Manchester united vs Arsenal review
21 January, 2014
Robin van Persie scored against his former club for the third game in a row as Manchester United edged Arsenal 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.
It was no surprise that van Persie was Arsenal's nemesis; the striker has now scored in the last five matches between the two teams and his 27th-minute header was responsible for deciding this encounter, inflicting a blow to the momentum Arsene Wenger's men have built up this term. Neither side were at their best during the much-anticipated fixture and although Arsenal improved after the break, they lacked cutting edge, with Wayne Rooney going closest to scoring in the second half when he shot just wide.
One goal was enough for David Moyes' side, though, who are now unbeaten in nine matches, as Arsenal, who entered the match on the back of wins over Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, failed to reinstate their five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Van Persie headlined Manchester United's four changes from their goalless draw against Real Sociedad on Tuesday, while Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans also came in after overcoming calf and back niggles. A sickness bug forced Arsenal into two changes, Thomas Vermaelen and Mathieu Flamini coming in for Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky, who were not among the replacements.
The visitors shaded a cagey opening in which United's Rooney was the only player to test a goalkeeper, albeit with a relatively tame effort from distance. Van Persie breathed life into the contest, though, converting the first genuine chance of the game from a Rooney corner. The forward rose above Oliver Giroud and produced a soaring header that crashed into the top-right corner, too well-placed for Kieran Gibbs, who was on the line, to prevent.
Arsenal were unable to muster a significant response before the break, but were thankful to see goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny emerge from a nasty clash of heads with Phil Jones in good health. Manchester United were not so lucky, with defender Nemanja Vidic failing to return after being hit on the head by the hip of his goalkeeper, David De Gea, on the stroke of half-time.
Arsenal improved after the break but struggled to create clear-cut chances, Mesut Ozil going closest when firing into the side-netting in the 58th minute. Rooney nearly doubled United's lead on the hour after Arsenal's defence failed to clear a clever flick-on header from Shinji Kagawa, but, after feigning to shoot and creating space, the England forward tugged his left-footed effort past the right post with Szczesny beaten.
A long-range effort from Gibbs tested De Gea when it took a late van Persie deflection, while Chris Smalling failed to take advantage of a teasing cross from the goalscorer at the other end. There was a late chance for Giroud, but his shot on the turn went wide as United held on for a crucial win that elevated them to fifth in the table.
Manchester United manager David Moyes: "This was a big result for us today. Arsenal have been in terrific form this season and we had to play very well ourselves. We started the game well. We were very good in the first 20 to 30 minutes. In the end, our whole determination, effort and good play helped us in the second half when we were under more pressure.
"In the second half we had the best opportunities but we didn't take them. But overall, three important points. [Nemanja Vidic] has gone to hospital. It's a terrible clash. It's an accident. Hopefully, he will be OK. I'll find out more from the medics later."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It's difficult to lose the game. We conceded a goal on a set-piece. In a big game, that made the difference.
"In the first half we were too nervous and rushed our game too much. In the second half, when we played composed and had a real go and played our usual game, we were very, very, very, very close to scoring. We have to digest that and come back in a strong way. The heart and the desire was in it, maybe a bit too much in the first half.
"We are quite strong recently on set pieces. I was surprised that were caught on the near post. Vermaelen had a very good game. He did lead the [defensive] line very well. [What am I looking for is] the response after the break. We had to give a lot this week. We played against Liverpool, Dortmund, here today, [but] a draw would have been a fair result today."