1. It’s hard to remember an encounter against Arsenal when I’ve cared less about the outcome in the run up to the game. Of course you always want to win but it felt strange not having any of the pre-match nerves this game has brought about in the past. Instead, we got to watch their players applaud ours on to the pitch. Over 20 points separate the clubs but, whilst United had nothing to play for, Arsenal are still aiming for that top four spot. And in the first half an hour that’s exactly what it looked like. Our players appeared to be hungover/drunk whilst Arsenal run us ragged. They only created one good chance in this time though, the one Theo Walcott scored, but replays showed it was offside and should have been ruled out. From that point on, United created more of the clean cut chances and on a normal day, would have been disappointed not to leave with the three points. Thankfully, it wasn’t a normal day, it was our first game as champions, so essentially it doesn’t really matter… unless you were bothered about that points total record thing.
2. The pre-match build up was all about Robin van Persie so it was fairly fitting that he played an integral part to the game. Sagna, whose decline has been quite shocking, passed the ball to our Dutchman before bringing him down in the box. All the pressure was on Robin but he coolly slotted him. Again, as was the case at Old Trafford, he refused to celebrate.
3. Phil Dowd had an awful game. At one point you could hear “you’re not fit to referee!” from the stands and it was hard to know whether it was coming from the home or the away fans, given how strange some of his decisions were. He went through a ten minute period when he booked every United player who made a challenge, with Rafael, Van Persie, Evans and Jones all going in to the book. He had lost control of the game and then responded by booking two Arsenal players in the next ten minutes. “I think the referee just couldn’t keep up,” said Ferguson after the game. “I thought the referee found it difficult to control and the game was running away from him. The first 20 minutes I think we were surprised at some of their aggression and tackles. We got caught on the back foot. The referee found it difficult to determine what was a good and a bad tackle. When we have a foul he’s booked us right away. We had five players booked. We have one of the best disciplinary records in the country. For Man United to have five players booked I don’t think that’s right. Lukas Podolski [committed] two yellow-card tackles while we were booked for our first tackle.”
4. It’s not often that I talk about players that didn’t play in a post-match write up, but Tom Cleverley’s absence was more obvious than ever. His last Premier League start was on February 10th and since then he has played just 22 minutes in the league, despite always being on the bench. It’s a strange situation. You would think that the Arsenal game would be an obvious one for him to play in, but Fergie opted not to give Michael Carrick rest and play Jones in midfield. With 20 minutes left to play the manager was ready to shift Jones back in to defence and bring on a midfielder. When he went with Anderson I was gobsmacked. Just what exactly has gone wrong with Cleverley?
5. Nani but on a decent show, as he tends to against Arsenal, but you have to wonder whether these are our final few games of seeing him in a United shirt. It’s such a shame because he does have bags of natural ability. He’s too inconsistent, which isn’t helped by the manager refusing to give him a decent run in the team and injuries, but he is a quality player. Still, if he can be used as part of a deal that brings in a top player, I can’t imagine there will be many people complaining.
6. Jones had two great opportunities to score with his head, as did Van Persie, amongst several other chances as the game went on, but a 1-1 draw is fine with me. It would have been a good enough result if we had needed something from the game so seeing as though we didn’t there can’t be too much disappointment. The away fans had a top day out and we got to rub their noses in our success. CHAMPIONS.
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