Manchester United, fresh from a fairytale victory over the French giants PSG, faced the Gunners who were left in the dust by the French side Rennes in the Europa league clash last week. There can’t be two clubs with more contrasting situations than this, locking horns with each other in the Arsenal Vs Man Utd game.
Still, the string of away wins for Manchester United under their Caretaker Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought to an abrupt halt by Arsenal when the two sides met in their League clash last Sunday. Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-0 with Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang getting their names on the scoresheet.
Arsenal were coming to the Emirates stadium after facing a 3-1 drubbing in France during their first leg clash of Europa League Quarter finals. They were expected to return to their imperious form at the Emirates and they did. Manchester United seemed like they were having one of those days when nothing went their way.
Courtesy of the victory in the Arsenal Vs Man Utd game, Arsenal regained their top-four spot and pushed United below. Arsenal are just a point behind 3rd placed Spurs, and just 2 points ahead of United, and 3 points ahead of Chelsea. This makes the upcoming Premier League match-days very peculiar as there are 4 teams fighting hard for 2 Champions League spots.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 10, 2019
Solskjaer kept the formation intact and made a few changes to the core for the Arsenal Vs Man Utd fixture. Pogba returned to the fold after being left out for the PSG game serving a suspension. Nemanja Matic returned after a long injury lay-off while Diogo Dalot was given an opportunity to prove himself in midfield.
Unai Emery employed a 3-4-3 formation with Ozil being the central tormentor in the attack. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka formed the core of the midfield while Lacazette and Aubameyang fulfilled the attacking duties.
From the word go, United were facing troubles to cope with the pace of the Arsenal attack. This has been the nemesis for United. This was exposed against PSG in the first leg of Champions League Round of 16 as well.
The duo of Aubameyang-Xhaka exposed this weakness greatly to give United early blows. Xhaka found the net as early as the 12th minute. United looked composed with frequent attacks on the Arsenal post but weren’t having their best of lucks. The strikers hit the post and crossbar a number of times and made a mess of the potential goal-scoring opportunities.
However, the scoreline doesn’t reflect the intensity of the Arsenal Vs Man Utd game. Both the teams looked equally capable of scoring each time they penetrated into the defense. Arsenal was helped by a penalty late in the game which made them double the lead. United looked helpless after that.
Solskjaer was critical about the team’s loss. He was quoted as saying:
“We started slow, maybe a backlash from Wednesday night. We were too slow the first 15 minutes – he [Xhaka] had time to hit that ball [for the opening goal]. But we created so many chances, so many more than when we beat them in the cup but that doesn’t help when the result is like it is. It is not scratching your head, sometimes that happens.”
“We hit the woodwork twice, sometimes strikers take them. I know more than anyone, as a striker, that that can happen. I can’t remember any proper saves that David [de Gea] had to make. They didn’t really carve us open. It is one of those days, we have to dust ourselves down and now we play Wolves in the FA Cup.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spoke to the press after the Arsenal Vs Man Utd encounter. He said:
“I was confident, all of my team-mates give me a lot of confidence,” the goalscorer says. “Laca [Lacazette] gave me the penalty and that was cool from him. I was really focussed, I made a mistake against Tottenham by looking down at the last moment and not at Lloris. At the last moment I was looking down and that was my mistake.”
“We practice this all the time and today it went in. I knew that it could be tough but I was really confident.” Of what the result does to the league table, he adds: “I think we have everything in our hands but we know it will be tough to finish in the top four. It was important to win this game today. We have a good spirit and we are hungry. We want to come back into the Champions League.”
The battle for a berth in the top four becomes tantalizingly poised with 6-8 teams giving everything they can. Only the toughest will go through. The upcoming weeks promise to be a treat to the football connoisseurs.