The last couple of weeks have not been the best for Manchester United and its supporters.
After back to back defeats to their biggest rivals in Chelsea and Liverpool, an FA charge for what Sir Alex Ferguson considered to be simply speak the truth about poor officiating as well as the loss of one of the players of the season in Nani, United fans would be forgiven for not being in the greatest of spirits at the current time.
However, after all the talk about blanking the media and and the comments questioning Ferguson’s judgment, it was only appropriate that the football became the focus of attention again and the fact that it put another dent in Arsenal’s own hunt for silverware would surely have made victory all the more satisfying for the United faithful. And after what one would say was a R20;good day at the office”, here are five things I think should be taken from the game:
1) The return of Antonio Valencia is a welcome sight everyone will have been glad to see the Ecuadorian star reemerge from his horrific injury to play a part in the business end of the season.t – brought on at half time to replace Fabio Da Silva, United fans
His timely return has been made all the more significant by the injury sustained by Nani after a tackle by Jamie Carragher that was deemed “disgraceful” by Ferguson following his silence towards to media. It would not have been fair to expect Valencia to come back into the side and produce a performance to suggest he had never been gone. In fact the more cautious United fan, myself included, will have wondered if after such a damaging injury if we would ever see the same calibre of performance that we had come to expect from him.
However, everyone will have been relieved to see that those doubts may well be cast aside in the coming weeks, as Valencia gave a performance that was testament to his positive attitude since being sidelined for so long. He occupied the right wing in self assured style, contributing to United’s attack throughout the second half delivering accurate crosses and constantly remaining a threat. It was a welcome sight, and Ferguson will have been glad to find himself with another option on the wing with both Park and Nani both out.
2) The Da Silva Twins On The Wing – a lot of scrutiny was placed on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection before the game, particularly on the midfield and defence. Both Scholes and Giggs were rested, with John O’Shea and both Rafael and Fabio Da Silva taking places in the midfield of a side that contained seven recognised defenders. At first glance this may well have appeared strange, but as many United fans will testify, both Rafael and Fabio are more offensively minded as full backs, and the prospect of them both occupying the wings was certainly an interesting prospect that many will have wanted to see.
It was also an opportunity to see more of Fabio with his brother already impressing throughout the season so far, many will have been intrigued to see what they could offer when playing together. Both had their threatening moments, with Rafael squandering a good chance to open the scoring after a cross from Fabio, and Fabio himself breaking the deadlock.
We were also fortunate to see glimpses of the understanding the twins have in their play such as the aforementioned missed chance by Rafael and a long pass cross field from Rafael to Fabio towards to end of the first half. Certainly, the potential for long careers at United is there for all to see if they continue to develop.
3) Substance was more useful than style – From the statistics, without seeing the scoreline, one will have thought Arsenal would have won the game. After they made headlines for failing to record a single shot on goal against Barcelona, Arsenal were far more of an attacking threat. They had more shots on- and off- target, dominated possession and a greater passing success rate. However, as many have accused them of in recent years, they seem to lack the resilience and mental strength that United’s team often has, and the greater experience of the team was evident.
United looked a far better defensive unit with Vidic back in the squad from suspension combining with the ever impressive Chris Smalling. Simply put, United looked far more prepared to withstand Arsenal’s attacking threat than vice versa. Whilst many have questioned the standard of United’s football this season, their ability to cope under pressure and work hard to achieve a result has been clear to see.
The experience and maturity of a team that knows what is required of them to achieve success is in stark contrast to an Arsenal team that continue to have question marks placed against their ability to hold their nerve when it matters in competing for silverware despite the standard of football that one must admit is easy on the eye. But success does not come without the correct mentality and to win ugly is certainly far more appealing than the frustration of losing beautifully.
Continued on page two.