William Gallas talked about United players being too arrogant and a whole load of bollocks, expanding on his thoughts on United’s said arrogance. Well, if yesterday’s display was anything to go by, yes, he was absolutely right. United blew away Arsenal with an arrogance that would be deemed fit for Champions.
To be honest, I was not very high spirited prior to the game — my preview of the game made that fairly clear. The least I was hoping for was to avoid a replay. The league obviously holds more importance, at least to me. But when you know that the players and the manager are really focused on competing on all fronts you could expect an inspired performance to just hit you out of nowhere.
What was completely unexpected, and to our pleasant surprise, was the result.
After an extremely hard week, drawing against the Hotspurts and losing on derby day with an uncharacteristically limp display, a 4-0 victory against a team that is currently on top of the table is not something one might have expected. But the only thing you could say at the end of the day would be to never doubt Sir Alex and his men’s ability to hit back when things seem a little down. And for that the team deserves all the praise.
Things were a little different for me at the start of the match. I wasn’t too convinced with the starting line-up. Although — contrary to my horrible suggestion, prior to the City game, that SAF must play Scholes and Anderson together — I was quite happy seeing Carrick and Anderson in midfield. What I wasn’t really expecting was to see a third central midfielder, and that too Darren Fletcher.
The presence of Nani, Park and Rooney in front made it a 4-3-3 — which is something that doesn’t sit too easily on my head. Clearly the gaffer was having the midweek clash against Lyon in mind while deciding his first XI. Wenger had the excuse of not being able to field a full strength side, but with Fabregas and Hleb in midfield, Toure and Gallas in defence one would have expected a good game of football from either side. Considering, we didn’t have Ronaldo and had a shuffled formation and personnel this should have evened things up from either side.
Nothing can really explain the margin, other than the fact that United’s players just wanted the win more than Arsenal, who would have really been better taking the day off than suffer so much embarrassment. I, for one, was genuinely shocked at the lack of desire in some of the Arsenal players. Fabregas was a non-entity.
But this is not to take away anything from us. I can start by picking out the ‘stand out’ players, but a 4-0 rout makes it hard. Anderson continues to do it again; I am running out of adjectives for him and hence you must read my earlier articles on him if you’ve just walked into this site for the first time. The kid is a dynamite of a player and SAF must avoid falling victim to nostalgia by starting him in midweek as well, ahead of Scholes. Scholes is a classy player, but Anderson has momentum, and this factor always counts at this stage of the season and in big games — something he’s already displayed a penchant for.
Michael Carrick was excellent, which makes his no-shows baffling. The instinctive Hollywood pass to Nani, for the third goal, was beautiful. And when I see such displays of precision from the Geordie, I just scratch my head and wonder: “Where the fuck does this bloke disappear, sometimes?”
Rooney’s performance was encouraging and a goal against his name — how many times has he scored against Arsenal?! — is always going to make him feel good, although he could have added some more. Evra’s runs down the left also gave the impetus we needed to get our free flowing football back. Both players were missing in the City game.
We also saw a performance from Nani that made Ronaldo’s absence hardly noticeable. He seamlessly stepped into the shoes of his countryman with a goal, a couple of assist, some mazy runs, a little show boating, and generally annoying the hell out of the opposition. A great day for him, then.
And, finally, a surprise package: Darren Fletcher — the perennial squad player; someone who is always there when you need a squad player who can works his socks off for you. He also bagged a brace, both with his head. More impressive than his goals was his work on the pitch — hustling and harrying Gilberto, Fabregas and Hleb into midfield anonymity. What more can you really ask from a squad player!
It’s a great feeling to thrash a team that’s also your title rival. I wouldn’t read too much into the psychological impact of this game, although it would be great if the Arsenal players feel really crushed by this defeat and implode — wishful thinking, I know, as this team does have more mettle. We would do well to remember that this was not in the league and we’d rather hope that this is the beginning of a strong title winning surge.
Meanwhile let us rejoice in our victory and praise Barnsley for knocking the ‘dippers out of the Cup. So that’s one less fly to swat.
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