Mouthwatering fixtures were scheduled for Sunday, October 04 as this season’s first Merseyside Derby ended in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. The match which followed the Merseyside Derby ended very, very surprisingly.
Arsenal v Manchester United was the game which followed the Merseyside Derby this past Sunday. The visitors were easily and comfortably beaten 3-0 by Arsene Wenger’s men. Arsenal are struggling in Europe and they came into this fixture after losing their second game in the UEFA Champions League against Olympiakos. Man United, on the other hand, came to the Emirates after a narrow 2-1 win over Wolfsburg at Old Trafford, and also with a decent record against the hosts in their own backyard.
- THE LINEUPS
Both managers were forced to make some changes due to injury problems to their respective players. Arsene Wenger was without his injured and first choice center back Laurent Koscielny and decided to start with Gabriel Paulista alongside Per Mertesacker. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal were the pacey fullbacks picked for this game.
Danny Welbeck was still out injured and couldn’t get the chance to face-off against his former club. Aaron Ramsey also came into the side and started in front of the midfield of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez provided the attack and attacking support to main striker Theo Walcott, who retained his position, as Olivier Giroud was on the bench once again.
Louis van Gaal made two changes to the team that defeated Wolfsburg at Old Trafford. Antonio Valencia returned to the bench as Matteo Darmian was deployed as a right back. Winger Ashley Young was finally given a start, but only as a left back.
Chris Smalling and Daley Blind retained their positions as center backs. Michael Carrick came into the starting line-up as Morgan Schneiderlin was benched and Bastian Schweinsteiger started alongside Carrick.
The front four was unchanged as Memphis Depay was on the left flank with Wayne Rooney through the center in his favoured number-ten position with Juan Mata to his right and Anthony Martial leading the attack.
- FIRST HALF
As the referee blew his whistle, and the game began, I doubt anyone predicted that the game would be so one sided. Even if someone did, I’m sure they did not predict Arsenal going 2-0 up inside 8 minutes.
But they did!
The pace of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, and the coolness and composure of Mesut Ozil left the Man United defence red faced as Arsenal scored through Sanchez and Ozil in the 6th and 7th minute, respectively.
You would expect Manchester United to go all out and attack after conceding two quick goals, but that hunger was never seen in the first half. It was always a slow build up and maintaining possession and eventually giving the ball away, which led to quick counter attacks from the Gunners.
The counter attacks were dealt with by the defence. All, but one was not defended at all as Walcott played in Sanchez who skipped past Darmian as if the Italian fullback wasn’t even there and then smashed the ball past the two United center halves and a helpless De Gea.
United created a few chances, but they just did not apply that final finishing touch. Anthony Martial came the closest to pull one back for the Red Devils but was brilliantly denied by Petr Cech as Arsenal went into half time with their clean sheet and three goal cushion intact.
- SECOND HALF
The visiting fans were frustrated at the end of the first half. Louis van Gaal wanted to change things right from the start of the second half. He made two half time substitutions which saw Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia come on for Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian, who was already booked in the first half.
It was a straight forward change at right back, but the Depay substitution left everyone scratching their heads. Later on, as the game progressed, we saw Rooney on the left flank, and Fellaini in behind Martial.
Arsenal were looking content with what they had and they had 10 men in their own half as they looked to protect their clean sheet. United did improve in the second half, but still they were a little slow and clumsy at times as they gave away the ball in crucial regions.
The fans were left shouting for crosses and shots, but those moments never came. United just managed to put 2 shots on target in the second half; 4 shots on target in the entire game. While Arsenal scored with 3 out of their 5 shots on target.
A marked improvement was seen in the way Man United played, but yet again, they had no one to apply that finishing touch and when they did, Arsenal defended quite well and in the end, they deservedly ended the game with 3 goals, 3 points, a clean sheet and their first Premier League win over Manchester United at The Emirates, after four years.
So what really happened to Manchester United at The Emirates? How did the high flying Red Devils collapse so tragically?
Here, we analyze what happened and how it happened!
Manchester United have been facing a problem in the defensive area for quite a while now. Just as their problems looked to go away, they lost Luke Shaw to a horrific injury. And since then, United look pretty shaken up. Ashley Young, who is actually an attacker, was deployed as a left back.
He has played as a left back before, but starting with him in that position in such a high intensity game was always a huge gamble; A gamble which did not pay off. To make matters worse, Matteo Darmian had a pretty bad day. He was totally lost against Alexis Sanchez and just could not control him.
Arsene Wenger did his homework and he picked a side which would torment United with pace. He targeted Ashley Young and then put Walcott up against Daley Blind. The defence just could not cope with the pacey Arsenal attack.
To make matters even worse, the Arsenal fullbacks added even more pace while attacking. Monreal and Bellerin tormented the United fullbacks as Depay and Mata were too slow to track back and help out their full backs. The exclusion of Morgan Schneiderlin from the starting eleven was another reason for the poor performance.
The midfield of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger looked pretty good on paper, but out on the pitch it was very slow and basically it was totally ineffective against the pace of The Gunners.
There was absolutely no pressure from Manchester United in the match. All the Red Devils had was ball possession. They just kept moving the ball around waiting for someone to make a decent dash towards goal, but that did not happen and in the end, they came out of the Emirates with nothing.