The Aftermath: Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

Alex Livesey

Tactical notes, post-match interviews, and injury news from United's massive win over league leaders Arsenal.

  • First, an update on the captain. Nemanja Vidic was taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion in that nasty clash with David De Gea. He was released Sunday night, Moyes said he was "OK", and the two weeks off before the next match away to Cardiff should give the Serb some time to rest up.
  • Not such good news on Michael Carrick. A recurring achilles injury means the midfielder is unlikely to play in either of England's friendlies over the international break. Carrick told the press "I was a bit patched up to play today. I got through it but it doesn't look too good." The England's man's usually stellar form has dipped over the last month or so, and perhaps this injury is to blame. Danny Welbeck, who missed the match with a knee injury, is in the England squad and looks to be close to a return.
  • Despite the injury news, the United camp was understandably upbeat. Rooney described the win as a "massive lift", adding that "Our goal is to be top or thereabouts at the new year." Moyes was characteristically level-headed, but reserved special praise for his frontmen: "Great players score great goals in big games and he (RVP) is a great player. I have got to say, his sidekick today played great as well, Wayne, the two of them were fantastic." All good stuff, but "sidekick"? C'mon David, we've had problems here--albeit out of context--before.
  • The boss has taken plenty of flak over the first quarter of the season, but deserves credit for his tactics yesterday. United's midfielders packed the central areas, denying service to Cazorla and Ozil and forcing Arsenal to rely on crosses from the full-backs. United got the set-pieces right too--Van Persie ran from deep to beat Arsenal's static zonal marking for the goal, and in the second-half Chris Smalling found acres of space behind Arsenal's high-defensive line from an RVP free-kick, only to glance his stooped header wide.
  • Speaking of Arsenal, they clearly miss Theo Walcott. No one on the pitch had the pace to get behind the United defense, bar Serge Gnabry, who only made a short cameo. And remember after their opening-day loss to Villa, when everyone said they needed to buy another centre-forward? Nicklas Bendtner, the destitute man's Zlatan, just reminded us why.
  • Comparison's with Moyes's Everton are often facile, but the similarities were clear on Sunday. United sat deep in a big match-up and relied on their frontmen to bring the goals, while Shinji Kagawa continues his evolution into a Steven Pienaar-type left midfielder with license to come inside. Pienaar and Leighton Baines made up arguably the strongest left-side in the Prem last year and Kagawa's understanding with Evra will be crucial to United's success. Jonny Evans, too, is clearly a Moyes's favorite. His distribution was shocking, but he put in the type of committed performance we've seen from Phil Jagielka so many times over the last few seasons.
  • I know United fans have heard this before, but watching Paul Pogba spank a stunning volley past Pepe Reina and Napoli was just painful--especially after watching Tom Cleverley shuttle around for 45 uninspired minutes. Thank goodness we have Adnan Janusaj locked down long-term.
  • Most observers thought Sir Alex was getting ahead of himself when he said that Phil Jones "could become one of the best players we have ever had." Sunday, Jones lived up to the praise, throwing himself into every challenge and doing the job in midfield and defence. That said, his future position remains up in the air. Centre-back, full-back, or midfield? Voice your opinion in the poll.
  • Barney Ronay examined earlier this week, in typically grandiloquent style, Marouane Fellaini's struggles at Manchester United to adapt to new position as a ball-winning midfielder. Because of the Belgian's size, it is often assumed that he is a naturally a defensive player, but by the end of his Everton days he was most effective as a unorthodox number 10. His aerial presence and chest control make him a surprisingly effective second striker, but he is unlikely to get many chances in that role with the likes of Rooney, Kagawa, and Janusaj around. Fellaini got that chance when he came on for RVP--and looked very comfortable. Admittedly, he came on for defensive reasons, but keep an eye on how Moyes uses him for the rest of the season. Changing Marouane's remit could be the way to unlock his undoubted potential.
  • Finally, a shoutout to former United players John O'Shea, Wes Brown, and Phil Bardsley, who combined to shutdown Manchester City in Sunderland's 1-0 win, the latter firing the winner home past a stranded Costel Pantilimon. Gotta love it.

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