1. For the past few years, we’ve beaten Arsenal pretty much every time we’ve played them, whether that be in the league, the European Cup or the FA Cup. Since the last time they beat us back in 2008, the only time we didn’t beat them was the draw penultimate game of the 08-09, when we only needed a point to win the league. We have employed the same tactics for pretty much every game and it has worked, with Arsene Wenger bizarrely not coming up with a Plan B when facing us, given that Plan A didn’t work. So, why did we change things? Why did we play like only a point would do, knowing that a win would more or less win us the league and that playing for a draw meant we were taking a big risk?
2. As has been the problem in every away game, our midfield didn’t get enough of a say. Whilst Michael Carrick has been great in our recent European games against Schalke and Chelsea, he did little to impose himself on the game. Despite his new deeper role, he only made one tackle all game and was guilty of the sideways/backwards passing which has started to limit before yesterday. If Carrick was bad, Anderson was horrendous. At least Carrick was receiving the ball and passing it on, which is more than can be said of Anderson, who was on the pitch for almost an hour and attempted just 17 passes. Compare that with Ramsey (62 passes), Song (58 passes) and Wilshere (53 passes) and you see just how atrocious that is. He shits on Fabregas? Well, Arsenal’s captain wasn’t on the park and Ando didn’t even come a close 2nd to the younger replacement.
3. For my criticism of our tactics and midfield, we would have got away with the point if not for a momentary lapse which came after the substitution of Anderson. Antonio Valencia came on to play on the right, Nani would switch to the left, which would leave Park coming in from the left to play a central role alongside Carrick. There were just 49 seconds between Anderson going off and Arsenal scoring, with Park failing to track the run. Arsenal created nothing other than this one chance but in playing for a draw, we took the risk of one lapse of concentration costing us the game.
4. After the game, Ferguson said we didn’t start playing until the goal was scored. It was clear that there was new urgency about the way we were playing but it begs the question why weren’t playing that way earlier. Surely this was under Ferguson’s instruction. I’m not suggesting we should have been gung-ho in our approach, but it was too little too late. To see us make the same mistakes we made against City just a few weeks before was desperately disappointing.
5. Chicharito didn’t get any favours from Laurent Koscielny all game. This lad is Arsenal’s 3rd choice central defender but was totally comfortable with keeping our Little Pea out of the game. I imagine the manager was just hoping for that one chance to come our way, something Chicharito excels at putting away, but it just wasn’t working. He attempted just 7 passes in his 75 minutes on the pitch, illustrating clearly just how little he got on the ball. Compare this with the weekend before, when he attempted 23 passes against Everton, or the 25 he attempted against Newcastle the game before.
6. Searching for positives, I really do love those Da Silva boys. Maybe in a few years from now they’ll be easily distinguishable for me, but for now, they are more or less the same person to me. I love how eager they are to tackle and how quick they are at going forward. Together, they tore Arsenal apart in the FA Cup game at Old Trafford a couple of months ago and it was nice to see Fabio giving it a go yesterday. Yes, they’re maybe a little too hot-headed. We’ve seen that as costly for Rafael on occasions and after Fabio was booked before the end, you wondered whether he would boil over. But he’s a little terrier, like his brother, and after coming to Old Trafford as the more highly rated, it’s nice to see him given his chance after battling with one injury after another.
7. It’s annoying that Aaron Ramsey got the goal, after turning us down for Arsenal three years ago. He’s won nothing in those three years, whilst we’ve won the league title, two League Cups and World Club Cup. I suppose I’ll be happy for him to score any number of goals for Arsenal, as long as it’s us that continues to lift the trophies in May.
8. So, where does this leave us? Three games remaining with three points between us and Chelsea on the same goal difference. Exactly six months ago, United were 3rd in the league, five points behind Chelsea, so we would have bitten the hand off anyone who offered us our current position. Frustration comes about from the knowledge we could be in a much better position but we’re not alone in being frustrated. Whilst Chelsea and Arsenal fans have the current momentum after this weekend, they will be left to rue the mistakes of their clubs too, even if they came earlier in the season. Chelsea were top of the league for every weekend from the start of the season until their draw with Newcastle in the last game of November. Arsenal then replaced them at the top of the table back at the beginning of December. Yet we’re the ones they’re both chasing. So yes, things could be better, but then they could also be a lot worse. That 19th title is in touching distance and I fancy our lads to go out and get it.
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