Manchester United rub salt on Arsenal's wounds with easy victory
The Old Trafford league fixture between Manchester United and Arsenal was a typical hot-blooded encounter, as is almost inevitable when these two teams meet. It was a game in which not much went right for Arsenal, with their defence living dangerously, springing ineffective offside traps, and Wilshere was sent off with two yellows for a couple of clumsy tackles. United were on top for most of the game; one which they were slight favourites to win, and Arsenal have Vito Mannone to thank for having escaped with a score line that is much more respectable than the one in this fixture last year.
The game began in the most dramatic manner possible with Arsenal’s fallen hero, Robin van Persie burying the ball into the back of the net within 3 minutes from the start. It was a fairly tame ball from Rafael that managed to make it to van Persie via Vermaelen, who should have done better, and found itself being dispatched towards goal by the league’s top-scorer. The Belgian defender will be kicking himself for not having been able to do anything with the ball, other than lay it off for van Persie, who needed no second invitation to send it into the bottom corner. Answering the question that’s been on everyone’s minds, van Persie chose not to celebrate against his former club, although his current teammates shared no such qualms.
Jack Wilshere, playing only his second competitive match since his return from injury, picked up the first of his two yellow cards in the 14th minute, when he went sliding in on Cleverley, but failed to win the ball. Mannone made his first great save of the night in the 28th minute, when he managed to palm away a fierce Rooney effort, before saving a relatively weak header from van Persie. There was very little in terms of action for much of the remainder of the half, with Ashley Young and Cleverley picking up yellow cards, but no clear cut opportunities being created.
It all changed in the 45th minute, as United were awarded a penalty after Cazorla was deemed to have handled the ball when he raised his hands to protect his face from Young’s corner. Not for the first time this season, sadly for United, it was a penalty that went unconverted. It was Wayne Rooney, who was perhaps deputizing for van Persie since it was against Arsenal, who was the culprit this time, putting his shot off target, and hitting the outside of the post on its way to the hoardings, when he really should have found the back of the net. In spite of the miss, it was Arsene Wenger who, no doubt, had the more difficult team talk to give, as the teams headed into half time at 1-0.
Arsenal had a slightly better start to the second half, and Giroud nearly scored in the 54th minute, when he hit the post after turning Evans. This boosted Arsenal’s spirits, and they had a decent wave of attack for the next ten minutes which, much to the disappointment of travelling fans, was ended by United’s second goal. Working a corner, United got the ball to Rooney out wide, and he sent in a sumptuous cross that was headed home by Patrice Evra for his second goal of the season. Yet again, Arsenal’s defence had been found wanting, failing to pick up the diminutive Frenchman, in spite of having great numbers in the box. 2 – 0 to United, in the 66th minute.
Slightly before the goal, Cleverley was very lucky to not find himself off the pitch with a second yellow, as Mike Dean chose to give the English midfielder his final warning instead. On the other side of the goal, Jack Wilshere was not quite as fortunate, receiving his marching orders after he went in late on goal scorer Evra, and ended up with a stamp on the left back. There were few complaints from the young midfielder himself, as he trudged back for an early shower, pondering what could have been.
It was a decision that put United in cruise control, playing much of the game in the opposing half, creating a few more opportunities than before. In fact, the ball would end up in the back of the Arsenal net 2 more times, from van Persie, and Anderson, only for both goals to be disallowed for having been scored from an offside position. Again, the action tailed off till the end of the half, with much of the action coming from Mike Dean who brandished four further yellow cards in the match.
De Gea was called on to make his first real save of the match in the 92nd minute. A clever ball from Walcott saw Giroud through on goal, only for De Gea to make himself big, and get a block in. There would be no clean sheet for the Spaniard though, as a small spell of pressure at the end of the game saw Santiago Cazorla find the back of the net with the last kick of the match, with a great shot from the edge of the box. The United defence could have done better, as an initial block was made, but the Spaniard got a second bite of the cherry, and made no mistake, showcasing what a good signing he has been for Arsenal.
It is a win that puts Manchester United first in the league, at least until Chelsea’s match at Swansea; a position that the Red Devils are quite familiar with. For Arsenal, however, it is yet another exhibition of their ineffective forward line-up, and Arsene Wenger will have some deep considerations to make, as his team leaves Old Trafford with no points taken.
Result: Manchester United (Robin van Persie 3’, Patrice Evra 66’) 2 – 1 Arsenal (Santiago Cazorla 90+4’)