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Arsenal Destroy Manchester United and their Absent Midfield

Manchester United Starting XI

David De Gea

Matteo Darmain, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Ashley Young

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick

Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay

Anthony Martial


First Half

On kick off, the Manchester United team came flying into Arsenal’s half, but it wasn’t long before they were pinned back.

For the few minutes of the game, Manchester United had to go all out defence, unable to push Arsenal back. Then, just five minutes in, Héctor Bellerín out paces Young, ball comes in, Blind fails to pass it out. Then, within the box Mesut Özil is allowed to pass to Alexis Sánchez within the box who then scores an awesome Cruyff turn style goal.

The defence wasn’t the only one to blame on the goal. David De Gea was completely out of position and as Sánchez’s came in to shoot, De Gea was down behind the Arsenal player. So he effectively had an open goal to shoot in.

Arsenal 1 – 0 Manchester United

United take kick off, and lose the ball almost immediately. Then, all of the black shirts in midfield just seem to disappear, leaving a rampant Arsenal midfield and strike force to lay into the terrified defence.

Arsenal put together a string of perfect passes until one leads to Walcott besting Blind. The defence gets back and forms up but Theo lays the ball to the back of the box, where Özil is on his own. The German shoots and De Gea is stuck to his spot.

The second goal transpired just 33 seconds after the first.

Arsenal 2 – 0 Manchester United

Arsenal continue to just throw precision passes around, besting Manchester United all over the field. Particularly exposing the left hand side of United’s defence. The out of position left back, Ashley Young, is getting no support from Memphis, Bastian, Carrick or Blind, and Arsenal took advantage of that.

In the 19th minute, Arsenal start to come forward, the Red Devils defence starts to edge back, expecting the midfield to slow down the offensive move. The midfield did nothing.

Ramsey collects in front of Young. He gives it to Walcott who then sends it to Sánchez, on the right. He beats Darmian, cuts inside and smashes the ball beyond David De Gea.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Manchetser United

After the half hour mark, United begin to sustain a bit of possession, completing a couple of passes, but none of them show any real intent to get forward.

The Gunners manage to pick off some of the passes and carry on with their pacey attack. Schweinsteiger was useless in the first half, trying to play too far forward and not protecting the defence. Michael Carrick just didn’t do anything; at least Bastian was trying to attack.

It’s was as though Louis van Gaal gave his players very strict instructions to just attack, as they did after conceding early against Wolfsburg. But Arsenal’s midfield and defence is a lot stronger than Wolfsburg’s so they could withstand the attacks, and counter with more menace.

Just before the end of the first half, Manchester Untied started to show signs of life. Good play between Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian to work the ball up the right wing sees the Italian whip an awkward cross to Martial.

The striker shrugs Arsenal’s 6’6’’ defender, Per Mertesacker, to the ground. Martial shoots on the turn! But Cech has already swept in to block the shot. Great save.


Second Half

Louis van Gaal makes two very bizarre substitutes at the start of the second half. United’s only real full back, Matteo Darmian, is replaced by Antonio Valencia. Also, Memphis Depay is taken off for Marouane Fellaini, seeing Rooney pushed out on to the left.

Arsenal come out looking dangerous again. Özil runs at Valencia, the Ecuadorian wins the ball but passes it across the box, which Sánchez picks off. He runs into the box but, big Chris Smalling is there to plough him down, collect the ball, and surge up the pitch.

At the 51 minute mark, Michael Carrick shows that van Gaal’s half time talk has had an impact. For the first time, a midfielder shows intent to protect the defence. Carrick commits a tactical foul to stop an Arsenal attack.

But in terms of defence, nothing really changed. The 57th minute saw Arsenal break away, following a bit of United pressure, down their right. Young comes up for the tackle, he misses but carries out by jogging further up the pitch, with no desire to get back and defend.

On the hour mark, some Manchester United pressure results in Rooney pulling off a wicked, dipping shot on goal, but Petr Cech gets down to it very well.

The only player on the field who appears to want to score, and not concede, is Chris Smalling. He keeps going up for the corners and set pieces but, when the Red Devils lost the ball, he would bolt back to his defensive position.

Wenger makes a tactical change during the 64th minute, to bring Ramsey into centre midfield, sting up the Gunners in a 4-5-1 style offence.

As the game trickled by, Arsenal showed off their defensive strength, whilst Manchester United showcased their inability to be clinical in front of goal.

Marouane Fellaini, probably brought on for his height, had a couple of crosses sent his way, but he didn’t make a single challenge for the ball.

Arsenal brought on Olivier Giroud and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain for Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil, to capitalise even further on the defensive failings of Manchester United.

Arsenal worked two almost identical chances late in the game. They would play into Valencia then square the ball to the back centre of the box. On both chances the shot was hit straight at De Gea by either Özil or Giroud.

With 10 minutes left, Man of the Match Alexis Sánchez, leaves the field for Kieran Gibbs to help close out the game, and James Wilson is subbed on for Juan Mata.

Rooney kept trying to push his team forward but was often on his own. The game was over after 20 minutes.

The game ends Arsenal 3 Manchester United 0. The Gunners go 2nd in the Premier League and Manchester United are stomped down to 3rd.



It would be easy to blame tiredness for the loss but it was just a complete fail. The starting midfielders are most culpable for the three goals, as they didn’t leave the dressing room until 50 minutes into the match.

That being said, Young’s unfamiliarity on in defence was quickly exposed and the rest of the defensive line showed zero levels of aggression. They just allowed the Gunners to play into them.

They should have had a line of midfield to provide a level of initial protection but without that, the defensive line just looked lost.

Goalkeeper David De Gea also had a poor game; he was under a lot of pressure early on but made very poor efforts to stop any of the goals. But in fairness to the Spaniard, a lot of the attacks should never have come as far as threatening his goal.

What was particularly annoying about the game was Louis van Gaal conceding defeat at half time. Replacing the only full back and bringing on Marouane Fellaini sealed the win for Arsenal. The London club simply had to sit back, put up with some tedious pressure and threaten on the break.

The only way that I can portray how poor Manchester United played is through some player ratings.

David De Gea (4)

Matteo Darmain (5), Chris Smalling (6), Daley Blind (4), Ashley Young (2)

Bastian Schweinsteiger (3), Michael Carrick (3)

Juan Mata (4), Wayne Rooney (4), Memphis Depay (2)

Anthony Martial (5)

Substitutes: Antonio Valenica (5), Marouane Fellaini (4), James Wilson (was only on for 10 minutes, wasn’t good but wasn’t poor – 5)


Manchester United travel to Everton after the international break and will get torn apart if they repeat this pitiful performance at Goodison Park.

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By Ben

Recently graduated university, life now revolves around sports, and writing about sport.

Has an intricate knowledge of Ice Hockey and World Football but also dabbles in American Football and Heavyweight boxing.

He's a very versatile and hard working writer, who uses exceptional English in each article.

Trying to get his name out there to hopefully become a professional sports writer.

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