United put the breaks on Arsenal’s title hopes after a second brace in two games from Rashford and a winner from Herrera secure all three points.
It was a game in which very few, including myself, expected United to emerge victorious. For United, outside of the top four, the squad riddled with injuries and Arsenal are up there challenging for the title, so naturally the gunners were favourites.
Then the game started. United looked bright, moving the ball around quickly and getting forward. When out of possession they pressed very well and frequently won the ball back. And then the unexpected happened. In the 30th minute United took the lead thanks to a goal from none other than Marcus Rashford! Juan Mata and Ander Herrera linked up with a little one-two (as they so often do) then Herrera fed the ball out to Varela who curled in a cross from the right hand side. The cross deflected off an Arsenal defender into the path of Rashford who drove the ball into the top right of the net.
Just three minutes later United doubled their lead. Mata, again playing an important part in the build-up, played a tidy ball out to Lingard who looked up and spotted Rashford in the middle. He hit his cross with enough pace leaving Rashford with nothing to do but direct the ball into the bottom left corner with his head for his second of the game. United were now 2-0 up and the crowd were rocking!
United were brought back down to earth shortly before half time when Danny Welbeck pulled a goal back in the 41st minute. Mesut Ozil hit a free kick into the United box and Welbeck, making easy work of shaking off Morgan Schneiderlin, got his head on the ball to guide it past David de Gea.
At half time I started thinking that Arsenal were going to go on and win the game. I thought that the goal would rile them up and they would come at us. I also thought that we would end up desperately defending the whole second half (especially after the 3-0 drubbing in October), sitting deep and inviting them onto us. But thankfully I was wrong! Throughout the whole second half, when Arsenal had the ball, United pressed and defended high up the pitch and it made the difference.
Although Arsenal had slightly more possession, United’s defence did a sound job in keeping the likes of Ozil and Sanchez quiet. And in the 65th minute the hard work paid off as United extended their lead back to two goals with a goal from Ander Herrera! The move building up to the goal again involved Juan Mata. The Spaniard played a through ball out to Marcus Rashford on the right who held the ball up, waiting for support. He then played the ball across the ground into the path of Herrera who rifled a shot with the inside of his boot which went in via a deflection.
At 3-1 the fans were back on their feet and the atmosphere felt relaxed again. That was until the 70th minute at least when Ozil mis-kicked a volley that found its way into the top left corner. This goal set up what felt like was going to be a tense final 20 or so minutes. But it wasn’t. United defended very well, again, pressing and defending high up the pitch. They did what they had to do to see out the game and that even involved a little show boating while running down the clock, which the fans loved!
It was a performance that all the players and fans should be proud of. From front to back United were solid. The defence held up well despite having two midfielders as centre backs, the midfield players all linked up well and helped to protect the defence and the attack, led by Rashford, was fantastic.
Let’s talk about Rashford for a second. A youth team player who made his debut against Midtjylland on Thursday night after Martial picked up an injury in the warm up before the game. There was no expectation, no burden on his shoulders. Just a chance to shine and shine he did. In that game and today’s, he showed his pace, his strength and his positioning and awareness. A true number 9. His second brace in as many games will fill him with confidence and belief that he can go all the way. The likes of Martial and Rooney will certainly have taken note of Rashford’s performances and rightly so.
Juan Mata also had a good game, linking up the midfield and playing a part in all three of United’s goals. Michael Carrick, despite an early yellow for a foul on former United player Danny Welbeck, also had a solid game at the back with plenty of interceptions and tackles. Morgan Schneiderlin had a very good second half cutting out passes and winning tackles. In general, the whole team performed fantastically and worked together to ensure the three points remained at Old Trafford.
The win lifts United back into 5th, just 3 points behind local rivals Manchester City [who have a game in hand] and United’s next game is on March 2nd at home to Watford. The players will be full of confidence going into this game and Watford have only won 2 of their last 10 Premier League games so I strongly believe we can win and put some pressure on a faltering Manchester City! Or maybe I am getting a little carried away?! We’ll see!
Paul’s player ratings – Man United V Arsenal
David de Gea (6) Protected well by his defence and couldn’t do much about the goals.
Guillermo Varela (6) Struggled at times with the pace of Sanchez and Monreal but effective going forward.
Micheal Carrick (8) Made several tackles and interceptions contributing hugely to United’s win.
Daley Blind (7) A calming influence on the game, always first to a loose ball.
Marcos Rojo (6) Not much to do but made a couple of good interceptions.
Ander Herrera (7) Scored what proved to be the winning goal and played his part in Rashford’s first.
Morgan Schneiderlin (8) An excellent second half reading the play and breaking down Arsenal attacks.
Jesse Lingard (7) Put in a battling performance and provided the assist for Rashford’s second.
Juan Mata (7) Fantastic work rate and played his part in all three of United’s goals.
Memphis Depay (6) Had few opportunities to shine but proved key in holding the ball and using his strength.
Marcus Rashford (9) Another fantastic performance again showing his awareness, vision and ability to score.
So what did you think of the game? Do you think it was an all round fantastic performance? Do you believe that top 4 is looking a little more realistic? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
You can also watch the United Stand live match reaction by clicking here or watching below: