STEVEN HOWARD - Chief sports writer
Even at 34.
For the second time the roof almost came off The Emirates as Thierry Henry moved off his defender, picked up a superb ball from Alex Song on the left of the box and stroked a right-foot shot into the far corner.
It was a trademark, drop-the-shoulder finish that reeked of the Arsenal glory years and Henry in his pomp. The old Va Va Voom.
The Comeback Kid then ran and embraced Arsene Wenger while, up in the stands, overwrought Arsenal fans were hugging whoever was in the next seat.
Irrespective of whether they had ever met.
They had almost taken the roof off a couple of hours earlier as the great man emerged from the tunnel for his pre-match warm-up.
Then they cheered him all the way back down again.
Women blew him kisses — and a few men, too.
What the heck, Thierry was back.
They were on their feet again as he did a few sprints down the touchline just after half-time.
As an Arsenal side minus Robin van Persie continued to struggle in vain to unlock the Leeds defence, the cries grew louder and louder.
By the time he finally made his entrance for the hopeless Marouane Chamakh after 68 minutes, they were almost beside themselves.
Little did they know that full-blown euphoria was just round the corner.
The only surprise was that when the moment for his grand entrance came Henry didn’t arrive by parachute.
Dropping in on the centre- circle from a plane piloted by one of the Red Arrows.
Instead, he emerged to a crescendo of cheers from an Arsenal bench he had been sharing with players like Ryo Miyaichi, Nico Yennaris and Damian Martinez.
Young men he would had to have looked up in the Arsenal players’ guide to discover exactly who they were.
So quickly does time fly that Song was the only man he had played alongside.
But some things never change. Henry, as ever, was the man the fans were looking to for salvation. As ever, Henry kept moving into promising positions. But it seemed time might run out without a Vieira or a Fabregas to give him the ball.
Oh, we of little faith.
And then Song saw the opening. Henry’s right foot did the rest. And we were reminded once again that, in the words of Carly Simon, Nobody does it better.
It had been some 1,769 days since he had played his last game for the Gunners.
And over 12 years since he joined the club as a winger from Juventus.
In between, he had established himself as probably the finest player the Premier League had ever seen.
Along the way he:
Became the club’s record goalscorer with 226 goals in 370 games.
Scored both the last goal at Highbury and the first at The Emirates in Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial.
Topped the Prem scoring charts four times.
Became the only man to win the European Golden Shoe twice in a row.
Was voted Arsenal’s greatest player by fans. On top of that, there were two titles, three FA Cups and a bronze statue carved in his honour.
Arsenal punters had been waiting for this day ever since it was first suggested a return was on the cards.
In fact, they had been waiting for more like 4½ years.
Henry may have been reincarnated in the No 12 shirt but many had dusted down the old Henry 14 numbers.
Certainly, there was an air of optimism around.
Far more optimism than should have been afforded a team that had scored only six goals in six games and just four in the last four at home.
A team, apart from Van Persie, whose so- called strikers have been little short of an embarrassment — four in 25 for Gervinho, one in 20 for Theo Walcott, two in 24 for Andriy Arshavin and two in 39 for Chamakh.
No wonder they needed the old boy back.
He didn’t let them down.
Dear Arsenal supporter,
Monday night was a special occasion with Thierry Henry making his comeback but I was not surprised that he scored the winning goal.
Already in training I have seen that he is sharp and ready to play, and I would not put him on the pitch if he was not ready because that would be unfair.
Thierry is a special player and what is good for the young players at the club is that a guy who has done it all comes and prepares 100 per cent, warms up, is focused and motivated, and comes on with an immense desire to do well.
Before he went on I just told him to play through the middle. You don’t need to tell him too much more because he has seen it all and done it all. You could see when he came on he had a presence on the pitch and if we could find him, we knew he would be dangerous.
He was already a legend here and now he has added a bit more to the story. It was a very happy dressing room afterwards because the players were very happy when he decided to come back. He gives us other options offensively as well.
As for Thierry’s goal, it was a little bit like a dream. It’s the kind of football story you tell to children because our game is not often like that. But sometimes it happens and it happened for Thierry.
Robin van Persie will be back for the Swansea game and I have not decided yet whether I will play him and Thierry together from the start. They can play together, of course, and they did play together before Thierry left five years ago.
Thierry got all the headlines after Monday night but it was a team effort and I want to praise my players for their spirit and determination against a difficult Leeds United side. We worked very hard and just missed something in our finishing until late in the game.
The only negative was that Francis Coquelin suffered a hamstring injury and I expect him to be out for a few weeks. I hope Johan Djourou will be back for Sunday’s game at Swansea and if we can find another defensive solution we will take it.
Thanks for your support.