Gameweek 8, The Emirates Stadium: Arsenal clinched 3-0 victory over Manchester United with the goals coming in the first 20 minutes of the game. The Red Devils were completely outclassed by the North London club.
A Purple Patch?
Coming at the back of a victory over Wolfsburg in the Champions League to get up and running in the elite competition, the mood in the United camp was one of elation! It was the start of one of the first long test of United’s title credentials, with games against Manchester City and Everton following suit. Van Gaal started off his pre-match press conference by acknowledging the threat that Arsene Wenger’s side posed.
United also welcomed back Michael Carrick from injury.
Arsenal on the other hand were returning to domestic duty after a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Greek club Olympiakos at home. This was their second consecutive European loss and the fury among the fans looked at its worst. United on the other hand were back in the mix after their midweek victory inspired by Chris Smalling and Van Gaal. The Dutchman brought on Carrick and Schweinsteiger in midfield with Ashley Young and Darmian playing as full-backs. It was an unchanged attacking line-up with Memphis, Martial, Mata and Rooney forming the attacking quartet.
Irresistible and Unplayable
Arsenal started off all guns blazing with an early signal of intent, as within 6 minutes De Gea had to take the ball out from back of his net. Mesut Ozil made space down the right wing and slid in a peach of a cross in for Alexis Sanchez to brilliantly flick the ball past a hapless David De Gea.
Just as United thought they needed to settle on the ball, in just under a minute, Gunners caught the United defense napping again with Ozil finding himself on the score-sheet this time around. Theo Walcott picked out the run of Ozil as he coolly side-footed past the United goalkeeper. Within 10 minutes, Arsenal fans were growing ballistic at their side’s response after the heavy criticism Wenger faced during mid-week.
With United desperately trying to create some foot hold into the game by stringing a few neat passes, electrifying Arsenal struck again. Theo Walcott was involved yet again as he tricked his way past a crumbing line of United defenders, before finding Alexis Sanchez near the edge of the box. He strode the ball across goal past a clutch of United defenders, before blasting the ball into the top corner to leave United stunned! Twenty minutes in, United looked dead and out. Arsenal almost made it four with Ramsey volleying wide after being played on the back post by Alexis Sanchez.
With half time approaching United finally looked like responding with Anthony Martial. Darmian played the ball on the French striker, who controlled the ball on the turn and shot, only to be denied by the feet of Petr Cech. Arsenal seemed to have trapped United as they controlled much of the game in the first half. United’s back four looked all over the place as Darmian couldn’t handle the irresistible Alexis Sanchez.
Fighting for a Response
Louis Van Gaal opted for a double substitution bringing on Antonio Valencia and Felliani in place of Darmian and Depay for the second half. United needed a goal to have some hope of exploiting Gunners fragility at the back having had the tendency to concede after scoring. Young almost provided a response when his trademark cut from the left found him with enough space to shoot, only for Cech to claim to the ball. 60 minutes in, Wayne Rooney shot from the edge of the box as Cech brilliantly tipped the ball over.
The Arsenal goalkeeper displayed what Wenger missed during the mid-week clash against Olympiakos. Wenger was forced to defend his selection of goalkeeper David Ospina, describing recent criticism as “not analysis of football”. Cech once again showed, why he is considered one of the best in the business as he bravely blocked Bastian Schweisteiger’s shot after some clever play from Carrick, Rooney and Mata. Arsenal seemed to be content with the score-line and sat back only to try and hit United on the break.
Arsenal were almost successful as Ozil broke away only to have his shot saved by David De Gea. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain clipped the bar late on, as Arsenal fans were given a memorable evening to savor with 1999, being the last time the Gunners put three past their bitter rivals. Manchester United on the other hand, had a night to forget as the full time whistle blew with plenty to ponder ahead of the tricky pack of ties awaiting them.
Man of the Match- Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean attacking player was at his mesmerizing best as he gave United trouble all afternoon. The Arsenal man was a tiring menace throughout the game and made it 6 goals in three games as he scored twice to put a hapless United on the sword. His 18 yard belter crushed United and brings up an unwanted record of conceding three goals under 20 minutes for the first time in the Barclays Premier League.
Failure in a first real test
Sanchez and Walcott’s nerve wrecking pace caught both Young and Blind off guard. United’s ability to keep the ball, which allows the midfield to dominate was thwarted as Arsenal blew them away in the first 15 minutes. Schweinsteiger and Carrick both are excellent passers of the ball but they just didn’t possess the pace against Arsenal’s counter- attacks. Arsenal controlled the game with Ramsey, Carzola and Coquelin bossing the centre-midfield. Even though the introduction of Felliani stabilized the midfield and allowed United more time on the ball in the second half ( United had 72.5% possession) but Arsenal’s early menacing display had already decided the fate of the game much earlier.
Manchester United who were sitting at the top of the table before this week’s fixtures now find themselves slipping to third with Arsenal taking up their position one behind league leaders Manchester City, who thumped Newcastle United 6-1 with Sergio Aguero scoring 5 goals for his side. A two week international break will give Van Gaal plenty of time to ponder over what could have been done but there isn’t much time to reflect as United face another daunting trip to Goodison Park, which incidentally proved to be the pinnacle game of David Moyes’s managerial reign at Old Trafford. Co-incidentally, Brendan Rodgers has also been sacked by Liverpool following their 1-1 draw in the Merseyside Derby.