Manchester United regained top spot in the Premiership with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over in-form rivals Arsenal. The Gunners boasted a decent run of form in the Premier League, with Samir Nasri posing the greatest threat to United’s ambitions on the night. Sir Alex adopted his usual style employed against Arsenal, choosing a five-man of Nani, Park, Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson to counter the possession football of Arsenal. Wayne Rooney acted as the lone man up front. The usual back five started as well, and the ingredients were all set for a feisty encounter — and more importantly, to decide who would be top at the end of the night.
Rooney and Anderson seemed the most threatening players from the off, and the two combined well on multiply occasions to create space for each other. In order to gain some confidence of his own — and perhaps test the confidence of youngster Szczesny in the Arsenal goal — Rooney had a couple of long-range attempts, although nothing too much to test the keeper. Nani was looking threatening down the right and combined well with Rafael. Indeed, the former saw his brilliant volleyed attempt fizz past the post, after latching onto a poor headed clearance from Squillaci.
Amongst all this, Arsenal hardly had any clear-cut chances of their own. CHamakh was having a torrid time against Ferdinand and Vidic, the latter winning almost every aerial challenge against the Moroccan forward. Nasri too, playing in a central role in the absence of Fabregas found it difficult to handle the three central midfielders of United. Indeed there was one occasion when the Frenchman got past the midfield, but failed to deliver a meaningful ball under the challenge from Ferdinand.
Just when it seemed that the half would finish with the score at nil-nil, the ever-dependable Ji Sung Park was the one to provide the breakthrough. Nani cut in from the right and had his attempted cross deflected into the path of Park, who improvised brilliantly to loop his header past Szczesny. It was quite spectacular, as replays showed that Park certainly meant his goal, as can be judged from the way he positioned himself and flicked his header at goal — very reminiscent of the one scored by Javier Hernández against Stoke earlier in the season.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal started strongly, and controlled possession for the opening minutes, but as was the case in the first, failed to create any real chances. In fact, it was United who had a glorious chance to score a second, when Anderson was played through one-on-one by Rooney. It would be too much to ask him to score in back-to-back games however, and saw his shot saved brilliantly by Szczesny. Minutes later, Nani caught Arsenal out on a classic counter-attack but skied his shot uncharacteristically when more or less unchallenged in the box, much to the frustration of Rooney.
Arsenal still didn’t have many chances, and came closest after van der Sar only managed to partially parry Nasri’s shot. Chamakh was slow to react, however, and saw his weak attempt blocked supremely by the dominant Vidic. United were then provided with a chance to seal the game when awarded a soft penalty for handball, but Rooney unbelievably blasted his attempt miles over the bar. Perhaps it was the occasion, or perhaps he was trying to state a point by smashing his penalty into the roof of the net. Either way, a massive, massive opportunity missed. He did much better in the closing stages of the match when he attempted to chip Szczesny from way out, but the Polish keeper used all his height to tip it away for just a corner.
And that’s how the game ended — loads of chances for United, barely any for Arsenal. In almost all the post-match stats, United were ahead of Arsenal, except the number of fouls and yellow cards. Indeed, it seemed that Arsene Wenger’s tactic to try and keep Nani quiet was to have him kicked throughout the match. Yet, Wenger made no note of this and instead laid blame on the pitch as not being “good enough”. Oh well — what more can we expect from him? Top now with the best goal difference, two points and a game in hand — who would have thought that going into the game at Stamford Bridge next weekend, the season would have this look about itself?
Arsene Wenger was of course as gracious in defeat as ever, rather then praise the opposition he would rather blame the defeat on “the pitch was too bumpy”, “we were unlucky and didnt deserve to lose”, “it was Santa’s fault”, etc etc…
Best Moment: Park’s header
Worst Moment: Rooney’s penalty miss
Man of the Match: Nemanja Vidic/ Ji Sung Park
Written by member Sownak27