by Teo Teng Kiat
Scorers: Welbeck 22′, Young 28′, 90′, Rooney 41′, 62′, 84′, Nani 67′, Park 70′; Walcott 45′, Van Persie 74′
United tore apart an inexperienced Arsenal side decimated by injuries and suspensions in a ruthless display, hitting eight goals to pile on the misery for our London rivals in their worst ever defeat against us.
Sir Alex kept faith with the same starting XI which outclassed Spurs 3-0 on Tuesday, while injuries to Vermaelen, Gibbs, Sagna, Wilshere and suspensions for Frimpong and Song only exacerbated the departures of Fabregas and Nasri for the visitors, as Wenger handed Francis Coquelin a first-team debut and Carl Jenkinson a first league start. Meanwhile, the bench was one that only ardent supporters of the Gunners would have recognized, as youngsters Oguzhan Ozyakup and Giles Sunu joined recent signing Oxlade-Chamberlain alongside Ignasi Miquel and Henri Lansbury.
Old Trafford sensed blood, and United pressed hard from the offset. Midway through the first half, Welbeck took advantage of hesitant marking to slip in between Koscielny and Djourou to nod home a cute Anderson chip and open the scoring. United were in full flow, but Evans’ needless tug on Walcott as he burst into the area handed our opponents a way back into the game.
No matter, however, as De Gea guessed correctly and got down to palm away Van Persie’s weak spotkick to prevent them from leveling. It was great to see the players all rushing over to the Spanish goalkeeper after the save, in a show of support. A minute later, Ashley Young picked up a loose ball outside the area and curled a stunning strike into the top corner for United’s second.
The goals started coming, as Rooney curled in two superb freekicks and a penalty to complete a hat-trick, Nani chipped in a great finish, Park rifled in a low shot and Young hit another sublime curler, to render strikes from Walcott and Van Persie irrelevant. Old Trafford was euphoric; the last time United scored so many was back in 1999.
Truth be told, the inexperience of Arsenal’s players cost them. Old Trafford is no place to come to when half your starting lineup have less than 90 minutes of BPL football between them. It was harsh and unfair to ask so much of these players, who have the potential but not yet gained the temperament for such a high-profile clash. Wenger must shoulder much of the blame for allowing youth to be prioritized over experience in his team-building philosophy over the years, and the losses of Fabregas and Nasri meant it was too much for Van Persie to carry the team, especially with Arshavin and Rosicky in wretched form.
The likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, Gibbs and Szczesny will come good, but only if Wenger goes out to buy, the need for which has become painfully apparent now. The Arsenal fans, who were in magnificent voice throughout, certainly deserve better.
Contrast this with the kids in the United side, who although had an overall age younger than the Arsenal lineup, have already had spent a couple of seasons playing first team football: Jones for Blackburn, Smalling at Fulham, Welbeck and Cleverley on loan at Sunderland and Wigan, De Gea being first choice for Atletico.
As Gary Neville said on Sky after the game, United were not at their best in this game; the sloppiness at the back for the two goals conceded needs to be cut out, not least because it will prove costly against better opponents. Evra seems to be slightly on the wane defensively now, having lost a bit of his pace, while Evans still looks shaky at times.
It was a good win, but we should not be carried away with this victory over a depleted Arsenal side shorn of confidence, for there will be tougher games to come. However, the energy shown by this emerging batch of players does promise genuine excitement, and the hope is that United will build on this fine start to the season and fend off the real threat of their rivals for the title.
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