After the heart attack inducing affairs against Chelsea in the last week, a rather drab match was just the ticket for my ticker this afternoon. Goals from Robin Van Persie and Patrice Evra was enough to sink a very poor Arsenal side at Old Trafford and send Manchester United top of the Premier League, clear of Chelsea who are playing as I write at the Liberty Stadium. It took until the dying embers of the game for Arsenal to get a shot on target, and that was a fair reflection on the quality on offer from the North London side.
The opening goal came quickly. Rio Ferdinand played the ball forward for Antonio Valencia who flicked wonderfully for Rafael to run onto down the right hand side. You could forgive the Brazilian for playing a tired ball in after playing 210 minutes of football this week. Arsenal skipper Thomas Vermaelen made a real hash of it however as he swung a leg at it, knocking the ball all of three inches. The ball skipped up beautifully into the path of RVP who finished with aplomb first time on his right peg.
United largely dominated the first half. Tom Cleverley enjoyed one of his better games in a united shirt, protecting the ball and using it wonderfully. Wayne Rooney was finding pockets of space everywhere, and he could have made it 2-0, had it not been for a wonderful save from Vito Mannone. He had an even better chance on the stroke of half time. A short corner to Ashley Young, followed by a cross by the England winger was blocked with a raised hand by Santi Cazorla. Clear penalty. You cannot block the ball with your hand when it is raised like this. You would have never have thought that Rooney would have pulled his effort from 12 yards wide. But that was exactly what he done. At half time and 2-0, it would have already been game over. Yet with that added momentum, there was still a chance Arsenal could get back into it.
Yet the second half played out much like the first. Antonio Valencia should really have doubled the lead shortly after the break when RVP found him with a square pass. Yet the South American shanked his effort from 6 yards. RVP himself should have scored after Young found him with a delightful pass. Yet, this time on his strong left foot, he shot tamely enough for the keeper to get a hand on it.
Just when Arsenal were enjoying their best spell of the match (During which Oliver Giroud struck a post) United sealed the match.Patrice Evra, up for a corner, stayed after the initial ball was cleared. The ball in from Rooney was on the money and the Frenchman snuck in unnoticed. Almost a carbon copy of his goal at the "Toon".
Arsenal then were reduced to 10 after Jack Wilshire picked up a second yellow. Neither of his offences were mallicious, but the card happy Mike Dean (A little too card happy for my liking) had to be consistent with his earlier decisions and he had to go. Maybe Arsene Wenger should have pulled him off, much like Sir Alex Ferguson had done a little earlier with his own young English midfielder Cleverley, who was walking his own tightrope.
David De Gea enjoyed probably his quietest game in a United shirt. He saved well late one when he stuck out a leg to deny Giroud. Yet he could do nothing with Cazorla's effort. Two blocked attempts had frustrated the Spaniard. But the ball fell to his right foot and he rammed it home. A goal of high quality with the last kick of the game.
The win sends us top by two points and there were some positives for sure. I thought Patrice Evra was outstanding throughout, as was all the United defence. The distribution from the center backs was sublime. Rafael worked hard despite his "long" week.
Micheal Carrick was slightly disappointing. He is usually so careful in possession but his radar was not on song today. He still worked hard in defense however. Antonio Valencia must have fancied his chances against the poor Andre Santos. He played solidly, yet I feel he is over complicating his game somewhat. He is getting into good crossing positions and then hesitating. Maybe RVP needs to get into the box quicker so he can feed off of Valencia's normally excellent service. Give it time and I am sure they will click, much like Valencia and Rooney have in recent seasons.
All in all a decent afternoon for the Red Devils. They would have liked more goals, yet the fixtures now look kind for us. We travel to face Braga in European competition on Wednesday night. Join us then!