Nov 3, 2012, 11:45 AM EST
Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford has become one of the most anticipated matches of the Premier League season, but by the end of today’s game in Manchester, onlookers could be forgiven for silently begging for referee Mike Dean’s whistle to put them out of their numbed misery. Thanks to an early goal from Robin van Persie and an uninspired Arsenal (that failed to register a shot for 92 minutes), Manchester United walked to a 2-1 win over their muted rivals, temporarily going top of the Premier League.
Though the final score hints the match was close, Santi Cazorla’s shutout-defying 94th minute score only obscured the huge gap between the teams. Manchester United kept Arsenal at arm’s length all day, their passive defending offering no easy answers for a Gunners side unwilling to work their way back into the title race.
In a performance that should provoke Arsenal’s annual identity crisis, Manchester United made another claim to being the Premier League’s best team, even if they’ll likely sit second by day’s end.
Man of the Match: In his first game against his former club, Robin van Persie declined to celebrate his third minute goal, a sign of respect for a team that helped build his star. But that star burned Arsenal on Saturday, taking advantage of a third minute Thomas Vermaelen error with a pinpoint finish far post past Vito Mannone, giving United a lead they’d never relinquish.
Having already scored eight goals this season, the former Arsenal captain looks set to challenge’s last year’s 30-goal plateau. At least, we thought is was a plateau.
Threesome of knowledge: What we learned
Manchester United’s got something figured out, for now.
So it seems Alex Ferguson’s settled on a first choice XI, starting the same team today that he used to derail Chelsea last Sunday. Ashley Young, a surprise starter at Stamford Bridge, looks to have claimed a spot on the left of midfield, with Antonio Valencia the man on the right. Combined with van Persie and Wayne Rooney, the lineup gives United the fastest team in the league, one that’s among the world’s most potent in transition, even if the team’s likely to change once Shinji Kagawa returns.
Arsenal answered any lingering questions.
The Gunners looked so strong at the beginning of the season. They weren’t scoring as often as we’re used to, but an attack orchestrated by Cazorla and a surprisingly stingy defense hinted Arsenal was close to contending.
Not so. Arsenal is as far behind Chelsea and the Manchesters as they’ve ever been in the Arsene Wenger-era, and unfortunately (if predictably), the problem appears to be mental. There’s no reason Wenger’s personnel can’t compete with the league’s big three, but there’s little in their approach that suggests Arsenal see themselves on the same level as the title contenders.
United still a thing of beauty with the ball.
For Arsenal, it was a low number. Fifty-two. That was the percentage of possession they held on Saturday, a remarkably small fraction considering Manchester United’s tactics. As they did on Sunday, the Red Devils remained content to lay off their opposition until they made a move toward the attacking third. Then, United would start to work, and while their counterattack was not as authoritative Saturday as it was against at Stamford Bridge, their style combined a level of precision and decisiveness that’s otherwise unseen in the Premier League. While Chelsea is capable of playing some entrancing soccer, Manchester United may employ the most attractive style in England.
Packaged for takeaway
- The scoreline would have been worse had Wayne Rooney converted his late first half spot kick. Instead, he nailed the left post. Van Persie should get the honors going forward.
- Jack Wilshere, in his second game back after over 500 days out, saw red after an ill-timed lunge at Patrice Evra drew a second booking.
- Evra, who came into the year two goals in six-and-a-half Premier League seasons, scored his second goal of the campaign, heading home the match-winner after he was left unmarked on a 67th minute cross from Rooney.
- Central midfield is not going to be a strength for United, but Michael Carrick’s bounce back from last year’s disappointing season has made a big difference. Whether he’s partnered by Tom Cleverley (as he as today), Shinji Kagawa, or perhaps eventually Darren Fletcher, a return to form from Carrick will help augment United’s greatest weakness.
- For a team that came into the game with the league’s best defense, Arsenal’s center halves were surprisingly poor, particularly Thomas Vermaelen.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:09 PM EST
Swansea’s French striker carried off the pitch after appearing to collapse at White Hart Lane.
Mar 4, 2015, 3:07 PM EST
Dani Alves is all but out at Barcelona, but where will the Brazilian back end up?
Mar 4, 2015, 2:28 PM EST
The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 league matches, a run they will look to continue against a Burnley side sitting in the drop zone.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:16 PM EST
Only one spot separates the two sides on the table, giving every point some added value at White Hart Lane.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:15 PM EST
Who will win the battle of the USMNTers. Geoff Cameron or Tim Howard?
Mar 4, 2015, 2:07 PM EST
Can the Citizens keep their faint title hopes alive? Watch live online, here.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:04 PM EST
It’s a top-three vs. bottom-three battle as the Gunners travel to Loftus Road to face a QPR side fighting for Premier League survival.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:01 PM EST
A ding-dong London derby at Upton Park. Can the Hammers derail Chelsea’s title charge? Watch live online, here.
Mar 4, 2015, 1:55 PM EST
Can Manchester United keep pace in the top-four, or will the Magpies play spoiler at St. James’ Park?
Mar 4, 2015, 1:04 PM EST
“My missus said to me she had done the Euro lottery – a £54m jackpot – but I said I’d take three points all day.”
Mar 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Re-tooled, re-loaded and deeper than ever before, Sporting KC look set for a huge 2015 campaign.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
How to watch all of Wednesday’s games live online or via the app.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:14 PM EST
Raising the Capital One Cuppity Cup Cup may just be the first title for the Blues.
Mar 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
“El Profe” is back for year No. 2 in Dallas, and things are looking even better than last year’s successes.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:39 AM EST
The Manchester City midfielder said he would like to follow in the steps of fellow-Frenchman Thierry Henry and one day play in America.
Mar 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Who’s the best from a loaded pack of returnees?
Mar 4, 2015, 10:43 AM EST
Spurs want their star striker to rest over the summer, rather than compete for the England U21 side.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
West is best, and we all know it. 2015 will be no different that 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and so on.
Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST
From league leaders to bottom feeders, points are up for grabs all across England today.
Mar 4, 2015, 8:29 AM EST
With his loan deal up at the end of the season, reports state Radamel Falcao will not return to Manchester next year.
- Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis stretchered off the pitch after appearing to collapse 0
- Watch Live: West Ham United vs. Chelsea (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- WATCH: Premier League live online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 28 0
- 2015 MLS season preview: FC Dallas 0
- The Western Conference will continue to dominate MLS, and we all know it 0