Frustrated Fergie challenges Reds on van Persie’s special day



Comfortable, then, was victory for Manchester United over Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, stretching a record against the London opponents to eight wins in the past 10 fixtures. Yet, the 2-1 scoreline at Old Trafford barely tells the full picture of United’s total dominance against an Arsenal so tepid that it is tempting to wonder whether Arsène Wenger still holds the tools to build a championship winning team. The only disappointment on a day that saw Manchester City and Chelsea drop points: United’s failure to demonstrate superiority on the scoreboard.

Indeed, such is Sir Alex Ferguson’s quest for goals this term that United’s open attacking style has heaped the pressure on the Reds’ rearguard – evidenced in just three clean sheets all season.

Still, with Ferguson insistent that United will “never again” lose the Premier League title on goal difference, the manager’s barely disguised irritation at considerable profligacy in front of goal was evident. United’s 13 attempts at goal should have brought far more than Robin van Persie’s smartly taken opener and Patrice Evra’s close range header. The irony in van Persie’s excellent right-footed third minute finish came in the wastefulness that followed.

Yet, Ferguson’s disappointment moved beyond the superficial, to the underlying cause of failure to capitalise on United’s domination – a casual approach that bordered on the complacent despite technical and tactical superiority.

“There was a lack of urgency in our game throughout – we were far too casual, ” admitted Ferguson.

“It was an unusual Manchester United – Arsenal game. There were a lot of bookings but it never really got anywhere near the Manchester United/Arsenal games of the past. I was just really disappointed in our ability to hammer home the advantage.”

Such was the paucity of intensity during the second period that United came far too close to dropping points at Old Trafford for the second time this season. Santi Carzorla’s outstanding injury-time goal brought Arsenal but a late consolation, yet only after Wayne Rooney shanked a second half penalty wide and van Persie missed a sitter just after the hour.

Rooney’s miss, incidentally, his seventh in 20 Premier League penalty attempts over the past decade, and United’s fourth in six this season.

“It looked as if it was going to be self destruction,” said Ferguson in the aftermath. “It only takes a second to lose a goal.”

“They had some possession without really threatening us, but thank god we got the second one because the fact they scored right on full-time it would have been an embarrassment. The chances we missed – well, we should have put the game to bed a long, long time ago.”

There were some positives though, not least United’s control of a match in which Arsenal never looked capable of mounting a challenge. Indeed, Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick bossed midfield while rarely rising above the mundane, while Rooney and van Persie continued to look threatening despite throwing away chances.  Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans were never in anything but total command at the back, without claiming the clean sheet the pair’s performance deserved.

It was van Persie’s day though, highlighted by an inevitable goal and accompanying low-key celebration. Hands reached skywards in apology, van Persie’s reaction was far more respectful of the travelling fans than the 3,000 were of their former hero.

“It was good for Robin to get the goal and he took it very well,” added Sir Alex.

“I thought he was fantastic today – his movement and his penetration were brilliant. He did the right thing [not celebrating]. He had eight great years at Arsenal and he respects that and I thought the Arsenal fans were fine too.”

That is, of course, a generous interpretation of visiting supporters’ repertoire of songs that compared van Persie to a “Dutch Jimmy Savile”, accused the striker of rape and repeatedly labelled the 29-year-old a “c*nt”. Such is the way of modern fandom; a performance that mocks years of north London outrage over abuse Wenger suffered at Old Trafford.

Still, the last laugh is with the Dutchman who was conveniently reminded just why he chose to force a move away from the Emirates this summer. Arsenal’s now seven-year-long search for a trophy will, on this evidence, not be concluded with the Premier League title next May.

United’s squad has its limitations, but Ferguson’s decision to invest so heavily in the – formerly – injury-prone Dutchman is already paying handsome reward.

“In the end it was quite a game, I think we played well,” added van Persie, who has 10 goals in all competitions this season.

“We were a bit sloppy with chances and should have scored two or three more. But in the end we are happy with three points because that is all that matters. It was the first time I have ever played against my former club. It was a special day but in the end it is about the game, which won so I am pleased with that.”

In that Ferguson will be happy too – the three points taking United top of the Premier League for the first time this season. It is November rather than May, but there is a sense of momentum building even if the Reds’ performances have plenty of headroom for improvement.

Ferguson was displeased at the late Arsenal goal, but seemingly more so at United’s placid comfort in a match that should have proffered a thumping victory.

“We should have scored five, six, even more,” added the 70-year-old. “I spoke to the players at the start of the season about the importance of goal difference. We lost the league last season on goal difference and I don’t want it to happen again. We had an opportunity to add to the goal tally today.”

But those are first-place problems compared to Arsenal’s, with Wenger’s side no closer to bringing an end to an extended barren run than at any point over the past seven years. Unrest at the club’s AGM last week, is spilling over into the stands – “we want our Arsenal back,” sangd the visitors at one stage.

It was a brief respite from van Persie’s abuse; anger that would have been so much more vitriolic had the Dutchman and his colleagues notched up the thumping win United’s performance largely deserved.

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  • Violent Banana

    Thought it was our easiest game of the PL season, says it all about Arsenal’s direction over the last few years.

  • Spudiator

    Good result, even if it was an opportunity missed to strengthen our goal difference. Arsene Wenger is an embarrassment of a manager though, I really thought he’d got past his sore loser mentality, but to try and blame the referee for the penalty (which could barely have been more of a clear-cut decision) and then complain about Jack Wilshere’s red card when it was again a nailed-on decision, especially given that Wilshere had already been given a last warning by the ref shortly before, just seems like Wenger is slipping further and further from reality. Quite funny though that he believes Arsenal would have got back into the game with 11 men, because they were doing so well up to that point, weren’t they!

  • victor

    I can’t just understand why Wilshere was not sub despite 2 warnings from Ref.Thomas ensfeld would have done better than what Wilshere did in that match.lost ball possessions a couple of times,no real threat.Why removing Ramsey for Theo when Wilshere is already on yellow?Ramsey would have moved to the middle to allow Theo to operate from the center.Arsene has lost the touch i think…time to use Ensfeld well,he was brilliant against reading.

  • Anantax

    Its actually sad to see Arsenal’s decline. I agree with Fergie though, we need to be ruthless in front of goal No mercy is what last season shouldve taught us…

  • Denton Davey

    Cazorla’s shot was well placed BUT so, too, was TheWayneBoy. However, Rooney didn’t “man up” – he wimped out and gave Cazorla’s shot a clear route to goal.

    I hate making this kind of comment but it was an appalling lack of defensive responsibility by UTD’s best player. He was in position to block Cazorla’s route to goal. He didn’t – he ducked out of the way.

    Rewind the clock to this time last week when SAF said – in answering a question about Torres’ unwillingness to play through minimal contact – that he had been a striker and if he had had a route to goal then he wouldn’t have been so easily deterred. I think that the gist of this is that if TheGreatKeane-o had been in TheWayneBoy’s position then SAF would have expected him to “sacrifice his body” for the team.

    Maybe this is just the difference between 1998 and 2012, but I was astonished – and appalled – by Rooney’s wimp-out.

  • steggo

    I can’t understand this crap that we lost the league on goal difference last year. Okay, the final table shows that but actually it was complacency and bad tactics that led to us throwing away an 8 point advantage (April 8th 2012 United played 32, pts 79, City played 32,pts 71) last season.Any other year we would have wrapped the league up in the next couple of games. I don’t think we should worry about goal difference but actually about beating teams like Wigan and Everton (and of course actually attempting to win a game against our nearest rivals) in any future run up to the title.
    “The greatest of all faults,I say,is to be conscious of none”

  • steggo

    And just for the record our goal difference was better than Citys on 8/4/12.

  • sidney

    Commenter said:
    Cazorla’s shot was well placed BUT so, too, was TheWayneBoy. However, Rooney didn’t “man up” – he wimped out and gave Cazorla’s shot a clear route to goal.
    I hate making this kind of comment but it was an appalling lack of defensive responsibility by UTD’s best player. He was in position to block Cazorla’s route to goal. He didn’t – he ducked out of the way.
    Rewind the clock to this time last week when SAF said – in answering a question about Torres’ unwillingness to play through minimal contact – that he had been a striker and if he had had a route to goal then he wouldn’t have been so easily deterred. I think that the gist of this is that if TheGreatKeane-o had been in TheWayneBoy’s position then SAF would have expected him to “sacrifice his body” for the team.
    Maybe this is just the difference between 1998 and 2012, but I was astonished – and appalled – by Rooney’s wimp-out.

    Yeah, but, Rooney isn’t defensively minded. He’s bodging when he plays that deep.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Commenter said:
    I can’t understand this crap that we lost the league on goal difference last year. Okay, the final table shows that but actually it was complacency and bad tactics that led to us throwing away an 8 point advantage (April 8th 2012 United played 32, pts 79, City played 32,pts 71) last season.Any other year we would have wrapped the league up in the next couple of games. I don’t think we should worry about goal difference but actually about beating teams like Wigan and Everton (and of course actually attempting to win a game against our nearest rivals) in any future run up to the title.
    “The greatest of all faults,I say,is to be conscious of none”

    Thank you very much!!! I am fed up of this spin that our manager has been trying to put on things from last season. It does not matter how many goals you score in a match it will only fetch you three points in the league. We led Everton at home 4-2 with TEN minutes to go. We made NO tactical adjustments to shut the game down and hold on to our points and we ended up drawing the match. THAT was where we lost the league. We scored 86 goals and I gather we are the first team to score that number without winning the league. It did not help that we conceded TEN goals at home in two matches too. Even given the defeat to Wigan we would still have won the league if we had held on to our lead against David Moyes team.

  • sidney

    The 8-2 signalled the of the end United v Arsenal rivalry.
    We’re on a different level to them in terms of quality, ability and class. It’s an easy 3 points in first gear at Old Trafford. The away game might have more spice but some of these Arsenal players are really poor, and there is no real personal beef between them & us.
    You can’t consider them rivals anymore because they don’t rival us for major trophies. If you look at the team that challenged us for the title 4 or 5 seasons ago it’s completely different to the one they have now. All the top draw quality has gone.
    If they get their shit together then maybe they will challenge us in the future. Buit I can’t see it, not with Wenger or the board they have in place or the owners.

  • Denton Davey

    sidney @ 4:16: “Rooney isn’t defensively minded. He’s bodging when he plays that deep.”

    I’m not sold on that – Cazorla isn’t a defensive player BUT he put his body/hands on the line to block the cross which resulted in a penalty. I think that TheWayneBoy just wimped-out. When he could have put one hand on the family jewels and the other to protect his face, he ducked.

  • squigs

    What’s this body on the line nonsense. It’s blocking a football.

    We played well but we never seemed that keen to really put Arsenal to the sword and we didn’t have to such was the level of control we had on the game.

  • sheesh
  • sidney

    United fans were singing ‘Are you Saville in disguise?’ at Wenger

  • sheesh

    Funny.
    I definitely didn’t hear anything from our lot but I was sat in the North Stand so maybe that song was coming from somewhere in the Stretford End.
    All I could hear in terms of bile was that stuff from the Arsenal fans.
    I was thinking after the game that our fans seemed to be better behaved than they normally are when Arsenal come to town.

  • sidney

    Maybe it was the Arsenal fans then? I only heard it on TV.

    Fuck em anyways, they’re getting a bit smalltime now their team is shite.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    persies gonna win us the prem

    cant believe how good he is

  • Violent Banana

    Pretty damning indictment of our fans when all you heard were the Arsenal supporters.