Cleverley isn’t ready: I hate to start on a negative – after all, this was an overwhelmingly positive day for Manchester United – but this issue needs addressing. As we all know, the England football team is a perennial underachiever, the kind of dream-crushing national embarrassment that makes you want to hide in the corner and cry. After each disappointing World Cup or European Championship exit, on penalty kicks or otherwise, the nation’s sporting press tries to identify the Point At Which It All Went Wrong. Last summer, the team’s failure was traced back to the English game’s long-standing weakness: the rejection of possession football. Tom Cleverley is one of the few English players who boasts an intuitive understanding of the midfield geometry that Spanish youngsters learn before they’re out of diapers, and, as such, he’s pretty much a national treasure. Everyone really wants Cleverley to succeed this year, because only after a full season of top-level football will he be fully equipped to SAVE ENGLAND’S SPORT. Maybe we’re rushing him; maybe we aren’t. Either way, he was terrible against Arsenal.
Anderson is ready: Europeans have an image of the “typical” Brazilian footballer. He’s short and stocky, deceptively unintimidating. His backstory involves favelas and tin cans. He performs stepovers and sports a Mohawk. He’s not necessarily the best player on his team, but everyone thinks he’s the best because, you know, he’s a Brazilian. Anderson’s failure to conform to that stereotype – he’s a hard-working ball-winner who recently replaced his dreadlocks with something between an afro and a no fro – has disappointed English fans for years. Which is a shame. Anderson doesn’t possess the skill of, say, Ronaldinho, and he certainly ain’t no Pele, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we should appreciate him for the functional midfield workhorse that he is.
De Gea is angry: One of my favorite moments in Saturday’s match arrived directly after Arsenal’s goal, which I know sounds strange, but hear me out. Cazorla’s shot flew into the net and David De Gea – the most expensive goalkeeper in Manchester United history, a skinny shot stopper who couldn’t defend a cross into the box if the ball literally caught him – got angry. Really angry. He swung his arms about and screamed at the back four. It was beautiful to watch.
Evra is goal-hungry: I used to joke that Patrice Evra only shoots on goal when Dimitar Berbatov happens to be lurking in the penalty area — wherever Berba is, he’s always lurking — ready to turn the inevitable miscued daisy cutter into a scissors-kick golazo. Of course, this joke was all part of my effort to big up Berbatov – someone whose talent I’ve never been shy about bigging up – and not designed to mock Evra, since, well, Evra’s a left back. Recently, however, I’ve had to shelve my old line. Berbatov plays for Fulham, and Evra has already scored twice this season. Wow.
Rooney isn’t the main man: Once upon a time everything – hopes, dreams, etc. – depended on our depressingly unreliable number 10. Old Trafford descended into hushed silence when Rooney landed awkwardly, or, even worse, when news of a super-injunction began circulating on Twitter. No more. We’ve got a new linchpin, and his name’s Robin van Persie.