Well anyone that was following my pre-match twitter feed would’ve known exactly what I was expecting from yesterday’s game, a nice easy 3 points and quite a number of goals put past our old foes of yesteryear. That it ended up being 8 was incredulous, but the sad thing for Arsenal fans is that in hindsight, we let them off with putting just 8 past them, considering Nani for instance went AWOL & even Mr. Professional himself Javier Hernandez, was trying cheeky chips and not really paying serious attention.
It was a memorable performance nonetheless by United, just for the sheer entertainment and there were several moments that brought to mind some of my favourite United performances over the past 5-7 years. Rooney’s performance was similar to his debut v Fenerbache, completely carefree, deadly from set pieces and just downright outrageous in terms of his vision and creativity. The team cohesion and goal threat was reminiscent of that 7-1 encounter v Roma and the speed and ferocity of our play, not to mention Anderson’s assist reminded me of the first leg v Milan in 06/07. Mesmeric stuff, considering we didn’t really go beyond 3rd gear at most.
1. In Arsene I trust?
It was noticeable in the run up to this game that Sir Alex had been keen to stress the importance in Arsenal keeping the faith in Wenger and even more so post match, talking about the ‘cut-throat’ media and how football’s a ‘cynical’ business. Whilst some have taken these comments at face value, I’m sorry I just think Sir Alex is absolutely loving the fact, that this is one more rival who no longer poses a threat.
It has got to the stage where the longer Wenger stays at Arsenal, the more sure you can be that Arsenal will not challenge for the title, it sounds very harsh and knee-jerk but this is not based on one performance, its based on 6 years worth. The man has simply lost grasp of what is needed to win football matches at the highest level against elite opponents, tactically has he ever been in the class of the likes of Mourinho, Ferguson? He has little regard for the principles of defending, has refused to seek alternative strikers to the perennially injured Van Persie, refused to add bite to his midfield and how long was it before he sought to replace the calamity prone Almunia? Too many instances, where his lack of judgement has been at the forefront of why Arsenal are failing in their quest to win trophies.
When Wenger first started out at Arsenal, he brought mentally & physically dominant players, or ones who possessed serious talent whom he’d mould into a team based on his principles of playing. He didn’t neglect one area of the team in order to strengthen another area, take the invincibles for example, strong in every area of the pitch and a team full of big characters. Since 2005, he has lost sight of that approach, picking timid weak players, racking up midfielder after midfielder yet neglecting to purchase top quality defenders or quality strikers. I hope for Arsenal’s sake that this big money they are supposed to possess, that Wenger chooses to spend it and on players in the aforementioned problem positions, but if he continues to refuse, get rid is probably the only solution.
2. Ashley Young… an apology
I’ll be honest, I’m one of those who was a bit ‘meh’ over why we were in for Young. Was it because I thought Alexis Sanchez was a better fit? No not at all, it’s just I felt we were already decent in the wide positions and it was the midfield, the centre of it that should’ve been of primary concern over the summer. Whilst I still think we need some investment in that area (will explain later in the article), I’m so glad in retrospect that Fergie did choose to sign Young and add a new dimension to our attacking play.
Regular readers of my blogs will know I’ve never fancied Nani as a left winger, he is far more effective on the right and thus the choice to bring in Young, a far more natural fit for that left flank was a smart one, he keeps the ball exceptionally well on that flank and he is not afraid to go round the outside and whip in left footed balls across the box. His pace just seems to have upped several notches since leaving Villa, (the same could also be said of Downing at Liverpool) flying past players for fun now, whereas at Villa, he seemed content to keep to simple and rely on their excellent deliveries into big men such as Carew. It’s good news for England, but more importantly just good news for football fans who enjoy good old-fashioned wingplay.
The Stanley Matthew-esque feint before bending it like Beckham from 30 yards was stunning and the second goal was a copy in miniature, once again Szczesny left with no hope of getting his fingertips to it. Sublime and he’s been consistently brilliant since the Community Shield.
3. I Want To Be The Very Best
Yes its hard to imagine Wayne Rooney singing along to the Pokemon theme song, but the sentiments of the opening lines are exactly what is coursing through his veins now, what is driving him to this new-found fitness and new level of performance.
He has gone full circle, relocated his youthful zest and care-free imagination, allying it with years of experience and cutting edge, looking to become the finished article. His aim? To topple C. Ronaldo and be the true contender to Messi’s claim to be the world’s greatest footballer. Rooney has always been my favourite talent of the three, the least predictable and the one who can do abit of everything but whilst the other two are exceptionally professional and getting the best out of themselves, Rooney’s temperament has meant he has wasted quite a few years since his highs at 18, not really hitting the heights once expected of a kid that earned the moniker of the ‘White Pele’.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still been a footballer of international renown and season upon season, more efficient and effective in front of goal, but there’s been something missing, the magic, that sense of watching a world great tearing quality defences ragged. I think the game against Barca this year was a massive turning point, the goal he scored was quality and he must have finally realised his dream of scoring in a big final and a sense that he belonged on this stage and that he was capable of owning that stage. Injuries permitting, this could be a huge season for Rooney, just cross your fingers and hope that the term foot/ankle injury does not rear its ugly head.
4. Evra the Enigma
Seriously, what is up with the world’s most likeable Left Back? He’s been shocking for quite a while now, positionally, discipline-wise… he’s showing Wenger-like tendencies.
I could always excuse his awful end product, with the fact he was brilliant in carrying the ball out of defence and in aiding the team in keeping possession. Furthermore he was a quality defender, strong in 1 v 1 situations except against Lennon and top class in the air, but these days he’s just poor against most teams. Lack of hunger? Loss of Tevez back in 09/10? French World Cup? There’s something still causing him to be disillusioned, as this is not the Evra we’ve been accustomed to in his first few years at United.
5. Opposition One 2 Watch: Aaron Ramsey
Surrounded by mediocrity, Ramsey did not let his head fall and was consistently excellent on the ball. Closed down relentlessly by Anderson and Cleverley, he would turn this way and that, shaking off all comers and retaining the ball. He has a wonderful shift on him, off either foot and for a stronger side than this Arsenal Unit, he’d be a regular goal scorer. It’s just a shame the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey are playing in such a poor side, both are brilliant talents, one’s which are capable of illuminating the biggest of stages. I’d welcome either of them at Old Trafford.
We need to be careful as United fans, not to get carried away, there will be much bigger tests than this Arsenal team down the line. Things we can genuinely be positive about are the young defence and our wide men, not to mention Welbeck and Rooney’s burgeoning partnership, which sadly has been halted due to injury.
What we need to be wary of is the midfield duo of Anderson and Cleverley, I love watching them and enjoy the fact there is so much mobility in midfield, something I’ve been crying out for a long time… that said, I think we lack a like-minded defensive mid alongside them, someone like a Mulumbu/Tiote or in an ideal world as good as Busquets. Forget Sneijder, I don’t care much for him, but a quality defensive mid is missing and whilst Carrick can perform that role, I think his lack of mobility would spoil the new style of football we seem to have found.
Raees (follow me @ www.twitter.com/redrae7mufc)