If you are a Manchester United fan, then Sunday 4th October 2015 will not live long in the memory. In fact, it will want to be forgotten about as quickly as possible. United went to the Emirates on the back of four consecutive wins in all competitions, but they were simply blown away in twenty first half minutes by Arsene Wenger’s men. Alexis Sanchez scored two superb goals and Mesut Ozil tucked away the other to seal a commanding 3-0 win over the Red Devils. It was embarrassing to say the least, and the game could have easily ended five or six nil. That scoreline wouldn’t have flattered the London side either. United, who topped the table after their dominating performance over Sunderland last weekend, were simply obliterated. If they are going to challenge for the title, then they need to be claiming points against their main rivals.
Manchester United were gradually starting to build momentum. Sitting pretty at the top of the Barclays Premier League, coupled with cup wins over Ipswich and Wolfsburg meant that they were in an extremely strong and commanding position. The team looked like they meant business. The acquisition of Anthony Martial had given United a new-look forward line that boasted both pace and power, and along with a settled defence for the majority of this season, Louis Van Gaal’s side had started to make their presence felt. However, on Sunday it all went horribly wrong when they made the long trip to North London to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
On the front foot from kick-off, the Gunners looked in devastating form. They were in the mood, and it was clear from the very beginning that United were going to struggle to contain them. Positionally Louis Van Gaal’s players were all over the place, failing to mark their men and follow runners, and it wasn’t long before they got exactly what they deserved. Six minutes into the game and it was 1-0, Sanchez finishing expertly at the near post after beating David De Gea to a low cross. It got worse for United when seconds later a blistering attack from the home side ended in Theo Walcott playing the ball back for an unmarked Mesut Ozil to firmly plant the ball past De Gea and into the corner of the net. The game was effectively over after seven first half minutes. It was a case of ‘how many more?’ This rampant Arsenal side looked like scoring every single time they raced into their opposition’s half. It was a storm that United simply could not weather.
A horrible dream soon became a terrifying nightmare. Barely twenty minutes into the match, Sanchez scored his second of the game to stun United into silence and send the majority of 60,000 supporters delirious. It was 3-0 already, and with Arsenal in this kind of form, the scoreline could have been literally anything up until the final whistle. United fashioned one glorious chance at the very end of the first half when Martial produced a fantastic piece of skill to turn his marker and fire his shot low across the ground. Petr Cech, however, prevented the 19-year-old Frenchman from scoring his fifth goal for United by saving with his legs. In the opening forty-five minutes, United had created one effort on goal. Realistically, the game was dead and buried. However, no matter what situation they find themselves in, you cannot rule out Manchester United.
In the end though, it just wasn’t to be. Arsenal were too good. It was their day, and no matter what anyone says, they fully deserved all three points. Although United had the lion’s share of possession and arguably created the better chances in the second half, they never really looked like clawing their way back into the game. It was the first time United had ever conceded three goals in the first 20 minutes of a Premier League match. The Gunners already had the game wrapped up, so they knew that as long as they stayed compact and defended resolutely then they would secure the win quite comfortably. Louis Van Gaal said that ‘when you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football, then you know that you shall lose.’ He is right, and perhaps the Dutchman realised that his tactics and team selection on the day were not tailor-made to cope with Arsenal’s electrifying pace going forward. Obviously it is too late now, but no matter what team the United manager selected yesterday, the pure speed at which Arsenal moved the ball, along with their incredible movement up front would have been far too much for any side to handle. They were brilliant, and I am not someone to compliment Arsenal just for the sake of it.
What this defeat will do is bring United back down to earth. There is still an awful lot of work to do in order to mount a serious title challenge. They have the quality and the potential in their ranks, along with an excellent manager and an assistant who knows the club like the back of his hand. It is a sudden setback that is hard to take considering the good vein of form United were in, but I still believe that they can fight on all fronts this season. They are still only two points behind neighbours City and level on sixteen points apiece with Arsenal after yesterday’s defeat, so it is far from the end of the world. All eyes will be on United now to see how they respond. Will they bounce back and show that they are title-material? Or will they falter and become a distant memory? Only time will tell. We’ll just have to wait and see.