Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wenger close to tears: Da Silva twins shine, as United dump Arsenal out of FA Cup...

United deservedly progressed into the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday at the expense of Arsenal. The final score was 2-0; both teams had plenty of goal scoring opportunities, but it was United who were the more clinical on the day.

Going into the quarter final, many United fans will no doubt have been perplexed on hearing Ferguson's team news: There was no place in the starting line-up for Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs or Carrick. More worryingly still, was the central midfield pairing of John O'Shea and Darron Gibson.

In midweek, prior to this FA Cup tie, football fans around the world were given a real treat by the quite brilliant Barcelona midfield who destroyed Arsenal. How we wondered would O'Shea and Gibson fair against the same Arsenal midfield? On Tuesday United have a difficult looking Champions League game against Marseille, but even so, many fans will have been left wondering if Ferguson had taken leave of his senses when selecting these two against the nimble footed Arsenal play-makers.

O'Shea and Gibson are seriously lacking in pace and mobility; both are slow on the turn - they are a world apart from the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and even Arsenal's Wilshere.

So there was good reason to be concerned about the prospect of United's central midfield pairing - but there was good news too, because Ferguson played his trump cards when selecting the da Silva twins in the wide midfield positions.

Ferguson is not renowned for his tactical planning, but against Arsenal on Saturday he played a masterstroke when opting for the pace and drive of two young Brazilians.

Rafael and Fabio didn't exactly run the game for United, but whenever either of them received the ball going forward - invariably on the counter-attack - they appeared to have a near telepathic relationship and despite the fact that the Brazilians were on opposite flanks they linked up well on several first-half occasions.

Arsenal were given a warning on 15 minutes when Fabio crossed from the left and found Rafael who should have scored, but his bullet header whistled over the crossbar and into the East Stand. At that point in the contest, that was the closest either side had come to opening the scoring.

On 27 minutes United took the lead and once again the two Brazilians were at the heart of it. Fabio collected the ball just outside the centre circle and from within the United half; he ran at Arsenal and then played a quite brilliant pass with the outside of the right boot which found Rafael deep in Arsenal territory. Rafael then turned inside and played the ball back to Fabio, who then found Rooney, who in turn crossed to Hernandez; Almunia did well to save the Mexican's powerful header, but in so doing he only parried the ball to the feet of the on-rushing Fabio who smashed it into in the net. It really was a superb goal and Fabio was involved on three occasions.

Arsenal didn't sit back, they continued to take the game to United had the better of possession and came back strongly when creating several opportunities to test Van der Sar; however, United's Dutch 'keeper was at his very best and went on to have a very good game - so much so, that he was voted man of the match.

At half-time Ferguson elected to make a tactical reshuffle; it was one which meant United's goal hero was sacrificed for the returning Atonio Valencia. In a bid to take control of midfield, Rooney went wide left and Rafael was pushed into a more central position.

Within three minutes of the re-start, United went two up. Rafael started the move when he received the ball just outside the Arsenal penalty area - the Brazilian cut inside and played a low ball into the feet of Hernandez, but his effort was blocked but Rooney made no mistake with a well directed looping header from close range.

On 63 minutes Ryan Giggs came on for Rafael, who'd tired as the game went on. Scholes replaced Patrice Evra late on and managed to get himself booked not long after. Scholes appeared to be riled about something; maybe it was Wenger's earlier comments about the United midfield general. Whatever the problem was Scholes could have been sent-off following one or two ugly confrontations.

In the wake of what was a well deserved FA Cup victory over Arsenal, United have been drawn against Manchester City in the semi-final - that's assuming they take care of Reading. That will be an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, but it's quite ridiculous having to play the game at Wembley; we have the money grabbing/hapless FA to thank for that.

In summary, anyone who had doubts about playing the da Silva twins in midfield will no doubt be revising their positions on this issue, because at times against Arsenal both were quite brilliant.

In the da Silva twins, Ferguson has two diamonds, let us hope United do not lose them as was the case with Gerard Pique.

The likes of Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher are blocking the path of two players who have genuine potential to become central midfield players - the danger is the two young Brazilians could become disenchanted if they are not given their chances to blossom.

As they demonstrated against Arsenal, the da Silva twins are technically sound, arguably more so than any of United's midfield players with the exception of the veterans Scholes and Giggs (on his day).

The FA Cup tie against Arsenal on Saturday may well have given us a glimpse of the future make-up of the next United team, with Smalling at the back who was once again near faultless, the da Silva twins in midfield and Hernandez up front.

As for Arsenal, in the latter stages Wenger looked close to tears, but only Arsenal's finishing let them down - apart from that they were collectively very good on the day. The calls for the Frenchman to go from so called 'Arsenal fans' are reactionary and typical of fickle supporters.


  1. 'The calls for the Frenchman to go from so called 'Arsenal fans' are reactionary and typical of fickle supporters'

    Spot on - the difference was clinical finishing. Sometimes it just doesn't happen for you. Game at the Emirates will be entertaining.

  2. GOONER,

  3. @Zakk - yes but there's more to it than just clinical finishing. United also have a better keeper, defence, strikers, steel & can play different styles. Bendtner & Chamakh are nowhere near good enough for a team wanting to win the league.

    Smalling really does look the part & great to see the twins both playing in midfield. The future is looking promising with some extremely talented young players.

    Wasn't expecting to see Valencia playing 45 minutes but he looked very good. Great to see him back.

    Apparently Ravel Morrison had a great game for the youth team at Anfield?

  4. As for reactionary responses, you have to bear in mind that any current sentiment is the culmination of 6 YEARS of Arsenal coming up short in crunch games. If a big club like Utd went that long without winning a trophy, I very much doubt that their manager would still be in his job and if he was, I can't imagine he'd still have the unreserved backing of the supporters and probably, rightly so.

    6 years ago Arsenal could have argued that they were as big a club as Utd, now they cannot. Yes, it's admirable that they try to run the club in a financially stable way but do 60,00 people turn up at the AGM to cheer the latest set of!! It's all about trophies and the facts speak for themselves.

    In the time period in question, I would suggest that in a fair few of Arsenal's Old trafford visits they could probably have left feeling that they had a) played pretty well and quite possibly b) been a bit unlucky...but the fact of the matter is that they've come away with the same thing every time - NOTHING. In football, as in life, you make your own luck. Utd have probably only truly played well in 25% of their games this season but will they be known as 'the lucky champions' come may...I think not. The ability to get results whether you're at your best or not is what truly makes champions and it's something that the current Arsenal manager doesn't seem to be able to recreate at his club. Whether it's his choice of personnel,his man management skills or his tactical choices...something's not right and it's not showing any sign of getting better.

    When Arsenal moved to their expensive new stadium in 2006 it coincided with the break up of the 'invincibles' and forced wenger to rebuild the team using a new financial model. The supporters understood this and to be fair to him, the 2008 team offered hope that maybe it was possible to win things 'the right way', both football-wise and financially but ultimately their weaknesses were exposed in february and they imploded spectacularly. Now herein lies the rub, the weaknesses of 2008 are the weaknesses of 2011 - Nothing has changed...that is what the Arsenal fans are finding it increasingly difficult to accept. We want to see progress and until Wenger comes out and says' I'm being hamstrung by the board' we are going to ultimately hold him responsible. I personally am of the mind that financial constraints or not, the blame now lies at Wenger's feet as the missing ingredient is character. He has personally signed each and every player at the club and it is his job to either sign players who possess the will to win or to instil it in them.

    Utd fans only have to put themselves in our shoes and imagine the scenario that its now 2017 and in the last 6 years of Fergie's reign Utd have won nothing. How would you feel? Who would you blame? The board? if so, I would suspect that it would only be for not changing the manager.

  5. Vaud,

    I haven't read any reports about Morrison, but I agree with you about the twins, Valencia and Smalling. The future is starting to look rosy.

    Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know I have great belief if Rafael in particular, but I've felt for a while that the twins were being played out of position. Neither will go on to be great fullbacks but I belive they can be very good midfield players. Fergie and his coaching staff must be seeing this every day in training (too good to be wasted at fullback. I believe it's only a matter of time before we see one or both them edging out Carrick and or Fletcher. It will happen. It is only a question of when.

  6. arsenal have done it without a club-split, massive debt, sugar-daddy oligarch or arab oil-sheik. if you take a look at what's destroying all that's enjoyable about football - the list above is a pretty good place to start.

    wenger is about the only thing that's keeping me interested in the sport these days. let's hope he gets what he deserves this year and wins the title again.

  7. there is dis sayin dat a f**l @ 40 is a f**l 4ever... but in dis case i won't call wenger one.... because if u always quit a method bcos it doesn't work....i'll neva respect u..... i'm a man utd fan but a question to all arsenal fans.... if wenger decides to adopt mourinho method, his style to win the league will u prefer that?..... arsenal ticket still remains one of the most expensive yet fans troop out to watch... then it's clear to me the fans love the way the team plays...... wenger said after the UcL semis defeat that people only talked about the negative side but a team of an age average of 23 reached the semis.... most people responded that dat was a pure and acute nonsense coming out of his mouth .... pls look at jack wils. now remove sentiments he's the best at his age presently.... If i were to be sir AF i would go all out to sign someone like him even if it cost...... 17million pounds which i personally valued him to be... He could be the solution to our midf.. Problems not the silva's.... Pls give some credit to dis manger arsene wenger he is a manager i respect..........


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