Arsenal 3 (Sanchez 6, Ozil 7, Sanchez 19) – Manchester United 0
Man of the Match – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
I have so explicitly made evident, in the past years, of my utter distaste of anything remotely Manchester United. More so, their hordes of plastic fans, who flash Manchester United apparel, in the thought that it would appear cool. Their constant rambling about how big fans of the club they were was such a pain, considering they didn’t know the next fixture; their goading about Cristiano Ronaldo, years after he left the club; their tasteless rendition of ‘Glory Glory Man. Utd’, and their ‘coming to the surface’ after United wins.
Games between Arsenal and Manchester United had almost become one sided over the past years, with the Londoners’ decade of transition coinciding with a golden period for United. Arsenal’s first win in almost 4 years came when Danny Welbeck, a United boy through and through pounced on a defensive error to deliver a 2-1 FA Cup win at Old Trafford. Arsenal’s last league win came in May 2011, when Aaron Ramsey scored on a sunny day at the Emirates, to reduce the gap at the top from 9 to 6 points. However, Manchester United would go on and lift the title.
Much of the pre-match talk focused on how Arsenal need to release their handbrakes early on in big games, to avoid falling behind. Defensive frailties in big games has been a big concern for the manager in recent years, but last season proved to be a small turning point, as Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad, Liverpool 4-1 at the Emirates and United 2-1 at Old Trafford in the cup. On the lopside, the Gunners also managed to lose 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and 2-1 to Manchester United at home.
There were no surprises in the starting lineup, with Gabriel Paulista starting in place of the injured Laurent Koscielny. Manchester United don’t have any injury concerns, with Michael Carrick returning to the squad. Arsenal, instead of slowly making their way into the game, started in explosive fashion, which left Manchester United stunned, in a frantic opening few minutes.
A string of passes down United’s left, saw Mesut Ozil released, who then crossed in for Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean was perfectly placed right in front of goal, and cheekily flicked Ozil’s cross to make it 1-0, after just 6 minutes on the clock. And even before United could recover, some intricate passing between Sanchez and Ozil released the pacy Theo Walcott, who had Daley Blind to his left. Walcott created a bit of space, and set up Ozil, who deftly picked up the corner, leaving de Gea stranded, and Arsenal coasting at 2-0 after just 7 minutes on the clock.
The atmosphere in the stadium was crackling, as it had been quite some time when Arsenal had given United a real spanking in the league. Arsenal were still at it, pegging United back, and in the 20th minute the pressure told. Hector Bellerin’s throw released Aaron Ramsey, who gave the ball to Walcott. The Englishman swivelled and released an onrushing Alexis Sanchez, who cut inside a defender just outside the penalty box and smashed home a beauty to make it 3-0 after just 20 minutes.
Arsenal could have added to their tally in the first half, with Ramsey missing an absolute sitter, and Walcott dragging his shot wide. A rare chance for Manchester United fell to French striker Anthony Martial, but Petr Cech was equal to it, as the teams went into the break, with the Gunners enjoying a resounding 3-0 lead. The Czech keeper had a solid influence throughout the game, as the defence enjoyed their day out in the sun.
Louis van Gaal decided to throw on Marouanne Fellaini, to add some aerial ability to his side, but all the Belgian did was foul Arsenal players repeatedly, and manage to get away with it almost every single time. United definitely enjoyed more possession in the second half, as they tried to find at least a goal back. Arsenal’s game plan was simple, to allow United the freedom of the ball and hit them on the counter and trouble them with pace.
United, however, barely saw any chances come their way as the back 4 skilfully negotiated their way out of the game. The midfield duo of Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla were unflinching, to say the least. Their first real chance came in the 73rd minute, when Wayne Rooney, so often a thorn in Arsenal’s side, shot a low one, to Cech’s right, but the keeper had it within his grasp.
Bastian Schweinsteiger too had a go, when he was released with only Cech to beat, but again the keeper smothered the move. Arsene Wenger made some substitutions, bringing on Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs in place of Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, as he looked to close out the game.
Arsenal could still have added to their tally, but Giroud’s shot was straight at de Gea, and Chamberlain’s effort went just over the crossbar. All in all, a perfect afternoon, and the right result!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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