A match billed to be a tight affair turned out to be just that, but only in terms of the scoreline as it proved to be a thrilling contest. Manchester United managed to put a dent in Arsenal’s title challenge with a stunning performance from their youngsters. Having enjoyed a 5-1 win against Midjtylland on Thursday, they carried on their run of good games against the Gunners as goals from Rashford and Ander Herrera were enough to get United over the line despite resistance from Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil. Essentially Sports takes a look at five talking points from the heated affair.
Manchester United have been depleted with injuries and this has led to many of their Academy graduates getting their first team chances. Marcus Rashford who only made his debut on Thursday because Martial picked up an injury on match day, got himself two goals against the Danes to earn a start against Arsenal. And he followed up his debut heroics with more of the same in his Premier League debut as he put the Gunners’ defence to the sword. The youngster scored two well taken goal and did wonderfully on the counter-attack to set up Ander Herrera for United’s third. His tireless running made life hard for the Arsenal back four and he has surely earned the attractions of football scouts across the globe.
United had at one point of the match, 6 academy graduates playing on the pitch, with 9 of them involved in the match day in total, and the youngsters looked calm, composed and very efficient as Arsenal tried to break them down. Jesse Lingard continued his impressive run in the first team with another assist and it was Varela’s cross that led to United’s first goal. Whether Louis van Gaal carries on at the helm next season or not, whoever takes over at Old Trafford will have a promising bunch of youngsters to add squad depth if not challenge for starting positions and the future looks bright for United.
A rivalry that used to be one of the most heated affairs at one point in the Premier League had started to fizzle out, with Arsenal becoming irrelevant in title races and United dominating the fixture for the longest time. Even as the matches continued to have a competetiveness in terms of the quality of football being played, it had started to become more of a footballing affair than the passionate events it used to be. From the Keane Vieira rivalry to the reaction to van Nistelrooy’s missed penalty to Pizzagate to Fabregas mocking Anderson, many memorable moments have emerged out of this fixture.
Tonight proved to be another heated affair after a long time, with the referee dishing out cards over the duration of the match. The talking point was definitely the scuffle between Ramsey and Herrera which was followed by Louis van Gaal dramatically falling over on the touchline to signal towards Arsenal players having feather feet. In a match that was definitely a two sided affair, and with so much on the line for both teams, it certainly brought out the emotions from both sides.
Two weeks back, Danny Welbeck made his first appearance of the season, coming off the bench to score a last gasp winner for Arsenal against league leaders Leicester. Today, the Englishman got Arsenal’s first goal of the night and kept them in the match having gone down two goals, and it was his shot that led to Arsenal’s second as well. With Theo Walcott looking out of sorts off late and Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez also losing their goalscoring form, the goals have dried up for Arsene Wenger’s men off late but Danny Welbeck’s return to fitness and form may just be the cure for that problem.
The Englishman was a livewire for Arsenal, as he troubled his former team more than anyone else in the Arsenal lineup. His mazy runs and good link up play were crucial to Arsenal creating the little number of chances they did create. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that he can carry on his goalscoring form in the league as the title race looks to get tougher and tougher.
The Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford with a £25m price tag but has failed to live up to the billing so far. However, he turned heads with his stunning display against FC Midjtylland and carried on in the same vein against Arsenal. The young winger was full of pace and trickery as he kept Hector Bellerin quiet for all of the match. The young full back could rarely venture forward and struggled to get Depay off the ball.
The Old Trafford faithful will no doubt be happy to see their new signing putting up performances like these, and will hope that it’s an upward curve from here on for Depay. Having been pushed back to the bench for the last few weeks, he has got his chances due to injuries and is right now utilising them to his fullest potential. While goals will soon follow, such displays will only make United a more lethal attacking side as it’s no coincidence that United’s two best performances have come with his rise in form.
Often Arsene Wenger is heard lauding the character and team spirit of his Gunners. But the worrying sign for Arsenal is that this said character and spirit often go missing in the most crucial of times, which begs people to ask if it is really enough to win a title. The 3-2 defeat marks Arsenal’s 9th consecutive Premier League defeat at Old Trafford, keeping in line with the mental block narrative that has been built up by so many. But Arsenal have too many such mental blocks. Their two defeats to Chelsea in a year where the Blues have failed so miserably and their likely exit at the round of sixteen for the fifth year running leave you with the feeling that they just can’t step it up when it matters.
A red card allowed Arsenal to fight back from the jaws of defeat against Leicester, but every time Arsenal look like they may be favourites for the title, they do something to bottle it up. With a crucial tie against Tottenham coming up next weekend after their mid-week clash against Swansea, Arsenal will need to step up their game a couple of notches as their neighbours from North London are slowly slipping out of their reach and are in a rich vein of form. Arsenal won’t see a better chance to win the title than this year, and they haven’t since 2007/08, and Arsene Wenger needs to get all his guns firing. With the new TV deal around the corner, Guardiola taking over at City and rumours of Conte to Chelsea and Mourinho to United, the league is going to get much more competitive from next year and chances are Arsenal won’t have it as easy as they have this year.