The meeting of these two teams in the league used to be title deciders at one point of time. However, in recent times, it has been reduced to a determiner for a top four finish. While the luster of this once famous fixture has faded away, people still expect good football out of both teams. This was not the case this time. While Arsenal fans may rejoice at the 2-0 victory, and rightly so, it should be put into proper perspective. Ravaged with injuries, and at the back of a Europa league game against Celta Vigo, what Mourinho fielded was a team of second team players. At the back were Smalling and Jones, both clearly lacking match fitness. At right-back was 19 year old debutant Axel Tuanzebe, with out-of-favour Martial and Rooney also finding starting spots. There was no Fellaini or Pogba to provide physicality and boss the midfield. And their style of play reflected that. Except two clear chances, which was dealt with by Cech expertly, United barely threatened. Arsenal kept possession of the ball, and played some incisive passes. However, the breakthrough came when a long range effort by Xhaka (who else?) took a wicked deflection off Herrera and beat De Gea all ends up. Almost immediately, Welbeck headed in from close range off a sumptuous cross by Oxlade-Chamberlain. And that was that.
The game, although not very exciting from a neutral point of view, had some interesting points.
This was the first time that, barring the 2015 Community Shield, Wenger has won against Mourinho. Though he did finally get the better of his rival, winning against a reserve team did dull some of the glory.
It was clear from Mourinhos team selection that the Europa League is his top priority, instead of competing for a top four finish. Though winning the Europa League would automatically qualify them for the Champions League, Mourinho is taking a big risk by wagering it all while still having the second leg of the semi-final left to be played.
Debutant Axel Tuanzebe shined and proved to be quite capable of handling Sanchez in the left wing. And that is no mean feat, as most defenders will tell you. United have got another academy gem in their hand.
Rooneys age is clearly beginning to show. Barely making an impact, he did show good awareness to latch onto a horrible back pass by Rob Holding. However, one on one with the keeper, where the previous Rooney would have buried the ball into the goal, he failed to score. It is becoming more and more difficult to justify his 300,000 pounds a week wage bill.
Finally, after a string of below par performances, Arsenal managed to find their rhythm in this game. They will hope to build on this and mount a late top four challenge. Though it depends on the results of other fixtures, all the Gunners can do is keep their focus and hope they don’t finish outside the top four for the first time under Wengers reign.
Pic courtesy : goal.com