Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal. Who could have seen that coming? Arsenal had just suffered one of their most humiliating defeats of their entire era. With young and ultimately inexperienced players in the starting eleven, Arsène Wenger had nobody to blame but himself for what had happened that fateful day. A super hat-trick from main-man Wayne Rooney put to bed what was one of the biggest rivalries of the Premier League. One club clearly had the upper hand.
The Theatre of Dreams became a place of nightmares for Arsenal as they slumped to their third consecutive defeat away to Manchester United. What’s more remarkable is the fact that since March 1993, Arsenal have only won three times at Old Trafford, all 1-0, out of a possible 20 fixtures. Everybody knows the Red Devils are their most prolific when at home but for Arsenal, does this season’s match already look a foregone conclusion?
United started the season in patchy form by slumping to a 1-0 defeat against Everton and narrowly beating both Fulham and Southampton 3-2 before going down the same score-line against Tottenham Hotspur. Yet as the old proverbial saying goes, ‘Champions win even when they don’t play well.’ With an incredible 24 goals already in just 9 games, the devastating frontline of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are scoring goals for fun.
On the contrary, Arsenal have struggled to create any real goal-scoring chances in the Premier League and their 1-0 defeat at Norwich summarised their lack of a world-class striker. One who’s currently the top-scorer for the opposing side.
The biggest and most controversial talking point is 29-year-old Van Persie. The Dutchman’s first hat trick for his new club was exactly the kind of thing United needed to show Manchester City they mean business. Just missing out on goal difference last year will not be a difficulty this season as the new all-guns-blazing United side don’t ever look like failing to find the net. The former Gunner star may well be the deciding factor.
It’ll be up to Arsenal’s defence to deny him the glory as they will have to be on very top form to try and keep a clean sheet. Presently with the best defensive record in the league, Arsenal have not only acquired top-quality talent to boast their attack but have finally assured their defensive duties; something that has eluded them for the past few seasons. With Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen at the back, Arsenal have a good chance of keeping the red side of Manchester at bay. The only dilemma that Wenger has is proving his doubters wrong by ensuring replacement Olivier Giroud comes good after a disappointing start.
Theo Walcott may well have a case to start in the middle instead of Giroud after a highly impressive performance against Reading. Yet something tells me if United were to go 4-0 up, they won’t be conceding the lead so easily.
Undoubtedly it’ll be one of the matches of the season as a different Arsenal side face a destructive Manchester United team. Just who will come out on top is up to whoever can take their chances. And with the added incentive of Robin Van Persie up against his former club, one team will definitely be having the last laugh.
Has Alex Ferguson’s £24m signing been a stroke of genius or was this part of Arsène Wenger’s plan all along?853945