Not really a tale of two halves as Manchester United rallies behind a questionable penalty call in the box and an Arsenal own goal to take the contest–not without a late scare on an Arsenal goal called back by a legitimate offsides call and then a comical sending off of Emirates skipper Arsene Wenger right before the whistle.
Really, though, not a well-played game by the Red Devils.
2nd half points:
– No change for Ferguson out of the gates at half time and throughout the 2nd half Man U continued it’s poor central midfield play.
– While Ryan Giggs was responsible for through ball that created the penalty kick, he looked a shadow of his former self. I counted only 3 passes all day that presented opportunities for the stikers or wingers ahead of him. Fletcher and Carrick for their part were not much better.
– The Trafford defense tightened up in the 2nd half enough to escape. Wes Brown came on a little stronger and Ben Foster, seeking redemption, made a left-footed save from down the barrel on Van Persie to preserve the 2nd half clean sheet.
– If there was any move by Ferguson issued that made sense, it was introduction of energizer bunny Ji Sung Park. Park can track all over the pitch and his pressure upfield helped hurry Arsenal into poor possessions and open up the pitch for his squad.
– Arsenal showed their youth in the 2nd half by giving up the own goal, but also illuminated it’s future, especially the likes of Diaby (who had a the terrible own goal, but then did not keep his head down) and Eboue. Both consistently scissored through the Man U defense creating scoring chances.
– After the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half, Andrei Arshavin was non-existent. Looks like he needs to get himself in shape.
– Arsenal’s defense was much stronger than expected. Gallas and Sagna on the back right played flawlessly throughout and Clichy on the left turned it up after having a difficult first half.
– I thought is was pretty hysterical that the camera crew flashed to Eduardo on the pine every time there was a questionable dive or foul on the pitch.
– I’m also quite certain that I saw Edwin Van Der Saar on the sideline looking like a cross between an Autobahn driver and a waiter….and sporting a fanny/hip pack.
– The announcers for FSC were absolutely fantastic. I’m going to have to find out who they are because their commentary was on the money without getting in the way of the game. Supremely well done.
2nd half goals:
A Giggs free kicks finds Arsenal Diaby for an own goal. Horrific play by Diaby. 2-1 Man U who’ve got the result but haven’t earned it really.
Wayne Rooney earns a questionable PK on a never-say-die run-on to through ball. Knocks it to the right for the 1-1 tie past Almunia.
First half update
Here’s your Man U-Arsenal update at the half, where Arsenal leads one nil on an absolute CRACKER of a shot by Andrei Arshavin. I highly implore you to check the highlight and we’ll get it up here once it’s posted.
(apologies for typos)
– Did Alex Ferguson overthink their lineups? I remember last year in one of the first heavyweight matchups when Manchester took on Chelsea. Ferguson employed Park and Anderson on the flanks absolutely shut down Scolari’s strategy of migrating wingbacks Bosingwa and Cole up the pitch. Brilliant play.
Today–and I mean who are we really at TSG to question Alex Ferguson–I think Ferguson choose his side quite poorly. Coming of the 5-0 drubbing of Wigan in a 4-4-2, Ferguson has moved to a 4-5-1 today with Berbatov displaced by an extra central midfielder and Man U looks absolutely lost on offense–that is not an understatement. Rooney has been left to fend off two defenders in the back so balls played over are not even 50-50 and Arsenal is winning them.
With the extra midfielder (Ferguson is featuring Giggs, Carrick and Fletcher) Manchester doesn’t know who is going where and is consequently not linking any passes. You’d think they’d dominate possession, but it’s the exact opposite. (TSG had this concern in our preview.) Many missed opportunities, one that saw Giggs hollering at Nani about going the wrong way. If I were Giggs though I would be careful to point the finger as he is clearly showing his age and has been dispossessed frequently.
Perhaps Ferguson thought Wenger would come out with a more attacking formation (no Eduardo or Bendtner). Arsene for his point has countered with a fairly defensive formation in the absence of Fabregas. Moving Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboue slightly back in the 4-3-3. While Arsenal have cleared missed Fabregas–many errant touches through the middle–Song and Denilson have tracked down every Manchester run and snuffed them out.
Had Fabregas been available for some linking and assisting, this game would be extremely one-sided, right now Arsenal is merely dominating.
– Ben Foster looks downright terrible keeping for Manchester United. He is clearly suffering from the jitters having already spilled or failed to corral two corners one that Arshavin nearly pocketed in the top right for his first goal–alas it sailed just wide.
– William Gallas looks vintage in defense for Arsenal, positioning himself extremely well.
– On the opposite side, Robin Van Persie is getting hacked left and right by the disorganized duo of Vidic and Wes Brown in central defense. Yes, this is the same Wes Brown who sees more nurse time then pitch time out here for this match by the way. However, Van Persie’s sulking behavior precedes him here and he’s getting less than the benefit of the doubt.
– Beyond the two rips by Arshavin, we’ve seen glimpses of his greatness, but a lot more sloppy play from him. I expect that to change in the 2nd half.
About to start the 2nd here:
– Will Ferguson go back to the 4-4-2. I actually don’t think he has a choice. If not, what direction does he give his center midifeld who have just looked lost.