United gave the Gunners a lesson in counter-attacking footballing but had to rely on de Gea to hang on for victory on Matchday 15, some talking points from the enthralling encounter are:
De Gea the difference
Smalling and de Gea #UpCloseAndPersonal
The Spaniard’s quality was never in question, but few would have expected such a world class performance at the Emirates. Dave looked in the mood to thwart everything the Gunners could muster, making an EPL record 14 saves. Arsenal had 33 attempts, with only the Lacazette effort to show. Not tired of denying the Gunners, De Gea also saved Lukaku’s blushes when the striker nearly directed a ball past his own keeper. With Real reportedly shifting their attention to Bilbao’s Arrizabalaga, United will hope to count on the Spaniard’s services for the foreseeable future. Mourinho is known to hype his players (a confidence boost of sorts), yet not many would argue that de Gea LOOKED the best keeper in the world on Saturday.
Enjoy the pick from a number of world class saves
United CAN play when unleashed
Lingard wheels away after applying the finishing touch to a beautiful team goal
Jose has been criticized for his defensive approach, especially against elite opposition. Meaning that despite the manager’s assertion before the game that his team would attack, few would have anticipated Saturday’s performance – especially when the teamsheet arrived and the personnel/formation remained same. While the Red Devils had been guilty of lacking ambition and quality previously, the players put on a masterclass in counter-attacking football which left Arsenal stunned for the first 15mins – with Arsenal’s backline struggling to cope with United’s high press and pace on the break. Not since the days of SAF, have United demonstrated such ruthlessness playing counter-attacking football. A tactic the Scot employed against Wenger quite often, especially when with Ronaldo in the ranks. The performance of Jose’s men served to prove that when they are let off the leash, they are still capable of some breath-taking football.
Introducing: Rojo, the Argentine
Rojo could have given away a number of penalties against Arsenal
United presented Arsenal plenty of opportunities but it would be over-critical to allude the defenders were bad – Wenger’s team had a lot of attacking talent on the pitch, and were at home. However, one United defender who stood out for the wrong reasons (and not for the first time) was Rojo. The Argentine was generally rash in defending, and after giving away a penalty against Watford, could have been similarly penalized a number of times against Lacazette. The former Sporting defender is capable of being a decent defender, but his South-American style of defending makes him just as likely to be a liability at the back. He was lucky to escape with some questionable challenges last term, and would be the likeliest casualty when Bailly/Jones regain fitness.
United’s uneasy defending a worry
Not a black shirt in sight as the Gunners go target practice (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
This should have been a comfortable win but for United’s nervousness at the back. As noted earlier, credit most go to the CBs (and de Gea) for limiting Arsenal to the solitary goal. However, at no point did United look capable of containing the Gunners attack. Many times, players were guilty of nervously failing to clear the ball – which then yo-yoed around United’s eighteen-yard box but fortunately didn’t go in for the hosts. United cannot always expect their Spanish keeper to come to the rescue and as such, the defending has to be better – and should be when the first choice pair return to selection.
United need a Pogba alternative
Pogba was instrumental to United’s win but misses the next 3 games
Without a doubt, Pogba was as instrumental to United’s victory as any other player on the pitch – but will now miss the Manchester Derby through suspension. Unfortunately, Jose doesn’t have another midfielder with the same skill-set and impact from CM. A fact widely recognized with the team struggling during the French international’s previous extended injury absence. His ability to break from midfield to support the attack led to United’s first and third goals. The flamboyant player will be a big miss against City from all accounts.
With Fellaini possibly leaving in the summer, United need another player capable of stepping into Pogba’s shoes. One name that has popped up recently is Leon Goretzka, out of contract in the summer and free to sign a pre-contract with the club as soon as next month. Competition for the player’s signature will be stiff, with many top sides jostling to get the versatile midfielder on a free. The talented goal-scoring German is capable of playing several midfield positions, so could alternate with Pogba or play alongside in a number of roles. Common Eddy.
Lingard moving up pecking order.
Lingard is proving hard to drop at the moment
A week ago, Lingard had no EPL goal to his name. Two starts in a week has yielded the academy graduate with 3 goals. Still, It is unlikely Lingard would be in the starting XI were Mata and Mikki performing. While the England international may not have the ability or experience of the aforementioned duo, he appears to be winning JM (and supporters) over with his pace and effective tireless running. At 24, Lingard can no longer be considered a “young player” for much longer and needs to stake his place in the first team on a consistent basis. He has begun to do that with his last two performances, but needs to maintain that level consistently to continue to keep his more experienced team-mates on the sidelines.
After the mid-week UCL home tie against CSKA, United welcome City to Old Trafford for a mouthwatering top of the table derby on Matchday 16.