Long gone are the days of Manchester United and Arsenal fighting in the tunnel before kick-off, kicking lumps out of each other during the game, all culminating in a 22-man brawl or a food fight at the final whistle.
When the Premier League’s two most successful sides took to the field this afternoon, you would be forgiven for thinking it was nothing more than a friendly match. Pre-match hugs between Robin Van Persie and his former team mates before shirt swapping at half time really proved the bite has left this once colossal fixture.
A host of mini-battles took place today which should have brought forth a stand out candidate for man of the match.
RVP against his former club, surely wanting to impress. Cleverley against Wilshere in a battle of England’s future ball player. Patrice Evra against a set of fans who despise him for referring to this fixture as ‘men vs boys’ in the past. However, none of the above are my choice.
For me, Antonia Valencia wasn’t at his best, but he was a constant danger down the right flank.
Speaking to a knowledgeable Arsenal fan prior to kick-off, I was told “Santos will kill us today” – and he wasn’t wrong.
Every time Valencia was in possession, it took Santos plus an additional one or two men to help stop him.
The Ecuadorian winger has devastating pace and strength and is a constant threat week in, week out. To have such an outlet is surely a godsend for the United side. Under pressure? Give it to Valencia and he will run with it.
Today, Valencia did not ignore his defensive duties – however minimal they were; he worked back and helped Rafael when necessary. Going forward, he worried Arsenal every time he received the ball which in turn created space elsewhere on the pitch.
I am not blind to the fact Valencia has played against better opposition and had better days, but today he had Arsenal panicking, which is enough to get my vote.
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