Well, let’s get one thing out of the way first and foremost: I’m terrible at making predictions. Absolutely terrible. But there are times when it’s nice to be wrong, and today is one of those days. You could break out the thesaurus and use up every synonym for ‘amazing’, and you’d still feel like it doesn’t adequately describe United’s attacking performance today. At the same time, you could use that same thesaurus to find every synonym for ‘terrible’, and it would come up short of a proper description for how woeful Arsenal were.
Combine the two, and you end up with one of the most merciless attacking performances from United in recent history, an embarrassing day for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, and a warning message to any and all that Manchester United mean serious business this season.
A wealth of time could be devoted to discussing the action, individual performances, specific moments, but where do you start?
Here’s where. 27th minute, Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal. Robin van Persie steps up with a chance to level the match from the spot. Just minutes earlier, United had taken the lead, and a deserved one at that. Now, Arsenal had a chance to hit back in short order, silence a rocking Old Trafford, and receive a confidence and momentum boost that could have turned the game on its head.
When it comes to penalties, you expect the worst and hope for the best.
Well, to take the suspense out of it for those who might not have caught the action, of Arsenal’s two goals, the first was not scored by Robin van Persie.
Had Van Persie converted his spot kick, it may well not have altered the end result, but who knows? At the very least, United may have had more of a battle on their hands.
But De Gea’s save not only kept the momentum firmly on United’s side, but it kick-started the defining sequence of the match. Before Arsenal had time to process missing what was perhaps their best opportunity to make a game of it, it was 2-0, by virtue of Ashley Young scoring a cracker of a goal that would be classed as brilliant on any other day but was all but par for the course on this one.
In terms of individual performances, yes, where do you start?
There are some who no doubt still bear ill feelings towards Wayne Rooney for what transpired last October, but whatever your personal opinion of the man, his face, his hair, his personal life, or where he’s from, there’s no denying his skills on the pitch and his importance to United’s ambitions.
And after finishing last season in a rich vein of form, Rooney’s hit the ground running like a man possessed from the start of this season. After scoring four goals in United’s preseason tour of the U.S., Rooney made it five in three Premier League games and 152 in his Manchester United career with his hat-trick against the Gunners.
The hat-trick hero always gets the man of the match award and the match ball, but Young had a fine argument for the plaudits. He didn’t get credit for the heavily deflected winner at West Brom, but he certainly opened his United account in style with a couple of goals that will make defenders think twice about allowing him even an inch of space within sight of goal. Statistics don’t always tell the entire story, but his two goals and three assists are a perfect indicator of why he was signed this summer.
De Gea will be remembered for his clutch penalty save, but it was only his most significant save, not his most eye-catching one. He did let Walcott’s goal go right through the wickets, but he more than up for it with multiple stops that prevented Arsenal from ever seriously threatening United’s stranglehold on the three points. For those who about the youngster’s confidence, confidence is the last thing that he lacks.
And it’d be a downright oversight to fail to mention Danny Welbeck. After providing the opener, he was forced to exit late in the first half after pulling up with a hamstring injury, so he didn’t get to fully take part in the festivities.
A comfortable win was nothing less than should have been expected, with United fielding a lineup filled with attacking ability against a severely weakened and inexperienced Arsenal defense. But what transpired was far, far beyond what anyone could have expected or imagined, and to say that it could and perhaps should have been an even more comprehensive scoreline would be an accurate statement.
The win was United’s fourth straight home win over Arsenal and takes their home unbeaten streak over Arsenal to seven games, and United are now 9-1-2 in the last dozen meetings between the two sides. And while United are now top ahead of City on goal difference, Arsenal find themselves 17th heading into the international break, with a lone point from their three opening fixtures.
As if the above paragraph and the six-goal margin of victory aren’t telling enough, the obvious and vast difference in quality between a reloaded United side and what Arsenal are currently calling a team makes it feel like the days when these two were unquestionably the Premier League’s two best teams, battling it out for the title on a yearly basis, were a millenium ago. To ask ‘shouldn’t rivalry matches be competitive?’ shouldn’t be construed as rubbing it in, because there’s something to be said for putting your best up against someone else’s best, fighting tooth and nail, and coming out on top.
But that by no means takes away from the result and the performance. United head into the international break having successfully navigated the first stretch of their tough opening stretch, and considering the penchant for slow starts and fast finishes, it should be an alarming thought for the rest of the Premier League if United are still playing in first gear.