3 takeaways from the Arsenal vs Manchester United match last weekend
On 2nd December 2017, the ever controversial fixture between Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United was played. The spectacle was set at the Emirates Stadium with Arsenal having a home advantage - something that didn't affect the United squad, that cruised away with a 3-1 victory.
With this particular fixture, however, the scores at the end of the match do little to tell the whole story and do even less justice to Arsenal who, without a doubt, were the better team moving forward, throughout the match.
Arsenal went into the game with a starting line-up of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, Héctor Bellerín, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolašinac, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Alexandre Lacazette.
Manchester United, on the other hand, went with a line-up of David de Gea, Victor Lindelöf, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Ashley Young (in sublime form), Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku. The referee for the game was Andre Marriner.
With regard to tactics going into the game, both teams employed the same 3-4-2-1 formation, with Arsenal deploying Koscielny, Mustafi and Monreal at the back, and Mourinho giving Rojo his first start since his injury, alongside Lindelof and Smalling at the back.
For Manchester United, the game plan was clear: allow Arsenal to have the ball and soak up some pressure, and hit them on the counter-attack when the opportunity presents itself. Mourinho also made it clear to the front three to put pressure on Arsenal's back line and force a turnover of possession (a play that went on to result in two goals for Mourinho's side).
Without further ado, here are three takeaways from the game from Manchester United's perspective:
#1 David De Gea is the best keeper in the Premier League
The fact that the Spanish stopper is head and shoulders above the rest in the Premier League was further reinforced against Arsenal. Despite the fact that Manchester United would go on to score three goals, De Gea was the best player on the side (with the Mirror giving him the highest match rating on the team at 8).
He was a superhuman throughout the game, making saves on the line to deny both Sanchez and Lacazette. At the end of the match, he had equalled the record for the most saves in a Premier League game, with a staggering total of 14, and as the Mirror unequivocally put it, "This win would not have been possible without him."
#2 Lindelof and Rojo still need some work
Typified by the way in which Arsenal got their only goal, the Manchester United defence seemed incohesive at many times. Sanchez was roaming across the edge of the box, ready to put in a cross as was anticipated.
When he eventually did put one across to Ramsey, Rojo was immobile, only raising a hand towards the referee, presumably because he thought Ramsey was offside when he took the pass.
His aloofness for many parts of the game led to Arsenal taking a multitude of shots and breaking down the defence time and time again. Lindelof seems to have improved after his performance against Huddersfield, but his vision and lack of awareness from time to time are problems that need to be worked on.
Only time will tell if the pair gets better, but especially with Lindelof, telling signs of improvements are beginning to show. Pairing them as the two centre-backs, however, might be a mistake against top-tier oppositions.
#3 Lingard and Martial are the real deal
Not a knock on the likes of the abilities of players like Rashford and Mkhitaryan but with the irresistible way Jesse Lingard and Antony Martial are playing at the moment, it is really hard to see them on the bench.
Both of them worked tirelessly against Arsenal, carrying counter-attack upon counter-attack and terrorizing the Arsenal defence at every turn. Koscielny had a rough day at the office because of these two.
With Martial's run of form being something we’ve been used to for a while, Lingard has seemed to turn it around over the course of these past few weeks, scoring and assisting against Watford and now bagging two against Arsenal. Mourinho has a serious decision on his hands, with these two enjoying the red-hot form that they are on at the moment.
It is a great time to be a Manchester United supporter. Although they seemed lost for many parts of the game against Arsenal, their decisiveness and killer instinct saw them through.
David de Gea is sublime and doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon, and with both, Lingard and Martial, are playing wonderful football at the moment, the outlook for the future seems positive.
For Arsenal, it looks to be a case where the better team didn't win the match. They had more of the ball (with 75% possession), created more chances and had more shots (both on target and off target, with 21 and 13 respectively). United just seemed to have luck, tactical superiority, decisiveness and of course, de Gea on their side.