Manchester United 2 – 1 Arsenal
The ending was so late-era Arsène as to be totally expected, although having seen Fellaini’s effort rightly disallowed moments earlier, I thought we’d got away with it. The Belgian struck though and we left Old Trafford without the point we deserved.
It was a match we weren’t supposed to get anything from – other than a royal spanking – yet were comfortable for most of the game. We created a few good opportunities as well. Indeed, the passing was smoother and more incisive than it has been in most away games this season. OK, so that’s a low bar…
There were other positives about the performance. The irregulars, young and older, played well. Mavropanos was unfazed by his surroundings and while the marking for United’s opener was poor, I thought he and Chambers both settled well after that. For a pair who hadn’t played a competitive match together, they could teach the Chuckle Brothers a thing or two.
Maitland-Niles was another part of the reason we matched them for long periods of the game. Tenacious in midfield and acting as a fulcrum between defence and attack, he rightly earned the Man of the Match accolade. A good confidence boost for him, if he needed it.
While we were better equipped to deal with United, I found their attitude to the game peculiar. Certainly, it wasn’t one Alex Ferguson would have tolerated; it wasn’t a clinical performance, with no sense of them going for the jugular despite taking an early lead. In years gone by, that was the prelude to a four or more goal thrashing. United seemed complacent, a genuine case of turning up would be enough.
They won in the end, but I wouldn’t feel optimistic that Mourinho is going to make them title challengers again if I were one of their fans. That’s not based on yesterday alone, either.
The Crew were Mostly Kids
Of course, we turn our attention to Thursday night. The return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan came with a few scares, but he recovered from what seemed to a game-ending knock to produce a fine finish and suggested he will bring a better balance to the attack in Madrid.
There was one moment in particular where Pogba was determined to foul him, before the Armenian turned inside the Frenchman and Valencia, leaving Pogba to reduce his own team-mate to a crumpled heap on the floor. Small delights in matches such as these make them bearable.
The stats were carelessly thrown out yesterday. United haven’t lost a home game in the Premier League era when they led at half-time, which seems both incredible and believable at the same time. Fergie Time, Mike Dean, Mike Riley; all contributing factors, I’m sure.
Arsenal, as well, possess the club’s worst away record since 1965/66 when Billy Wright was manager. And we are guaranteed to be worse than that season’s four wins and five draws. At best, we can equal on or the other at Huddersfield on the last day of the season. For once, I wouldn’t be unhappy if we didn’t win; provided of course, Stoke are relegated as a result.
Which means nothing to us, of course…
Our attention turns to Madrid, and a Mission: Impossible. You wouldn’t put it past us dredging up a performance to find a draw which puts us into a penalty shootout, but you wouldn’t bet on it either.
Sometimes He goes Too Far. He’s the First One to Admit it.
One of the dilemmas to be resolved is the goalkeeper. The prospect of penalties doesn’t fill me with joy; Cech might have saved one against Watford, but that’s no guarantee he’ll save another before he retires. And Ospina? Well, if he’d been a few inches taller, he might have said Fellaini’s header yesterday.
Finding a solution is this summer’s biggest test for Sven and co., as well as the new manager. More for the former, I’d suggest.
Finally, at least The Guardian managed to put a smile on my face:
And save of the week
Argentina: Viajantes de Pergamino coach Luciano Susin, “grateful” to referee Dario Cid for saving his life with chest compressions. Susin, who had a cardiac arrest while abusing Cid about a disallowed goal, says Cid’s help was “welcome” but “it is clear that the ball crossed the line”. Cid told local media: “First I resurrected him, then I expelled him. I was doing my job.”
So, you disallowed a goal, bringing on a heart attack, save the coach’s life and then send him off. All in a day’s work.