Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal, Reaction: United coast past anaemic Gunners

Alex Livesey

Manchester United weren't at their best against Arsenal, but they didn't have to be as Arsene Wenger's men offered nothing in a meek surrender at Old Trafford.

For all the talk of Arsenal having turned a corner, it was amusing to see that the table-toppers turned up at Old Trafford and gave a carbon copy of every performance there against Manchester United in recent years. While United weren't at their best, they didn't have to be, because the Gunners put in a display that was tame in the extreme, offering nothing whatsoever.

United dominated possession in the opening stages, although didn't really create much as both sides struggled to find their fluency. The deadlock was broken from a corner, when Robin van Persie got the better of some lax marking from Arsenal to head United into the lead. Wonderfully, there was no muted celebration this time as the Dutchman went berserk in celebration.

Towards the end of the half, David de Gea clattered Nemanja Vidic to leave the Serbian half-unconscious and a replacement had to be found for half-time. One problem: both of our centre-backs were on the pitch already, in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. David Moyes decided to move Jones there, rather than play Antonio Valencia at right-back, and it seemed to be a mistake as Arsenal looked to improve and gain far more possession in the absence of Jones' spoiling work in midfield.

Yet for all the ball they had, Arsenal could do little with it. Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla were invisible, and the only real threat came from a bizarre succession of ill-gotten corners, one when Michael Carrick bizarrely put the ball out under no pressure, one when David de Gea was wrongly ruled to have caught the ball over the line, and another when Giroud falsely claimed that his wide effort had been deflected. Yet the United defence, increasingly desperate in the second half, stood firm on all three.

United had two further chances of their own, with Rooney putting a fine chance wide in time and space, and Chris Smalling marring an otherwise fine performance at right-back by missing a sitter from a set-piece, placing a header into the turf with the goal wide open.

There was one very dangerous moment late on when Bacary Sagna whipped in a lethal ball across the face of United's goal, but fortunately the only man positioned to attack it was NIcklas Bendtner, who, for reasons best known to himself, failed to do so.

United weren't really tested or pushed here. It's a good sign in terms of Arsenal not winning the league, since they put in a performance so similar to those at Old Trafford of recent years, but United didn't up their game as much as they ought to have. Carrick was poor again but continues to be selected for the big games. Shinji Kagawa was also poor, bafflingly introduced in place of Adnan Januzaj, for which there can be no sane rationale, and managed to last until the 80th minute before being withdrawn - for Ryan Giggs. The decision to move Jones, rather than Smalling back into defence was also very nearly a costly one, only saved by Arsenal failing to complete a series of simple passes.

The result doesn't tell you too much about the weaknesses in our performance, but as it stands they don't come much better, particularly with Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all dropping points. There was, perhaps, something of the determination and know-how which has seen United through to titles in the late Ferguson era, which can only be a positive. But the simple fact is the table looks a lot rosier now than it did on Friday.

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