Manchester United and Arsenal used to come together and bludgeon each other. Physically it could be a stunning spectacle in the years when the enmity between Ferguson and Arsene Wenger used to manifest itself spectacularly out on the field. More often than not, the football would be of the highest quality too.
Here in Manchester on Sunday, it was all rather different. A transitional United side missing key players met an Arsenal team that peculiarly seemed unwilling to engage for the opening hour. This was shadow boxing, Arsenal-Manchester United lite.
Right there from my seat where I sat trying to stream the game, I really couldn’t figure out what was wrong with this our Arsenal.
For most part of the game it seemed as though United players had smoked some stuff, they were everywhere, blocking every ball, intercepting every pass.
Our players did not even make it easy for people like me watching the match from our laptops after struggling to get good wifi, they were all over the place. Even Cazorla could barely complete passes at that time. Herrera was bossing the midfield and had a pass accuracy of 100% for the first half.
Falcao was given a start ahead of Robin as he looked to be waving goodbye to the old Trafford faithfuls, His performance, willing but short of a yard, had perhaps summed up his year in England.
United goalkeeper David de Gea, meanwhile, also left the field early with an injury. From the young Spaniard there were no telling gestures but after the game his manager Louis van Gaal talked candidly of the obvious lure of De Gea’s homeland.
Football wise, Arsenal took a really long time to get their engine started and by then it was already past the hour mark.
Earlier, Wenger’s team were emotionally absent, allowing their great rivals to dominate possession and develop momentum. At half-time, their manager must have stripped the paint from the walls.
As it turned out, Arsenal’s late improvement was enough. They equalized and could have won had Olivier Giroud possessed a genuine goal scorer’s instinct. The point they gained was less important than the two they ultimately forced United to drop.
Kudos to Wenger for his subs tho and a bigger kudos to Van Gaal for bringing Blackett on, dude literally gave us that goal as Walcott was all over him and all. Some good play from Wilshere too, it has to be said.
Speaking after the game, about the second half performance Wenger said ” I am pleased with the performance. The only regret I have is that we didn’t take the three points in the second half. We started the first half slowly, Manchester United were sharper at the beginning, and we were a bit stretched as well width and length-wise. The second half we were more compact and we took over. We showed a great response and got a deserved point.
And on finishing third, he said “Satisfaction is always a tricky question. If they’d asked me in October then I would have said yes. Overall of course you want to be first but 17 teams would exchange position with you. It is a continuity in our results and it is a platform to do better next season. That’s our aim.
A victory at home to Sunderland on Wednesday and Wenger and his players will have a guarantee of a third placed finish.