Thursday, April 30, 2009
United overrun Arsenal
And that's what it looks like when United put in a proper performance. After weeks of stuttering and responsive performances, Man Utd were excellent last night in sweeping Arsenal aside 1-0. They were up for it, got the tempo just right from the off, hounded Arsenal high up the pitch, physically dominated and created chance after chance, especially throughout a quite astoundingly one-sided opening half-hour. That United didn't come away with at least a two-goal cushion can be the only negative for Alex Ferguson's side; that was down to Manuel Almunia's defiant performance and some wastefulness from United themselves.
In picking Carlos Tevez over Berbatov - expect that decision to be reversed next Tuesday night by the way - Ferguson sent a signal out right away. United were coming to get Arsenal with running and pressure. The little Argentinian gave his best performance of the season, all effort, nice touches, good feet and ideas. Wayne Rooney was similarly effective. Darren Fletcher and Anderson's energy controlled midfield. Ronaldo and John O'Shea made hay down the right wing. For 35 minutes, Arsenal couldn't keep the ball and couldn't figure out how to deal with United's movement and rhythm - along with O'Shea's goal, there were decent chances from all the front three and Anderson was ruled offside when through one-on-one (not that you'd exactly write that down as a goal).
That Arsenal came into things for spells before and after half-time seemed as much a lull in United's legs as any great initiative from Arsene Wenger's side. Only Nicklas Bendtner's glanced header caused the United defence unease and it was the home team who picked things up again for the last twenty minutes, Ronaldo hitting the bar with a sensational effort, Giggs' cross headed off the line, three or four balls flashing across the Arsenal box dangerously. Plainly and simply, Arsenal were outran and outplayed. The only positives they'll take is that it's only one goal, and they can't be as lackadaisical again, surely. Fabregas ought to go back 20 yards to central midfield, Van Persie might well come into the more advanced position if fit.
Right now, it's hard to imagine United not scoring next week. Anything can happen of course, but it's them in the driving seat now.