By Adam Joseph
Louis Van Gaal’s big game form stayed true once again and Manchester United defeated Arsenal 3-2 in a stunning Sunday win at Old Trafford. In something of an unfamiliar feeling, hope was restored further to the red side of Manchester. Temporary or not it remains to be seen, but Van Gaal’s men got the job done.
The 3-2 score line may have even flattered the visitors, but that is upto debate. The title contenders never led at any stage, and the critics will come hard and fierce this week for Arsene Wenger’s men. They played a severely underhanded United squad with 14 senior injuries and they lost. Favourites with the bookies at the home of the 20-time Champions for the first time in the Premier League era, Wenger’s men stumbled at a crucial hurdle.
However the result said a lot more about the Dutchman’s squad than the Frenchman’s, and that should be the focus. The more senior members of the squad stood up when required, whilst they were undoubtedly equalled by their youthful teammates whose pace and vigour was a welcome sight to a team who too often have looked like they’ve not had it this season.
Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney’s pace slowing ways were not missed and frankly were a blessing, perhaps a sign that the future may be brighter were they are not a part of it. This game could be a revelation that some injured members’ absences were not felt as much as some thought.
Michael Carrick and Daley Blind reunited again as the makeshift central defensive partnership of two natural midfielders. They were enough however, and their lack of pace was not exposed. Funny that this is constantly brought up yet is rarely exposed; down to tactical nous and experience.
Marcos Rojo returned, however his luck ran short once again. Ankle ligament damage is rumoured, but there is hope that it was just a knock rather than something more serious. The talent is there in the Argentine, but he is not getting on the pitch enough to showcase it.
On the right flank Guillermo Varela more than impressed; he was brilliant. After a silly early booking he was terrific, ably supporting the attack (with a key header which led to the second goal) and was very strong defensively. It looks as though Matteo Darmian has a very capable deputy, and Varela has arguably been one of the best performers the last week.
In midfield Morgan Schneiderlin was brilliant once again, and has likely played his best two games for United in his last two outings. He showed fully how bad of a decision it was not to start him in the reverse fixture at the Emirates. His skills allowed Ander Herrera to push further up the field, and they made a brilliant pairing capped off by the Spaniard’s crucial third goal.
Herrera was industrious and has returned to form after some recently subpar performances, particularly in the away trip to Denmark. His compatriot Juan Mata has flourished in being restored to the number ten role of late, and it’s been brilliant to see what surrounding the former Chelsea man has done for Mata. It frees up so many space and pockets for him to work in, and that is exactly where he works best. The results are plain to see.
Meanwhile it was Marcus Rashford and Memphis who stole the show up front. The Dutchman stormed down the left hand side with confidence, summed up with a second half flick from a cross-field pass that oozed with a returning confidence. The return of the worthy Manchester United number seven may have reached its pivotal moment.
Rashford though, a boy from the South of Manchester will steal the headlines and rightly so. The striker (a position he has been converted to over time) found the net with a tidy first time finish and a clever far post header, with composure not normally found in an 18 year old. It seems the videos of Ruud Van Nistelrooy that Nicky Butt had been showing him have been paying off.
It is far too soon to be get carrying away, with the team still three points behind Manchester City (who have a game in hand and a goal difference far superior to United’s). But with Liverpool coming in the Europa League and the team’s FA Cup challenge still alive, there is cause for hope all of a sudden.
Hope and optimism have been away from the club for too long. Rashford’s scoring pace will not last forever and opponents will figure out how to play against the United youth sooner rather than later. But for now, the club can enjoy a period of three wins in a week that brings joy not felt in a long time.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
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