Saturday night football served up a mouth-watering game, with Manchester United travelling to the countries capital to face fierce rivals Arsenal.
Both teams were lifted by some early team news. Angel Di Maria and David De Gea were passed fit after suffering scares while on the international break. However, Daley Blind was confirmed injured, but his injury is not as serious as first feared. United’s injury problems continued, meaning Tyler Blackett and Paddy Mcnair started for Manchester United.
Arsenal had Oliver Giroud available after he made a speedy recovery from a broken leg suffered against Everton back in August. However, Danny Welbeck was given the nod against his former club. Both sides would have been looking to claim all three points, as just one point separated Arsenal from Louis Van Gaal’s Red Devils.
United reverted to three at the back and were still looking shaky. With four minutes on the clock, United had yet to settle. After a driving run from Oxlade-Chamberlain, the ball was slipped through to Welbeck, who got a shot away from inside the box, but his connection was poor.
Just minutes later, United’s defensive worries were hurt again. Following a clearance, the young English left-back Luke Shaw seemed to twist his ankle and stayed down. He returned to the pitch after treatment, but was later substituted.
The games first clear-cut chance came in the 13th minute. De Gea’s poor clearance gave Arsenal a great chance. The Gunners had pressed United into making a mistake and the ball eventually fell to Welbeck, who played a through ball into open space within the Manchester United penalty area. Jack Wilshere had the whole goal to aim at, but struck the ball straight into the body of the United keeper.
Arsenal were largely the better side within the opening half an hour and were creating chances at will. However, they were unable to follow up and capitalise, and their frustrations were beginning to show. Wilshere challenged Fellaini and referee Mike Dean awarded a foul for the challenge. Wilshere reacted angrily and exchanged words with Fellaini, before pushing his head into the chest of the Belgian and was lucky to avoid a booking. Wilshere’s luck didn’t continue, as he later came off with an injury.
United first clear chance came when Di Maria found space on the corner of the box in the 34th minute. Di Maria, like the rest of United’s attack, had been quiet throughout the first-half, and his effort failed to challenge. However, they started to grow into the game as half-time loomed.
Although, it was Arsenal that looked more likely to score and United would have been happy to go in with the score still level. De Gea has kept United in the game, and the teams went in for half-time with the score at 0-0.
Arsenal carried on where they left off, with some immense early pressure on United’s defensive line. However, it was Manchester United who opened the scoring. In the 55th minute, against the run of play, Ashley Young played an inviting cross into the Arsenal penalty area. A laps in communication between Kieran Gibbs and keeper Wojciech Szczesny saw them collide and the ball fell to Antonia Valencia, who struck it into the ground towards goal. The shot appeared to be going wide, but Gibbs’ attempted to block it and instead sliced it into his own net. Just the moment of luck United needed to go 1-0 up.
The goal took the life out of Arsenal. They looked short of match winners and United were starting to grow in confidence that they could hold on to the lead. Restricting Arsenal to a few long-range half chances, De Gea was unnerved between the United sticks.
In attempt to add some pressure, the Gunners brought on the returning Olivier Giroud in the 75th minute. The Frenchman nearly made an instant impact from a corner-kick, but his header sailed over the bar.
Arsenal players were bombarding forward and were caught on the counter-attack. With just six minutes remaining on the clock, Angel Di Maria played a perfectly timed pass to the on-rushing Wayne Rooney. The United captain got away from Monreal and played a delicate chip over substitute goalkeeper Damian Martinez.
With eight minutes of added time, Arsenal knew that one goal would make for an exciting ending, and that it would be. Giroud chased down a ball over the top, and with nobody in front of him, he went for it and found the top corner. A truly stunning goal to mark the Frenchman’s return.
By no means were United the best team, but they worked hard as a team and had the slice of luck they needed to take all three points. Arsenal looked short of leaders, or anyone that could take any responsibility. The victory see’s Manchester United move up to fourth.
The win will be a massive confidence boost for the Red Devils, which could be the result that kick-starts their season.