What a spectacular weekend for Manchester United. The slow but sure resurgence took another leap forward in London, where the club took three vital points in a strange but satisfying 2-1 victory over an Arsenal team that just can’t seem to get anything going. For those who missed it, or those who simply want to read more about a great win, here are my five main thoughts on the match.
- The Football Gods Are Back
Anybody who watched can admit, however begrudgingly, that Arsenal had us on our heels for much of the first half. For a while, it looked like a matter of time before the Gunners would get out ahead. Indeed, even with both halves considered (the second was much more closely contested), The Guardian’s match report reveals a problematic 62% possession advantage for Arsenal. Despite this, however, for once it looked as if the football gods (whom I renounced some time around September 2013) may once again be favouring Man Utd. The 56th-minute own goal that ricocheted off of Kieran Gibbs was the sort of total fluke you just have to take in stride. Smile, accept the advantage, and tip your cap to the skies.
- Rooney’s Counter Was A Thing Of Beauty
The finish itself actually could have been cleaner; as it appeared backup Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez nearly got a finger on the shot. However, the play leading up to Wayne Rooney’s goal was beautiful. Fellaini led Di Maria perfectly, Di Maria found Rooney streaking toward the goal, and the break was on—exactly the sort of swift, sharp attack we all hope to see more of.
- Danny Welbeck & Louis Van Gaal Are Both Right
In a preview of the match this past weekend, Betbright quoted Danny Welbeck as suggesting that playing on the left wing for Man Utd. was a poor way to maximize his own skill, or that team’s potential. “I could make a bigger impact playing in my preferred position,” he said, adding that Arsenal is the perfect place for him to advance his career.
Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal has made no secret of the fact that he views Welbeck as an incomplete talent. Well, the anticipated meeting of Welbeck and his former club seemed to prove both right. Welbeck looked flat-out dangerous at times and showed clear indications of the potential we all know is there. Yet, he also failed to convert on several good chances. I actually feel that Welbeck will find a groove at Arsenal and have a very nice few years in the near future. But for now, United fans don’t have to miss him too badly.
- The Luke Shaw Injury Could Hurt
Watching Saturday’s match it was a little unclear what was going on with the defense. Frankly, it looked as if the United defenders were overachieving at times. Although, with Arsenal blowing chances on its own and the aforementioned football gods seemingly tilting tense moments in our favour, I found myself making a conscious effort not to get too excited about a back line appearing to show some improvement.
Whether or not the defense is getting better, it took a hit with the Luke Shaw injury. He went down 15 minutes in and later left the stadium on crutches and in a walking boot. And Express quoted Van Gaal as saying that replacement Ashley Young isn’t fit enough to play 90 minutes just yet. That bodes ill for the near future, but fortunately the schedule lightens up a bit in the next few weeks.
- Arsenal Isn’t A Top-Five Finisher
It’s a satisfying win, but if we’re honest about Saturday’s action, it’s also a game Arsenal should have won. The Gunners controlled possession and had a number of attractive chances, but there just seems to be a dark cloud over this year’s Arsenal club. We’ll take the three points against a perceived contender. Yet, aside from my hopes easing slightly higher for Man Utd., my main takeaway from Saturday was this: Arsenal just isn’t the club many keep expecting to see emerge. They have top-three talent, but they won’t finish top-five.