In a game that will not be mistaken for a classic — or an average affair for that matter — Manchester United outclass Arsenal in a thoroughly convincing win at Old Trafford.
- It didn’t take long for Robin van Persie to haunt his former club, capitalizing on a horrible Thomas Vermaelen mistake and placing a perfect strike in the left corner. It was a disastrous start for an Arsenal side that was already thin on belief. While much of the focus will be placed on Vermaelen’s howler, van Persie did extremely well. That’s why you don’t sell your best player to a rival – a conversation for another day. van Persie’s subdued celebration seemed almost apologetic. Class on his part.
- When the team sheets were announced the twitterati howled at the Andre Santos – Antonio Valencia match up. The predicted bloodbath came to fruition. Santos’ performance was less than poor, flailing at Valencia on repeated occasions. To cap a terrible half, the Brazilian took van Persie’s shirt as the two teams walked to the tunnel. The fact that he took the field after the break was embarrassing.
- Arsenal settled in after the opening minute shocker, but their inability to penetrate a less than stellar United defense was a harbinger of things to come. Wayne Rooney kept Mikel Arteta in his pocket all game — when Arteta is shutdown Arsenal go to sleep.
- Both teams were incredibly sloppy in the first half. United continued to dominate the right flank, but failed to add to their lead. Wayne Rooney’s penalty miss at the end of the half summed up the poor quality of play. Why van Persie didn’t take the kick was mind boggling.
- The final 45 began with Arsenal supporters chanting ‘Theo” and “Wenger sort it out.” Another Vermaelen blunder led to an excellent chance for United that was bungled by Valencia. The fact that he is the captain should not render the Belgian undroppable. He needs to sit.
- Walcott did take the field, replacing a hobbled Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal began to create chances — relative to the first half at least, they failed to register a shot on goal until injury time. The red devils continued to play with sloppy malaise, gifting Arsenal the ball on several occasions.
- The battle between Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere provided the most interesting tactical battle of the match. Both on yellows, the English pair were to lucky to escape reds after rash challenges early in the half. Ferguson opted to replace Cleverley before he drew a second yellow. Wenger left Wilshere in — not that he had much choice. The Arsenal midfielder would be sent off soon later. Wilshere was lucky he didn’t draw a red before that point.
- The home side would seal the result in the 67th minute. Ashley Young found van Persie alone in the box, drawing an excellent save from Vito Mannone — Arsenal’s best player on this day — though the play looked to be slightly off side. Off the ensuing corner Rooney found Patrice Evra, whose header killed any fight left in the Gunners.
- Santi Cazorla added a goal for the Gunners in injury time, but the scoreline was kind to Arsenal. This was an awful performance from a club mired in an identity crisis. In some ways this was worse than the 8-2 thrashing last year. That game could be explained by the absence of many key players from the Gunners starting lineup. The players Wenger will rely this season were all there today. Before the game Harry Redknapp said Arsenal achieving fourth with this squad would be Wenger’s greatest achievement. I don’t think he’s wrong.
- Manchester United move top of the table — at least for now — and continue their excellent league form. The trio of Rooney, Young and Valencia were terrific, exposing Arsenal’s lack of width and eliminating the threat of Arteta and Cazorla.
1. Wayne Rooney
2. Antonio Valencia
3. Vito Mannone