Stretched Old Trafford encounter sees Manchester United steal points

Manchester United came back from a goal down to defeat Arsenal in a game which owed much of it’s entertainment and controversy to the expansive style of both teams.

Brilliantly awful or awfully brilliant, whichever way you want to describe what was an enthralling, up-and-down game but one which was screaming out for someone to get hold of the ball and play it.

The Gunners massively missed the injured Cesc Fabregas who Arsene Wenger said before the game gives the side “stability” and the ability to know “when you need to slow down and speed up”. Curiously then Sir Alex Ferguson proceeded to drop his two most technical players in Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov and as a result what we got a high tempo game which never relented.

Manchester United’s tactic was clearly to get Ryan Giggs on the ball and thread one of his trademark passes behind the Arsenal defence. Arsenal on the other hand, wanted to play more quicker and more direct but with both teams defending as deep as they were, they in effect cancelled each out. The game was stretched, with many huge gaps to exploit through the middle and down the wings and this ultimately denied Arsenal the chance to play their high intensity pressure game.

If Arsenal’s 4-3-3 ever looked like a loose 4-2-3-1 then this time it was the real deal although Abou Diaby was elongated slightly to the left to cover for the diminishing fitness levels of Andrei Arshavin. The Gunners are not Barcelona but as displayed in the Super Cup, the best way to pressure with great intensity is to squeeze the space afforded to the opponents push high up. Arsenal never did the latter but not the former as the central defenders, clearly wary of the pace of Wayne Rooney getting in behind pushed back and the same applied to United.

Robin van Persie started isolated in a disjointed opening period but the Dutchman furrowed tirelessly nevertheless and it was a pass from Eboue which he nearly scored from, Evra getting in the way. From the resulting corner Arshavin nearly put Arsenal ahead but made amends five minutes before the break with a cracking shot. The Russian was on the receiving end of a agricultural Darren Fletcher tackle a few seconds earlier which should have resulted in a penalty but made sure that didn’t matter with the long range finish.

Arsenal were the better team but if Chelsea were watching, they will not have much sleepless nights after what was so far two not very inspiring performance from both sides. Van Persie had another chance to put Arsenal ahead as Ben Foster saved with his feet and that miss came to haunt the Gunners as Man United soon equalised, though with more than a touch of controversy. Wayne Rooney looked to have fallen down before Almunia foolishly rushed out and made contact with his feet thus resulting in a penalty. Wenger was fuming but could he have too much complaints about the decision after backing Eduardo for his part in a similar challenge? However there wasn’t the same unanimous agreement that that indeed was a dive as there was for the Croatian’s.

Abou Diaby’s own goal compounded Arsenal’s misery and late in the game Arsene Wenger was sent off for kicking a bottle after van Persie’s ‘goal’ was disallowed in the last minute. The referee however clearly didn’t factor in the architecture of the Old Trafford stadium when making his decision in what resulted in an embarrassing sequence of events as Wenger had to be escorted off the pitch.

Arsenal had much heart to take from the game as they were much the better side even when missing such creative linchpins as Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky who surely would have made a great deal of difference.

Man Utd: Foster, O’Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra, Valencia (Park), Fletcher, Carrick, Nani, Giggs (Berbatov), Rooney*.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Neville, Owen, Anderson, Scholes.

Arsenal: Almunia (5), Sagna (6), Gallas (7), Vermaelen (7), Clichy (7), Eboue (5) (Bendtner), Denilson (6) (Eduardo), Song Billong (6), Diaby (6), Arshavin (7) (Ramsey), van Persie (7).
Subs not used: Mannone, Silvestre, Wilshere, Gibbs.

Goals: Arshavin 40, Rooney (pen) 59, Diaby o.g. 64
Booked: Song 23, Gallas 32, Evra 35, van Persie 45, Almunia 58, Rooney 62, Brown 62, Eboue 71, Sagna 75.
Referee: Mike Dean


14 thoughts on “Stretched Old Trafford encounter sees Manchester United steal points

  1. “Steal points” is the only way to describle that match. Why was Carrick not booked for persistent fouling is beyond me

  2. We were unlucky for not getting at least a point out of this game. But this is no reason to be whinging. We got lucky in pretty much all previous games of the season. Besides, this game gave us much to enjoy and I’m thankful for the performance and the spirit that our team turned in.

    But for the own goal, Diaby had one of the best games he has played in an Arsenal shirt (strangely enough, the same can be said about Djourou in the Chelsea game last year). With one more inch of precision, he could have made up for the blunder with a stunning dribble through 3 defenders to an open goal before shooting it wide. Diaby and Song were the rock at the bottom of midfield for Arsenal, pressing opponent’s midfield back to the halfway line and isolating Rooney.

    RvP didn’t score a thundering goal as did Arshavin but was a constant threat up front, pulling at least 2 defenders to him every time and managed to release the ball just in time for our wingers to cross in. He didn’t waste anything presented to him the whole game – that Foster save was completely out of this world.

    Arshavin was involved in about 3 meaningful attacking occasion the whole game, two of which created opening chances. No more praises necessary.

    Vermaelen-Song-Gallas were absolutely the rock. Denilson deputized ably for Cesc’s role. I didn’t know what to ask more from them.

    On diving. I’m eating my words on Eboue. The problem with him is not being a diver, but a bad diver. Both Eboue and Rooney were expecting contact when they fell – there’s no difference in the morality and technicality of their acts. But the difference in results – the latter got the contact and the former didn’t – made him a fool and was detrimental to our team, not least in the media debate.

    This “diving” thing is nothing more than a moral masturbation of the British media. It will go on and on until the British public realize that there is no moral merit in the issue. Until then, be a good at it before you dive.

    1. oh, and speaking of the british media – they are always like this. my friend said this about ronaldo’s departure: “ronaldo left because the english press sucks rooney’s c**k and he wants them to suck his.” they will always be xenophobic illiterates, sadly. the opposite would happen in spain of course . . .

      it was a unfortunate that RVP did not score twice – off his FK and when foster saved with his leg. however, it was idiocy that eboue did not even manage to settle the ball, or redirect it correctly when he had a clear shot off of a cross. it was also idiocy that gallas wandered offside when he could have easily just stayed on the shoulder of his marker in the dying seconds of the game.
      that would have saved me a good 5 seconds of screaming my voice hoarse.
      i believe that nerves were responsible for a good amount of mistakes made in this game.

  3. It was a real pity for Arsenal, I loved the heart of the team, the way they pressed was awesome and they really took Man Utd to the limit.

    I believe Wenger won the match on the chalkboard: I really think Arsenal outplayed Man Utd, and deserved much much more.

    Denilson was outstanding, he knew what to do with the ball at all times. Song was pretty good too, though I think he should be more careful with his tackles in order to avoid early bookings.

    Arshavin and Van Persie were very good as usual: this time they could not link up too much due to the high distances between players (both defences playing too deep, I could expect this from Man Utd, but Arsenal surprised me since they lost one key think they have been using this year, which is the high pressing a la Barça).

    Almunia was a disaster, making very bad decisions: I am not only talking about the penalty, but for instance in the first half he decided to take a free kick from the left side of the pitch, while his defence was not organized, and leaving the area alone: that is crazy!!!!

    Diaby was surprisingly good: his position as attacking midfielder (this time I really think Arsenal played a 4-2-3-1, because Song and Denilson were almost defensive midfielders) made very difficult for Man Utd to defend, and he made very good decisions. It was a pity the own goal, but he almost scored on the next play, which means that he has very good energy and didn’t disappear.

    If Arsenal keeps on playing this way they will reach for sure one of the top 4 places. At this very moment I think Chelsea is the most competitive of all the Premier teams, they know what to do at all times and seem very difficult to beat. It really depends on what happens in January, when the Africa Cup comes: let’s see how Chelsea (Kalou, Drogba, Mikel, Essien) and Arsenal (Song) behave when losing key players that are not that replaceable.

    Greetings from Barcelona

  4. i think darren fletcher should get honorable mention for “twat of the game” as his incessant fouling – let alone his tackle on arshavin – should have merited a sending off.

    i am going to watch match highlights now. i forgot some of the match because my brain just could not handle my emotions and rejected the memories, lol.

  5. I dont agree with Diaby’s rating. He was easily the missing link on the pitch, even without the own goal. His passing was below par and wasnt able to hold the ball. He tried very very hard to make up for the goal. But unfortunately it didnt work. I was surprised of Wengers substitution. Why was Diaby not substituted in place of Denilson?

    For Man Utd Ben Fosters saves was instrumental in letting them win.

    There was a massive change in the flow of the game as well as the confidence of the Arsenal after we went down. That is one aspect of the mental game that Arsenal needed to get used to. Unfortunately it came at Old Trafford.

    The other thing I feel is that Arsenal lack depth. We didnt have any substitutes on the bench capable of making an impact. Which is why I feel it wouldnt be a bad idea for Arsenal to buy.

    1. i have to agree with alan here..we did dominate the midfield but we lack quality final ball to feed our forwards. diaby were guilty for dwelling on the ball most of the time only to be dispossessed or give a useless pas.

      but the positive thing is that we did dominate without fab,nas, ros playing..nice work

    2. These games are always stretched and both sides certainly lacked someone to stop the ball and dictate the game. Bear in mind we don’t yet have Nasri, Rosicky along with Cesc back to fulfill that role while Vela and Walcott make a stronger bench.

      The good thing is rather that we showed we have more than just a passing team as we were stronger and more direct but to say we dominated is a slight understatement. It was a poor first 30 minutes, then Arsenal took over and by 60minutes United had assumed the greater control.

      Diaby did ok when he had the ball but I feel Arsenal should have pushed further up the pitch and squeezed the space down rather than play at the edge of the box as United did. It would have allowed a greater pressing game.

      1. I didnt mean to be negative. We did do a great job taking into account the players we had available.
        I would like to see Diaby play more centrally. His physical presence is crucial to tackle the combative midfields we will face in the matches ahead. His tackling has to improve though. He can hold off defenders when he has the ball but is not able to take the ball off the opponents. His tackling and defense can definitely improve.

        Is there any reason why Arsenal players are injured more often than others in the top 4. Is it because of our young squad or the opponents? I was just curious.

        1. I didn’t feel you were negative at all and appreciate everyone’s views. No one has the definitive opinion, especially on Diaby who has been harshly criticized by many. He couldn’t have made the impact he wanted because of the way the game was stretched. However when he was in the game, he did well and looked good in the 4-4-2 at the end.

          1. Alan,
            Don’t be let down by the number of thumbs-down you got (though I admit it feels great to have lots of thumbs-up). People just disagree with you and I find that this blog is where people express their disagreement most civilly. I gave your post a thumb down, but I appreciate your opinion.

            1. sometimes i am afraid to be critical of arsenal’s performance, as I will get tons of thumbs downs.
              sometimes i just have higher standards abt a performance than others.
              i still think that arsene will use song and denilson together for all big four matches. each acts as half of a pair of chopsticks.
              because of the way our current system functions, one DM is not enough to securely stop a top four side. both players make too many mistakes on their own. without one another, there is noone to help the back four regroup.

  6. Once again, Vermaelen, and the defence in general, had an exceptional game. Unfortunately, we were undone by two silly errors.

    I feel that own goal aside, Diaby was exceptional during the course of the game; he pressed high and really threatened the United defence with his running.

    Denilson anticipated and intercepted play well, but still got caught in possession in some dangerous areas.

    Song had another commanding performance, but to some extent, I feel his slow anticipation was highlighted against a quick-moving Manchester United side – I feel we would have been punished more were it not for them needlessly giving away possession in the final third.

    Overall, I feel even with just one signing, our side has progressed, simply due to the age of our squad allowing for natural, near-automatic development.
    However, with the transfer window slammed shut, I still feel we are a little thin up-front, and in midfield.

  7. I’m surprised that some posters don’t appreciate Diaby. I think Wenger has found a real gem.
    And yes, Brain, I agree that Fletcher’s tackle on Arshavin was “agricultural” :), but apart from that I don’t think he had a violent game.

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