Saturday, February 16, 2008

FA Cup: Arsenal flattened by United steamroller...

Manchester United went into today's 5th round FA Cup tie off the back of two awful Premier League performances which has given today's visitors to Old Trafford a five point lead at the top of the table.

IF United supporters are honest with themselves many will have been looking forward to today's game more in hope than in expectation following last weekend's derby debacle in which not a single player in the red shirt covered himself in glory.

With Champions League games in mind and ahead of this 5th round FA Cup tie both managers made changes to their starting line-up. For the United there was no Ronaldo, Tevez, Hargreaves, Giggs or Scholes. Arsenal were without their two first choice fullbacks and their talisman Adebayor was left on the bench, but both managers were able to field strong teams.

From the first few minutes of this game United harried the visitors all over the park, but especially in midfield with Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani and Park all getting to the ball first in the 50/50 challenges and coming off best.

Rarely has an Arsenal midfield that consisted of Fabregas, Hleb and Gilberto been so comprehensively out muscled and out fought. United's early pressure was rewarded when Anderson contested and won a header on the edge of the visitors penalty area, which in turn found the head of Rooney who then steered his header beyond Lehmann in the Arsenal goal. Just four minutes later the Reds made it two nil, after superb work by Nani. The Portuguese winger bamboozled a defender by stopping the ball on the visitors by-line before pinging a pin-point cross onto the head of Fletcher, but it was Gallas who clearly headed into his own net to send the Red army into raptures.

At that point United fans will have thinking that perhaps it was going to be our day, but many will have expected the Gunners to mount an offensive, it simply did not happen as the home side continued to create plenty of good first half chances. Rooney while having an excellent game should have scored more than one goal, but it was Nani who made it three-nil after an excellent ball from United's left found the winger in a central position and he made no mistake when bursting clean through on goal.

If the Arsenal fans were expecting a better second-half performance then they will have been disappointed as the pattern of the game was just like the opening period with United dominating and winning the midfield battles and the home team were creating all the chances.

Eboue added to the Gunners problems when referee Wiley issued a red card for a high challenge on Evra on 49 minutes, and luckily for United and the Reds fullback, there wasn't that much contact.

With not much to play for and with AC Milan on the horizon Wenger made three second half changes when sending on Adebayor, Flamini and Senderos. It made no difference to the pattern of the game as United continued to dominate and create chances. It came as no surprise that Fletcher made it four-nil when he got himself on the end of another pin-point Nani cross to head home unchallenged at the far post on 74 minutes.

Today Arsenal's slick passing machine came up against an irresistible force of power in the form of the Manchester United steamroller on what was another bumpy Old Trafford playing surface. On 71 minutes Fergie replaced Wayne Rooney who wouldn't look out of place driving a steam driven machine. Judging by the look on the former Everton striker's face he'd clearly enjoyed his work as did the home supporters.

On 72 minutes Scholes replaced Anderson, who was given another standing ovation by the Old Trafford crowd. Louis Saha had replaced Rooney and he looked surprisingly sharp given his horrendous recent injury record.

As for Wenger, he won’t be happy with his defenders and perhaps the biggest miss for the Gunners was the absence of his two first choice fullbacks.

But this victory was all about United's industry and work rate. Added to which when a United player crossed the ball, on many occasions they found their target inside the box, which is quite something given that the Reds played the whole game with just one striker.

Ferguson doesn't always get it right when tinkering with his line-up but today it worked perfectly with players like Fletcher and Carrick putting in fist-class performances from start to finish.

In a week when the Beck’s and Posh re-affirmed their marriage vows, United supporters ended a bad week by having their collective faith restored in a team that looked in danger of faltering following two poor results and performances. Normal service has well and truly been resumed and so United and their supporters can look forward to the fresh challenge of Europe, added to which Liverpool were humbled at Anfield by the mighty Barnsley, it really doesn't get much better than today from a Reds' perspective.

Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans can count themselves lucky that United didn't score eight today, and eight-nil would not have flattered the Red Devils.

2 comments:

  1. we outplayed them but I do feel a slight bit of pity. other than the 11 they played, they didn't have any senior player that wasn't injured. and they are leading us by 5 pts in the prem. oh well 4-0! we'll see what happens...

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  2. A sad exit from the cup, but you got the feeling from the start they weren't really up for it anyway. Still, he's got plenty of FA Cups in the cabinet already. Hopefully they'll be bigger trophies coming back to North London at the end of the season...

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