Sunday, March 13, 2011

Psychological edge for United

United have now claimed two wins over Arsenal this season and the psychological edge must surely belong to the Red Devils.

The wins, coupled with the fact that Arsenal have gone from title contenders in four competitions to just one in just a few weeks, must be playing on the Gunners' minds. It wasn't too long ago that Wenger was crowing about fighting -- and winning -- on all fronts. Their rot began with the Carling Cup loss to Birmingham, then being kicked out of the Champions League by a rampant Barcelona in the Nou Camp, and finally being outclassed by a rather makeshift United side.

So, even with a game in hand, Arsenal may not be able to stop United winning the league. The league is truly MU's to lose. In fact, if Arsenal aren't careful, Chelsea may just pip them to second.

Surprise, surprise

Just before the game started yesterday, I took a gander at the players lining up in the tunnel at Old Trafford. Seven defenders! I was shocked.

It took me a few seconds, but then I realised that Sir Alex, in his infinite wisdom, had decided not to play Obertan and Bebe on the wings, as I had expected him to do. In fact, I understand the papers in the UK had expected at least Obertan to be on the field.

Fergie, instead, decided to play the Da Silva twins as wingers. I thought that was an interesting choice. I realised, however, that it was a better choice than Obertan and Bebe as both have been disappointing so far.

Both Fabio and Rafael were out of their comfort zones whenever they had their backs to the Arsenal goal, but they proved effective enough. Apart from the Fabio goal, both halves of the twins missed good opportunities to score.

As I surmised, Chicharito was in the First XI and this time Sir Alex chose to partner him with Rooney. As usual, Rooney was the live wire of the team.

Then when the subs bench lineup was shown, my heart did a little dance to see Valencia's name. The Ecuadorian came on at halftime and seemed not to have suffered much from his many months away. He fit right back in with ease.

To be fair, Arsenal played well. But they weren't as good as MU was. Hats off to both goalkeepers who pulled off some really impressive saves. Almunia can't be blamed for either one of the goals and saved Arsenal from a worse scoreline.

Van der Sar, meanwhile, showed how much his presence is going to be missed when he retires at the end of the season. He gets my vote for Man of the Match, but not by much as Vidic and Smalling also did fantastically well.

We were missing Vidic when we played Liverpool the other day. He would have made a whole lot of difference. He came back in yesterday and settled the defence like no one else can.

The entire team played well, yesterday, actually. But VDS, Vidic and Smalling stood out from the rest.

As for Arsenal, I think only Almunia and Sagna -- and to a certain extent Djourou -- were impressive. Sagna did well going up the flank. He made quite a number of fantastic crosses, but the MU defenders were always there ahead of the Arsenal strikers.

Djourou made a number of important tackles and interceptions, and it was a real pity that he dislocated his shoulder in that clash with Sagna. Sadly for the player, and Arsenal who already have a defensive crisis, the injury will rule him out for the rest of the season.

As for Samir Nasri, a player I have the utmost respect for in terms of ability, he needs to learn to control his temper. Clashing with Scholes was not the smartest thing to do. And Scholes really needs to learn to watch his tackles too. How he's going to do that, seeing as how he hasn't in decades of high-level football, is anybody's guess.

So, come on you Devils. Let's take this all the way to the end. Perhaps another treble this season?

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