Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates, to end Jose Mourinho’s rotten record away from home against top-six opposition. Antonio Valencia gave United an early lead, and Jesse Lingard doubled it inside 10 minutes. Alexandre Lacazette got one back for Arsenal soon after half-time, but Lingard’s second goal sealed the points for United. The only dampener for the Red Devils was Paul Pogba’s sending-off in the 74th minute, meaning that he will miss the next week’s derby at Old Trafford.
Such an action-packed game threw up a lot of things to talk about, so let’s dive straight into it-
United reuse an old template
Manchester United had 25% of the ball at the Emirates, yet scored three goals and won the game. United’s approach to the game reminded onlookers of the late-2000s, when Ferguson’s team regularly came to Arsenal, conceded possession and counter-attacked ruthlessly. United’s early lead definitely contributed to this, and there is no saying how the team would have played had the scoreline been different. Nevertheless, United were clinical and ruthless in attack, with quick passing and interchanging that Arsenal were unable to deal with. There was a shade of luck involved, as Arsenal’s finishing was quite poor, while David de Gea put in a performance of a lifetime. However, Mourinho’s gameplan worked out perfectly, and this result will have been a massive confidence boost to the team ahead of the Manchester derby.
Lingard shows his value
What a week it’s been for Jesse Lingard. He’s gone from zero Premier League goals this season to three, all scored in two difficult away games. The Warrington-born winger continued from where he left off at Watford, harrying and harassing the Arsenal backline, especially in the first half. It was his pressing that led to Shkodran Mustafi giving the ball away to United, and three incisive passes later Lingard was slotting the ball into the net, via the post, and haring away towards the United fans. He dropped in to almost play as a third central midfielder after that, as United looked to sit deep and break on the counter, with a two-goal cushion established. Lingard was disciplined throughout the game, yet was vital on the counter-attack, tapping into an empty net after a surge forward from Pogba. He even managed to miss a one-on-one with Cech before that, the goalkeeper saving his shot which then bounced clear off the post. Lingard’s positioning and work-rate have always been top-notch, while his dead-eye finishing over the last couple of games has now made him a realistic starting prospect for the Manchester derby on Sunday, especially in Pogba’s absence.
The hashtag was trending globally on Saturday, and it’s quite evident why. David de Gea hasn’t been as crucial to the side in recent times as he was during the managerial reigns of Messrs Moyes and van Gaal, but he still produces saves of astonishing quality on a regular basis. This, however, was a performance for the ages. The Spaniard could have done nothing about Lacazette’s goal; however, he repelled everything else Arsenal threw at him, racking up a mind-boggling fourteen saves during the match. Some of them were of the routine variety, as Arsenal players shot straight at him. Others, however, beggared belief, with one double save from Lacazette and Sanchez in the second half verging on the impossible. There was another improbable save in the first half, to tip Lacazette’s effort from point-blank range onto the bar. De Gea literally kept United in the match single-handedly, and he is without a doubt the best in the world right now. United fans should pay homage to malfunctioning fax machines every single day.
Wingbacks stepping up for United
While Ashley Young took all the plaudits at Vicarage Road on Tuesday, it was his opposite number, Antonio Valencia’s turn on Saturday. Valencia was superb at the Emirates, giving Sead Kolasinac barely any room to attack and motoring forward well himself. His wide positioning was crucial to United’s first goal, as he intercepted Laurent Koscielny’s lazy waft wide on the right flank, before playing a one-two with Pogba and firing into the far corner. Valencia was always a willing outlet for United to relieve defensive pressure, carrying the ball up the pitch at pace, and on this evidence, United have the best right-back in the league. He will be presumably rested for the Champions League tie in midweek, with an eye on the pivotal derby game on Sunday.