'Manchester United found a way past Arsenal – but it wasn't pretty'


Old Trafford said 'au revoir' to Arséne Wenger on Sunday as United forced their way past an understrength Gunners to all but secure their place as this season’s Premier League runners-up.

29th Apr 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson came down from the stands before kick-off to present Wenger with a trinket of some kind, and it felt apt that the Arsenal manager tried to reciprocate by gifting United the points after he named a weakened side.

However, instead of taking advantage of Wenger’s generosity, United played like a team too sure of victory and they needed an injury time reprieve from their Plan B to eventually win the points.

Jose Mourinho un-caged his bushy haired beast and sent him marching to the front after his stuttering attack showed no signs of finding a winner. Plan B equals Plan Belgium and Marouane Fellaini delivered again.

United had started the game slowly and the Old Trafford crowd had shown little signs of life before they were roused by the game’s first piece of action.

Paul Pogba was on hand to knock home the game’s opener after Hector Bellerin had somehow diverted Alexis Sanchez's header onto the post. But, after that momentary spike, the contest soon settled back into its dormancy. 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan equalised on 51 minutes, scuffing home through Victor Lindelof’s legs after United had made a mess in midfield. 

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Between the Armenian’s strike and Fellaini’s super-sub rescue act, not much of anything happened at all.

It was another home game for United that produced little in the way of excitement but  as is the norm, they found a way to win. The winning goal, when it arrived, came via United’s only shot on target in the entire second 45 minutes.

The game’s deciding moment was flicked home unconventionally by Fellaini, who rose highest to connect with Ashley Young’s cross. Really, the goal could have arrived no other way. 

With little invention or quality in their forward play, United were reduced to lumping crosses into the Arsenal area.

They centred the ball from wide a total of thirty four times during the 90 minutes and though the tactic ultimately produced the winner, to say it 'worked' might be too far a stretch.

On the rare occasions that United opted for an on the deck approach, play broke down with alarming regularity in the final third.

Signing off the mundane with a win has become United’s calling card under Mourinho, and Sunday’s triumph was their seventh win in eight Premier League games.

You can’t argue with the results, nor can you dispute that United remain a poor watch.

Big Rom out?

United could be without their top scorer Romelu Lukaku for a couple of weeks after the striker was substituted with an ankle injury against Arsenal.

Lukaku has hit 27 goals in his debut season at United and it will be fascinating to see who will pick up the slack in his absence.

With Anthony Martial seemingly out of favour, Marcus Rashford could get an extended run in his favourite position, spearheading the attack. 

Rashford has only scored six Premier League goals this season, though he has started just two league games since the start of the year.

Jones injured again 

The extent of his injury hasn’t been confirmed, but Phil Jones is back on the treatment table he loves so much.

Jones has been injured on over 30 different occasions as a Manchester United player and you have to wonder how much longer the management can justify keeping him around.

As good as he has been in flashes, what use is there in having a defender you can’t pick? At 26, he has long since entered the 'injury prone' footballer category and it’s probably time for United to cut and run.

Offloading him could still prove as difficult as it is to keep him fit, however.

READ MORE: David De Gea on track to claim Golden Glove accolade


Wenger waves goodbye 

It will be strange to have a Premier League without Wenger. When I think of Wenger, I see a picture of a forlorn, grey-faced, utterly defeated manager watching on as his team are torn to shreds by a rival.

That’s the eternal image I’ll have of him. That and his long coat. As good as some of his early Arsenal teams were, Wenger has been the butt of the joke for far longer than he was ever a force to be reckoned with in England.

At his peak he was a spikey, confrontational, bitterly sore loser - as all the best managers are.

But his longevity was undermined by an inability to adapt and evolve. The old romantic just couldn’t let go.

Wenger gave new meaning to the term 'self-love' and he was so enamoured by his own philosophy that he was eventually smothered and choked out by it. 

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