5 Things We Learned: Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2


By Jason Freeman.

1) Wing play – Key to success this season (as always)

Wing play has been key at Manchester United for many years and nothing has changed in that aspect, against Arsenal we saw 2 wingers looking threatening every time they got the ball and it is no surprise that both goals came from the wings with Giggs crossing for Valencia to head home and later in the game, Valencia picking up the ball out wide from a diagonal Scholes pass to create the 2nd for Welbeck.

Michael Carrick had a brilliant game yet again and played a key part in the threat Nani caused down the left wing, playing diagonal passes many times (see Chalkboard 1) in behind the right back for Nani to run onto and with better end product from Nani, we could be looking at an even bigger score line. As previously mentioned, later on in the game Scholes joined in on the act of playing diagonal passes out wide, and unlike Carrick’s preference to pass to the left, Scholes provided another option and passed to the right to Valencia which resulted in Valencia running at the left back cutting inside and setting up Welbeck’s winner (see Chalkboard 3).

In recent seasons we’ve lacked an attacking threat down the left wing with Nani struggling until recently and Park performing a more tactical role. But since moving back to the left wing, Nani has looked a major threat to defences and having a threat down both wings has reduced the pressure on one winger to create the chances and has provided more options. Let’s hope Nani’s injury isn’t too bad, Valencia can stay fit and we can get Young back fit and firing.

Michael Carrick Passes | Arsenal vs. Manchester United 2011-12

Chalkboard 1: Carrick’s passing (click to enlarge)

Credit: Guardian Chalkboards

Antonio Valencia Goal | Arsenal vs. Manchester United 2011-12

Chalkboard 2: Valencia’s goal (click to enlarge)

Credit: Guardian Chalkboards

Danny Welbeck Goal | Arsenal vs. Manchester United 2011-12

Chalkboard 3: Welbeck’s goal (click to enlarge)

Credit: Guardian Chalkboards

2) Injuries aren’t going away anytime soon

Despite going through the whole of pre-season without any injuries, as the season has gone on injuries have affected the squad badly and until today Nani was the only outfield player not to have picked up an injury this season which is just ridiculous, any other squad would have been struggling to field a side with the injuries we’ve had at times this season and even with the depth of the squad we’ve seen many players play out of position.

Just as things were beginning to look up on the injury front with some players returning today and others returning soon, more injuries come along, with Rio Ferdinand injuring his back yet again during midweek another 4 injuries came along during today’s game with Jones going off early with an ankle injury, Nani going off later in the game is said to have left the ground wearing a protective boot, Wayne Rooney limped off at the final whistle and Sir Alex revealed after the game that Carrick had a hamstring problem for much of the second half. There may be others too, with Welbeck limping a bit towards the end and it is unknown what the reason for Rafael’s substitution was either although presumably it was because Sir Alex didn’t want to risk him getting a 2nd yellow.

It is unknown how serious these injuries are at the moment but one thing is for sure, we are having terrible luck on the injury front and it is not going away.

3) Rio Ferdinand now under pressure from youngsters

Before the game, there were a few worries among United fans over the absence of Rio Ferdinand who despite not being quite the player he once was, is still an experienced member of the defence and is still seen as an important member of the defence with Nemanja Vidic out for the season. However, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling stepped up remarkably in his absence with both players putting in excellent performances at the heart of the defence, dealing with nearly everything thrown at them. Both are still young and still have quite a bit to improve on but they’re both showing why Sir Alex has placed his trust in them.

Many fans have said for a while that Ferdinand is no longer first choice but the game vs. Arsenal is the first time I’ve truly believed that he is under pressure from Smalling and Evans, not because I didn’t think either were good enough but because I see Ferdinand’s experience as vital with Vidic out injured. Ferdinand’s career is by no means finished, I still believe he can play for another couple of seasons but his role will see him play less and become more of a squad player like Ryan Giggs in the future but with Vidic out for the season, when available, Ferdinand will play most games.

4) Super Danny Welbeck

Danny Welbeck, a Man United fan living the dream and quickly becoming every United fan’s favourite player, his energetic and passionate displays this season have been one of the big positives so far this season and he’s gone on to score some brilliant and vital goals that have seen him become the club’s 2nd top goal scorer behind Wayne Rooney, something no one expected at the start of the season. He has displaced both Berbatov and Hernandez to become first choice along with Wayne Rooney.

We saw Welbeck score the winner which could go on to be an important goal in the title race but his game isn’t all about goals as he offers a lot more in deeper and wider areas, he’s also very good at holding up the ball. On Sunday he spearheaded our attack brilliantly and could have bagged a hat trick if not four with better finishing, but i’m sure he and we’ll settle for him scoring the winner against Arsenal.

At just 21, Welbeck is by no means the finished product but is improving game by game and will probably take the Number 9 shirt off Berbatov when the Bulgarian leaves the club and I predict he’ll keep it for the rest of his career.

5) Patrice Evra has still got it

Patrice Evra has come in for some criticism over the past 2 seasons, some of it deserved, some of it over the top but he was back to his best against Arsenal putting in a man of the match performance with excellent defending and some dazzling attacking play down the left linking with Nani very well and making some delightful runs up the pitch from his left back position (see Chalkboard 4). He also covered a lot of ground on the left side of the pitch.

Patrice Evra Heatmap | Arsenal vs. Manchester United 2011-12

Chalkboard 4: Evra Heatmap (click to enlarge)

Credit: Guardian Chalkboards

It’s not his attacking play that has come in for criticism though; his defensive performances in the last 2 seasons have not been to the incredible consistent standard of previous seasons and this is probably part of the reason for some over the top criticism from fans as he was so good and consistent before last season and has not been as consistent since which may be down to a number of reasons, many put it down to the controversial part he played in France’s World Cup demise but it could also be down to him needing a rest. He has been a permanent fixture in the starting XI and since 07-08 he has hardly missed a game for the club, and has been an integral part of the success the club have had since his arrival. Another reason he may have struggled for form is the lack of pressure he has had for his place in the side.

At just 30, Evra still has a lot to give to the team as he showed against Arsenal and if he can continue like he did on Sunday; it will be a big boost to us. Hopefully he can keep it together next week where he is expected to receive a hostile reception from the Liverpool fans. If he can perform to the standards he did against Arsenal under the circumstances it will be impressive.

Latest Manchester United 2011-12 statistics.

Register with the Stretford End Arising forum.

Subscribe via Email

Subscribe to our free email newsletter and never miss a post!

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.


  1. Wing play is important, but only if you make the most of it. Nani and Evra both wasted most of the opportunities to deliver quality when in space on the left in the first half. Time and again they failed to pick out a United man in the centre. On the two occasions in the match when we did get quality from out wide we scored. Better quality and this would have been a far more comfortable victory.

  2. As far as Wellbeck displacing Hernandez and Berbatov, where are the arguments for those two displacing Rooney, who continues to play like crap, especially in the games that matter.

    Finally, while it’s nice to see United get the win over the Gunners, the truth is that the team are playing some pretty ordinary football that is based on one-dimensional wing play and not much else. Thankfully United are out of the Champions League and don’t have to face the prospect of another drubbing at Barcelona’s hands, but if United keep playing as they then there is no way that they can halt City’s run to the title. And though injuries have certainly played their part, the fact is that United are far too limited creatively in midfield which places even more pressure on the players up front, especially in a system that puts an over-hyped lame duck like Rooney in as the focal point.

  3. As with the last time I did this, i’m not a Rooney apologist. He hasn’t played that well recently, thought on Sunday Rooney was more of a team player, playing deeper and marking Alex Song out of the game who has been playing very well for Arsenal, he also worked hard. His passing was inaccurate though and can play much better.

    • Rooney did have a relatively quiet game on Sunday in terms of creativity going forward, but I think criticism is a little unfair. He played the role asked of him with aplomb. Sitting behind Wellbeck he perhaps encouraged Arsenal’
      s first half over cautious approach and prevented United getting outnumbered and overrun in central areas. I thought he did well.

    • such a hard criticism but have to agree partially..for a team that have a worst defending records in the PL like Arsenal,it’s not surprising that our wings managed to tear their awful defense apart..but other teams that tend to defense well know how stop us from scoring by marking our wingers n try to close any space to them..this what worrying me when we lack of creative CM who can do something to break the deadlock n unleash our strikers against opposition defenders..

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.