year in the making. Arsenal’s medical team has received much criticism in recent years for its handling of injuries to stars such as Robin van Persie, Thomas Rosicky and Thomas Vermaelen. Yet the north London club took no chances with Ramsey, and no effort was made to rush him back, allowing him to heal slowly away from the spotlight. On returning to training, the Welsh starlet was allowed to regain fitness and confidence with two loan spells at high-flying Championship clubs. While the first of these, at Nottingham Forest, proved something of a false start, as he made just two starts, a return to boyhood team Cardiff made a big difference. Gradually during his time with the Bluebirds, Ramsey began to recapture the form that earmarked him as one of the most exciting young midfielders in the Premier League before his injury, with his vision and passing range coming increasingly to the fore once again. An assist for the winner in the heated South Wales derby with Swansea was the high point of his second stint in the Welsh capital.

Despite making encouraging progress, it was still something of a surprise to see him selected for the game against Manchester United. While the end of the Gunners’ title hopes took the pressure off somewhat, Ramsey’s previous start this season had seen him last just 57 minutes in a tepid draw with West Brom. Given the high profile nature of the game some describe as the “English Clasico” it would not have been a surprise to see Andrei Arshavin drafted into the team, with Samir Nasri moving into the middle. Wenger’s faith in the Welsh captain was totally vindicated however, as he and Wilshere provided energy and guile in equal measure. While it was Ramsey whose tidy, low finish decided the game, he was nominally the more defensive of the midfield partnership, breaking up the play with perhaps surprising efficiency for a creative player and helping to create space for the marauding Wilshere to exploit. The duo’s performance went a long way towards suggesting that there is life after Fabregas for Arsenal, should their captain make his anticipated departure this summer. Moreover, with the Olympics approaching, any possible UK football team has surely found its beating heart in the Welsh/English axis in the Gunners’ engine room.

Next weekend gives Aaron Ramsey the chance to exorcise his demons as he returns to the Potteries with Arsenal, and to the scene of that dreadful injury sustained last March. Yet the Welsh captain has shown he is made of stern stuff, and having bounced back from adversity, he is set to go from strength to strength. Ask Manchester United.

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