First Team Match Reaction News

What We Learned: Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United

A 0-0 draw is essentially the purgatory of football results, especially in this instance. Not great, not bad. It’s hardly where you want to be, but it’s not as bad as what you could’ve got. Robin Van Persie spurned a few decent opportunities, David De Gea saved twice late on from Santi Cazorla and that was, for the most part, it. It didn’t do either club or manager any favours, but it didn’t really do them a great disservice either, save for making Champions League qualification appear even more unrealistic this season. Here’s what we made of it;

4-4-2 got a result. Just not a particularly positive one

After Crossmageddon at the weekend and Moyes incredibly bullish response to the valid criticisms that it drew, perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising to see United line up in an almost identical fashion three days later. Mercifully, the visitors had a lot less of the ball than against Fulham, and even though they underwhelmed the Arsenal defence with more miss-hit deliveries,  the formation did something that could be regarded as positive; it earned United a point against a top-four side.


Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick did a decent job of disrupting Arsenal’s attack, and aside from one wild flap that nearly allowed Olivier Giroud a free header at goal, Nemanja Vidic was quite commanding, but, predictably, United carried very little threat. If the plan was to expose Arsenal’s weaknesses with counter attacking, then it failed rather miserably with Robin Van Persie spurning a glorious early chance before heading powerfully at Wojciech Szczęsny late on. Moyes will feel the upgrade in opponent warranted a cautious approach, but once again, there was no back-up plan when the screw could have been turned, merely like-for-like substitutions late on.

On the other hand, United took a point from a side that has experienced a far more enjoyable Premier League campaign than their own. Arsenal have only failed to score in four league games this season, and two of those have been against United. That’s scant consolation, of course; there are no trophies for stopping Arsenal from scoring (even if they would be accepted more gleefully than the Community Shield), but after so many late horror shows this season, it was at least heartening to see a United side fail to buckle. Of course, if the backline can perform like this, then there’s no real excuse for Moyes not finding some way for his attacking players to prosper in a similar fashion.

Misuse of Mata shouldn’t be a shock

Considering how frequently Shinji Kagawa has been shunted out wide in favour of playing Wayne Rooney solely through the middle this season, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Juan Mata is experiencing a similar ignominy. His substitution for Adnan Januzaj was hardly a shock given that he was finding it hard to effect proceedings, but of course, there’s a simple reason for that.

The prosecution for Kagawa is partially based on this same issue, that he isn’t good enough to play for the club due to this inflexibility, and in some ways, Mata simply has to dig deep and make the most out of a bad situation when he does get stuck on the wing. But, of course, this isn’t what United spent £37.1m on. Mata’s best moment came from setting Van Persie in on goal in the first half, and it’s no surprise that it came as a consequence of abandoning the left flank and drifting to the centre.


What’s even more puzzling about this is that Wayne Rooney was allowed to sleepwalk through a match in which he did little more than complain to Mark Clattenburg and deliver one good cross, presumably in an effort to improve his match sharpness. If there was no viable replacement to sit in the no.10 role, then persisting with Rooney for the full ninety minutes would have been sensible, but Mata would surely have relished playing more centrally and could well have added something that the club’s chief earner wasn’t. Rooney has been one of United’s best players this season but he will remain perpetually slow in readjusting to decent standards after injury. With Mata ready and willing to offer something more, and with three assists to his name in four games, excuses run a little thin in this instance.

United won’t qualify for the Champions League

It stings to admit that the club won’t be participating in Europe’s premier competition next season, but the reality is that United’s best chance of appearing in the group stages come September is to win the trophy this May. Given that the majority of the teams making up the last sixteen are all either in much fitter fiddle or simply above and beyond United’s current level, that’s an unrealistic dream at best, and a worrying delusion at worst. Fact is that this isn’t a side with the sort of momentum essential to reaching those lofty league positions at the moment, and even if some turnaround in form comes, there’s surely too much of a gap between ourselves and Liverpool to be clawed back.

Of course, even if Brendan Rodgers’ mob suffer a concerted dip in form between now and May, then there’s the small matter of needing Everton and Spurs to experience similar blips before fourth spot comes into view. Each of those sides are playing well at present, with Liverpool’s last-gasp win at Fulham last night only helping to strengthen the notion that they’re a different team these days. Spurs have been reinvigorated by the appointment of Tim Sherwood and Everton have lost the least amount of games of anyone in the league under Roberto Martinez. Simply winning our own games isn’t going to be enough anymore; we need three sides to stop playing well, and the likelihood of that happening at present looks incredibly slim.

David Moyes really isn’t fooling anyone when he suggests that this is a battle that United can win, because it’s clear that his players don’t believe in themselves enough to get positive results on a match-by-match basis. Of course, the remit of his job demands that he tries until mathematical impossibility rears its head, but everyone else might be better served adjusting to grim reality as soon as possible.

Warm weather break won’t save this season, but it’s needed

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when United fly out to Dubai this week, if only for the prospect of being present for any clear-the-air talks between the manager and his players. Just imagine the sort of accusations and arguments that could erupt with both sides clearly dissatisfied with the other and United’s season threatening to end without any sort of European football at all. It’s a situation no one in their right minds had expected last August, but this deeply into the season and with nine days to go before a visit to Selhurst Park, this is as good a time as any to stop and take stock away from the pressures and scrutiny of the North West.


God only knows if United’s spirits can be salvaged in time to end this season on something regarding a high, but Moyes must feel that it is important to at least try. An extended trip to a warm climate is probably his best option at this point, even though the sense that he should hardly have to go to such lengths to kickstart his debut season is inescapable.

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11 replies on “What We Learned: Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United”

Finally… someone that seems to understand that both kagawa and mata are being misused!!

personally our whole problems stem from this bull about a no 10 role… and ill tell you why.

rooney is NOT a no 10!!!!! he is best as a striker!!! is everyone forgetting how many goals this guy can get???!!! rooney is wasted dropping deep!! yeah he picks the ball up in our own half…. perfect cross out to the wing… and then!!!….. theres nobody higher up the pitch… talk about an anti-climax!!

and another thing… if you have 2 strikers up the top of the pitch at all times… the opposition can only really commit one of their defenders, ideally they would want minimum of 3 back. this alone would reduce their attacking intent… keep our strikers a bit fresher and help them break with more energy!

2 wingers provides nice width that can break.. and kagawa or mata in the middle (ideally kagawa) will mean we have a perfect passer to geth the ball up the pitch using those around him to maneuver in killer style!

by all means have a holding midfielder to support the defence, but ultimately our main intention should be attack!!! this is manchester united… since when has defending been a concept we build our team around???

last season any true united fan would admit we were lucky to win the league. it was mediocre at best and all the other teams were generally just plain bad! we had loads of wins that were only just a win!

everyone keep saying the middle needs strengthening… well kagawa in the middle strengthens it! and if you think you have to be a giant to be effective in the middle, then you have clearly not seen messi play. ability to turn and move the ball well can out-do muscle in football. and no kagawa not as good as messi… but that guy is being seriously underestimated by united fans! we have a guy that can genuinely win us the league… and he is struggling to be a bench warmer!!!

had zaha been given opportunities, he could be instrumental in attacking down the wing… but moyes for whatever reason has failed to utilise him and see how he can grow… with valencia, nani and young being terrrible…. it was a risk that needed to be made and is costing us!

look at all the teams above us… in the middle they have play makers!!! we dont!!!

dea gea
rafael smalling jones evra
cleverley/fellaini/fletcher/carrick (one of these)
mata kagawa janujaz
rooney/RVP/hernandez wellbeck (two of these)

based on current form…. this will give us flexibility and great attacking variability… yes we will be sacrificing a bit of width with only janujaz the more natural winger, but by having both mata and kagawa i believe it can be compensated quite comfortably! and seriously… you see those attacking players on the pitch… any team is gonna be weary of over committing!

Completely agree with your team selection choices/roles.

In addition, a team can make full use of the width of the pitch without needing out and out wingers whose role is to cross the ball (except for Januzaj our crossing is ordinary anyway).

By movement, flexibility, fluidity, vision, possession, give and go passing, space can be created to draw out and open up defences across the width of the pitch.

Moyes crossing tactics is just another version of the long ball game, whereby you relinquish possession in the hope that somebody might get on the end of a cross. It is not a pass, it is a hit and hope move. It’s prehistoric.

yes, totally agree w/ urs form; 4-2-3-2

De Gea
Rafael Evans Jones Evra

Moyes should try your idea. What have we got to lose anyway?

Your idea should be tried at least 3 straight times and see how
it goes. No matter the result, no matter who ManU plays against.

If we win all 3 then keep on playing. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix.
If we lose all 3 then its back to the drawing board. If we win only
1 or 2, adjust for the mistakes made.

Drop Evra, he has underperformed defensively.

There was a reason Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t play Rooney as a striker and that is because our midfield two were not good enough. In today’s football, playing two strikers, (even if one plays deeper), is archaic. Most teams play with 5 midfielders and to expect Carrick and Co to deal with that is unrealistic.

Ferguson understood this and he played RVP up front with two wingers and three midfielders. Rooney was used on the left wing to accommodate this formation.

It seems like Moyes is trying his best to satisfy Rooney and as a result, he’s hell bent on playing two strikers. Barcelona and Spain hardly even use one striker. Messi and Neymar play as part of an attacking three that is interchangeable. The same could apply to United but Rooney wouldn’t like it because he would have to play on the left with RVP preferred in the center.

I really wish Moyes had a plan B. I’ll support him to the end, but the idea of one season without CL is too hard to swallow. Will the likes of RVP, Rooney, and others really want to spend one year without European football?

If they were playing better, then at least I’d have hope for next season. But the way things are going, it’s hard to believe things will change. I don’t think an influx of new players will change much. Roberto Martinez is doing an amazing job with a limited squad at Everton, and Moyes did as much with lesser players whilst an Everton manager. Why is it so hard to get a team of champions to play well?

midfield two DEFINITELY not good enough… but whats the point putting someone on the pitch and playing them out of position??? yh you have rooney drop deeper so that he can compensate for the lack of the midfield duo… but then we weaken our attack! its counter productive!!

the only reason other teams may opt for a 5-man midfield is because they want more creative players than finishers… the benefit of rooney RVP possibly even welbeck… is that them three can be creative in their passing and movement. hernandez is our only real out and out striker who is there to finish!

our current squad is designed to try hold off others attacks… but once we win the ball back there is no structure or plan to counter. valencia no longer hugs the edge of the edge of the pitch and constantly cuts into the middle which has really had a negative effect in our counter attacks. with both strikers dropping into the box for corners how can you expect to take advantage of the opposition pushing high up, and if anything allows them to put even more players into our box!

our full backs our being relied upon to influence attack, and the attackers to support defence. so basically roles are being reversed for some illogical reason!

i say play an attacking two strikers, supportive 3 midfielders and have a holding one midfielder to support the 4 defenders. defenders need to hold stronger and focus more on preventing counters when we attack… and the attackers concentrate on scoring!

its still 11 vs 11… we just need to make sure we have a shape that can be of greatest use and benefit to the abilities of our players!! we dont have the squad for an effective 5-man midfield!!!

since losing scholes we have lost the central attacking and creative mind!! kagawa is the closest thing we have to that! it was scholes return from retirement that turned things around for us… and without that type of player things can not be changed!

Latest Moyes,ManU allways come good second half of season we have a great team,I,m happy.He just sounds like a PR man for United.I learned that it was boring from both teams.Few seasons ago it was exciting football,remember when they beat Arsenal 8-2 and that was with Young,Wellbeck,Anderson,Rooney.Seems like Money has taken over somewhere along the line ,or maybe the lack of it (Glazers borrowed money to buy club)and Moyes is woven in the system.They are enjoying the sun,to charge up batteries.This is the thing,dont expect too much from those poor overpaid players and managers,then you wont get dissapointed.

Rooney isn’t ideal as 10, but again as someone said before, with the midfielders we have there isn’t another option.

Drop Fellaini, Anderson (I hope he stays in Italy or wherever else out of Manchester for good) and Cleverley (makes me sad, he was an exciting promise but sadly never become more than that apparently.)

Carrick was amazing last season, but he needs better partners in midfield to show that quality again.

I agree with giving more credit to Kagawa, it’s exciting to think that him, Januzaj AND Mata have the potential to become Utd’s best player, even when we have amazing ones such as Rooney and RVP. But again, they need better support behind them, cause with Carrick alone, and Evra and Smalling being lame… I don’t know. We should get a couple defenders for next season, but most importantly, understand why Moyes is finding this job so difficult, and why Ferguson choose him above other people that for sure would have got it right from the first season.

we should play a 4 -1 -4 -1
———–van persie—————————————–(welbeck)
januzaj rooney mata valencia————- (young kagawa fletcher nani)
———–carrick——————————————-(fletcher jones)
evra jones evans rafa———————–(buttner rio jones vidic smalling)
———–de gea——————————————(lindegaard)

we should play a 4 -1 -4 -1
———–van persie—————————(welbeck)
januzaj rooney mata valencia—(young kagawa fellaini fletcher nani)
———–carrick—————————(fletcher jones)
evra jones evans rafa————(buttner rio jones vidic smalling)
———–de gea————————— (lindegaard)

we need to play a system that accommodates the players we have, we have too many hole players so get rid of the hole player and have 2 ( double trouble ) we still have our wide men making a 5 man midfield. our current squad fits a 4-1-4-1 perfectly

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