- Beating Arsenal
- Winning against Watford
- Youngsters deserving praise
After we beat lowly Shrewsbury and Midtjylland in cup competitions, it was the turn of Arsenal to face a resurgent United side, this time in the Premier League.
When the line-ups were announced some United fans were worried that this could be similar to the 3-0 hammering Arsenal gave us last October. Many Arsenal fans actually expected this to be so, and a quick look at social media before the game showed that they were quite giddy at the prospect of getting ‘revenge’ for that 8-2 beating they got at Old Trafford in 2011.
The game was quite balanced in the first half, and as time wore on it seemed like the United makeshift eleven were a match for the more experienced Arsenal side. After half an hour, Marcus Rashford put United ahead, and only three minutes later doubled the lead when he headed in a Jesse Lingard cross. All of a sudden, we realised we might be witnessing something out of the ordinary, and even when Welbeck pulled one back for Arsenal just before half-time, the Old Trafford spirits were hardly dampened.
Arsenal, fighting to win their first league title since 2004, were expected to come out fighting in the second half, but were surprisingly lacking the determination needed in such games, and United were the better side for most of it. With about half an hour to go, Rashford turned provider when he assisted Ander Herrera who put United 3-1 up. Just four minutes later Ozil reduced the Gunners’ deficit again.
The biggest cheer was saved for Louis van Gaal as he tumbled onto his backside in protest at Alexis Sanchez’s diving to the delight of the United fans at Old Trafford who even started singing his name.
A standing ovation was deservedly given to hero of the moment Rashford when he was replaced by Januzaj with ten minutes left, and the Old Trafford crowd was even louder with their cheers when the final whistle went, meaning United had got an important win while Arsenal were leaving Manchester empty-handed once again.
Apart from Rashford, youngsters Varela had an excellent game after a shaky start, and Fosu-Mensah was brilliant in his debut after replacing Marcos Rojo soon after the second half started; Memphis was more like his old self again; Schneiderlin and Herrera played very well together in midfield; Worth noting that James Weir made his debut as well when he came on in the last few seconds of the game.
On Wednesday evening United met Watford for another league game at Old Trafford, and it was great to see that the youngsters kept their place, with Herrera and Schneiderlin pulling the strings in midfield. It was quite a scrappy encounter, mainly due to the very strong winds which meant the ball seemed to have a mind of its own. Watford did have by far the better chances, but luckily for United Ighalo and his team-mates didn’t seem to have their proper shooting boots on.
With the end of the game looming, we started to worry that this could be a similar game to the Southampton one when United conceded late on to lose 1-0. Captain for the day Juan Mata had other thoughts though, and with about ten minutes left he lined up a free-kick and took it expertly to put United ahead. When the game finished it was pure joy and relief that United had another important win under their belts, even if they didn’t deserve the three points, and with the way other results went, this could prove to be a massive win.
Once again, Fosu-Mensah was excellent in defence and made some perfectly timed tackles; Rashford was a threat especially when moved to the wing; and Varela continued showing why he’s in the first eleven at the moment. The one player who seemed out of sorts was Daley Blind, who probably had his worst game since joining United and Watford’s best chances came from his mistakes.
So two wins that have helped United catch up with City in the table, thanks mainly to the youngsters put into the side who know what it means to wear the United shirt. It’s a pity that some seem to think that Van Gaal has got lucky as injuries to more established players have forced him to play the academy players, but didn’t Van Gaal himself say that he likes to keep ‘small’ squads just so young players can get a chance to play if need be? Surely that for all his faults he deserves some credit for giving debuts to players from the club’s academy that will hopefully become mainstays in the future?
In other games in the league at the weekend, leaders Leicester left it late to beat Norwich 1-0; Tottenham came from behind to beat a resilient Swansea 2-1; West Ham won 1-0 at home to Sunderland; Champions Chelsea won 2-1 at Southampton; Stoke beat bottom club Villa 2-1; Watford and Bournemouth played out a goalless draw; and West Brom won 3-2 at home to Pardew’s Palace.
In midweek, Leicester drew 2-2 at home to West Brom; Sunderland saved a point late on by drawing 2-2 at home to Palace; Chelsea got another three points on the board when they won 2-1 at Norwich; Southampton lost again, this time 2-0 at Bournemouth; Everton won 3-1 at ‘relegated’ Aston Villa; Tottenham lost 1-0 at West Ham; Arsenal continued their recent ‘consistency’ by losing 2-1 at home to Swansea; L’pool beat Manchester City 3-0 just three days after losing the League Cup final against Pellegrini’s side on penalties; and Stoke won against another bottom-three side when they beat Newcastle 1-0.
United play two more games in the next week. On Sunday they travel to West Brom (4pm UK time) and then on Thursday they travel to Anfield to face L’pool in the first leg of the Europa League last sixteen (8:05pm UK time). Two more difficult games, but as always we will be hoping for a couple more wins until we write the next post… COME ON UNITED!!!