I cannot decide what I like more- when we play badly and still win comfortably, or when we play well and win comfortably. I say that because the former scenario actually implies we are way better than the opponents- and an actual good performance might have sent them scurrying home way before the final whistle blew.
United’s game against Arsenal today fell in the former category. We were as wasteful as we’ve ever been but hardly broke a sweat in dispatching an admittedly rank Arsenal side. Whilst the 3 points delight me and being top of the league sends me into ecstasy- let me take a moment to reflect on the fall from grace of one of our greatest rivals of the Premier League era. Arsenal, of the invincibles of 2004 fame, currently have their worst side in 20 years. I much preferred when we were battling them for the title instead of Chelsea or City. By the looks of it, those days don’t seem to be coming back in a hurry.
Robin van Persie – what an inspired signing. Age, injury record, inconsistency- all those fans who warned Fergie against signing him must be feeling incredibly daft right now. Assisted by former team-mate Thomas Vermaelen, he blasted in our opener in the 3rd minute itself and promptly showed what a class act he is as a person by not celebrating his goal. Fair play to him. Rooney and co. did not feel obliged to show any respect to Arsenal though, as can be seen from the crazy picture above. Van Persie was good throughout- but he should have scored more. As should have Rooney and Tony V- especially the latter, who gave Andre Santos the nightmarish time we were all expecting but somehow failed to put the ball inside an empty net.
Arsenal’s midfield did not trouble us much at all. Jack Wilshere showed why he’s such an exciting prospect- his battle with Cleverley was an engaging one, although quite ugly too. They were both going into one rash tackle after the other. It is a testament to United’s squad strength that Fergie could afford to take Cleverley off after 60 mins to avoid any possible sending off, while Wenger could not do the same with Wilshere and instead had to watch in agony as his young star was shown a second yellow for his senseless lunge on Patrice Evra. Speaking of Evra- this was probably the best game he’s had all season. It must be said that he hasn’t looked as bad as he was last season, and he got an excellent (headed!) goal too. Chuffed for him.
Cleverley put in a good shift before going off; Anderson replaced him and has quite possibly played himself to a starting spot against at least one or both of Braga and Aston Villa. Carrick’s passing was a bit off, but he was solid overall. Evans and Rio were hardly bothered. Rafael was brilliant as usual- he is on current form the best right back in the league at the moment. Of course, Arsenal did not pose much of a challenge for us. At this rate, Podolski and Giroud may play for the next 5 seasons and still not produce a combined goal tally that matches RvP’s haul for them last season. The worry for United is that we had a dozen chances that we didn’t take today, and ended up conceding an injury time goal to Santi Cazorla (an exquisite finish) just moments after DeGea made his first save of the game. This could have unnecessarily complicated matters. The fact is a 2-1 scoreline HUGELY flattered Arsenal. Despite the 8-2 last season, I believe the gulf between the two sides has never been this great since Wenger started managing in England.
3 points, Chelsea and City both drawing somewhat winnable games- what more could we ask for today? Top of the league with several of our bogey fixtures already past us. Things are looking good.