Either way, tonight was the same old Arsenal. Big games need big performances from players and Arsenal once again showed that many of their players lack the big game mentality. Contrastingly, Park Ji Sung showed once again why Ferguson continues to select him in the big games, with an industrious performance capped off with a wonderful improvised headed goal. This fixture is fast becoming his favourite, having scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal than any other team. Wenger can now add Park Ji-Sung to his list alongside Didier Drogba as an unlikely chief tormentor.
In truth, Manchester United thoroughly deserved their 1 nil win and the margin of victory could have been even greater had Wayne Rooney not displayed the killer touch in front of goal that we have been getting accustomed to lately. Ahem. Arsenal lacked any passing fluency, rhythm and shape. Tomas Rosicky, Marouane Chamakh and Alexandre Song were hugely disappointing and gave away the ball too cheaply on too many occasions.
Andrey Arshavin gave Arsenal fans more ammunition for criticism as he once again turned in a hugely frustrating performance devoid of any inspiration. Labelled the modern day Anders Limpar in some quarters, he was meant to be the wildcard in Arsenal’s pack who could turn a big game with a single moment of inspiration. Judging on this season, he is still living off the memory of Anfield. It may be time for Theo Walcott to get an extended run in the team, starting with the game against Stoke on Saturday.
Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas came off the bench in the hope of salvaging a point, yet it was to no avail as United’s back four held firm. In his post match interview, Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand as “absolutely magnificent” and he was spot on. The centre back pairing were terrific in defence and did not give Arsenal an inch.The one bright spark for Arsenal in a night of huge disappointment, came in the shape of the 20 year old debutant in goal. Wojciech Szczesny looked assured and comfortable throughout the game and showed he could handle the big occasion. Fabianski must surely now be nervous of regaining his place once he is fit again.
The title race is far from over and it is foolish to rule out any team at such an early stage. Indeed, the game between United and Chelsea on Sunday is another pivotal contest, with United looking to go 6 points clear of Chelsea with a game in hand if they return victorious from the Bridge.
However, if Arsenal are to have any say in the title race come May, it is obvious they will need to cut out the defensive lapses and start making the Emirates a fortress again. They must also sincerely hope that Thomas Vermaelen returns sooner rather than later.