Manchester United (4) – (0) Arsenal
Eboue Sent Off (49′)
Old Trafford, Manchester
Well Arsenal just didn’t turn up.
A few days ago when I wrote the match preview I was questioning the importance of the game, and whether a defeat would actually be a bad thing. Winning would mean more fixtures at a time when Arsenal would hopefully be fighting for the Premier League and Champions League titles.
So it came to fruition with Arsene’s team selection, which included Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, Nicklas Bendtner, Gilberto Silva and the recently returning Kolo and Eboue from the African Cup of Nations. A seemingly strongish side, although in reality Wenger started with only 4 players who would be considered in this seasons first eleven*
In comparison, United had around 7 or 8 players who would be considered to be first team players.
And ironically Jens Lehmann might not be the first choice goalkeeper this season but he was the only one who didn’t have a shocking performance and kept the score from being 7 or 8.
The performance I saw yesterday was possibly the worst I have seen in 20 years of watching Arsenal, and that would not be exaggerating. The performance was devoid of any motivation, passion, fight or even basic execution of our usual passing game.
Arsenal were there for the taking and Manchester United didn’t need any second invitations.
Clearly up for the fight after their surprise defeat in the Manchester Derby only 7 days earlier, United were quick from the off while Arsenal were sluggish, making basic errors and failing to string more than 5 passes together. Although the team wasn’t the strongest I was shocked at the lack of drive from the players – it really was appalling. It was as if the FA Cup didn’t matter at all. Arsene has stated that Arsenal’s priorities are elsewhere this season but unfortunately that attitude had obviously been transmitted to the players on the pitch. It was like the Carling Cup game against Spurs all over again.
It’s a strange feeling though, because even though Arsenal have played so called less important games in the past, I don’t think I’ve ever seen performances like against Spurs or United in the cups like I have witnessed this season. It doesn’t matter who has been selected to play and if the team has included reserves, the guys on the pitch have gone into the game with the right mind-set and played to a decent standard.
Arsene would have been better off playing the kids because at least they would given United a game and given 110%.
Despite all that though, I suppose the real concern is what that game will have on the rest of the season.
Has the win given United a boost after poor results against Spurs and Manchester City in the league? It would have been interesting to see what United would have done if they actually lost yesterday. It would be stupid to suggest that they would have collapsed but you can’t help thinking it would have put more pressure on them in the Premier League if they were dumped out of the cup.
The slightly positive thing is that after the battering in the Carling Cup against Spurs our response has been spot on, winning 4 games out of 4. Hopefully Arsenal can quickly forget the result and get their form back.
I guess we’ll see what the reaction is from the boys on Wednesday night.
* Based on a starting eleven of Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky, Van Persie & Adebayor. You could also argue Eduardo is now a first team player, but at the same time you could say Senderos’ run in the team puts him in the current first eleven because Toure has been out with the Ivory Coast.