Reaction from United’s win in London.
Are you not entertained?
This was the best of what to expect from a Manchester United team under Jose Mourinho. On our podcast this week (sorry, it’s late out, but we promise this was what was said) Dave Murphy suggested that we might see a surprise. He suggested we might see Mourinho catch Arsenal cold and attack them. That’s exactly what was happened and this game was done early on because of a thrilling start with goals from Valencia and Lingard.
Arsenal went gung-ho in response and it made for a thrilling, breathless encounter. With the hosts throwing everything at United, and the visitors looking menacing on the break, it was a game that had everything. Ironically, or maybe because of the red card, United were more secure in their defence of the lead after going down to ten men. Yes, Mourinho will have David De Gea to thank for keeping Wenger’s team out, but this was a case where his team earned their win.
It was also a performance worth sending to Merseyside and those who continue to believe Mourinho was the negative one. People were surprised by United’s supposed openness at Chelsea a fortnight after that game and they were no doubt surprised again today. Perhaps, as Mourinho suggested, it was Klopp who was the spoiler back in October.
One last note on the refereeing of Andre Marriner. Jose Mourinho joked afterwards that the Arsenal players must love the beautiful turf of their pitch, a reference to their late penalty-hunting exploits, but perhaps one of those appeals was worthy of a spot-kick. That decision came immediately after Marriner’s bizarre decision not to send off Koscielny for a helpless hauling down of Lukaku. This was a case of two wrongs not making a right but Marriner, for the most part, got everything else just about right, including the red card.
Graham Poll, assessing for BT Sport, said that Koscielny saw yellow because Lukaku wasn’t going towards goal; an odd assessment, because the foul pushed the Belgian away from goal.
Pogba, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
So near yet so far. Paul Pogba’s dominating performance at the Emirates was comfortably his best since returning to Old Trafford. The Frenchman gave a lesson in what United were missing in those big games against Liverpool and Chelsea and was at the heart of all which was good about their play. His bossing of Koscielny for the third goal was magnificent and came seconds after journalist Raphael Honigstein had bafflingly declared him a pedestrian.
And then the red card. No excuses, it was a red card, though it didn’t seem deliberate. It was fast and it was out of control. Pogba will be missing for three games but crucially from the Manchester derby. Not withstanding City’s inevitable ten goal hammering of West Ham tomorrow, United’s chances of winning the derby have been lessened considerably, and so their title chances might have been hurt as much as boosted by their game in London tonight.
United’s chances of appeal are so remote that you imagine they risk the chance of adding a match on for a frivolous appeal. They would have to argue that Bellerin was in an unnatural position, and to be fair, they have a point on that, but the reality is this is one United will just have to take on the chin
Lingard the Park
Jesse Lingard simply had to play today and showed why he was worth his place. His goals were reminiscent of Park Ji-Sung’s at the same ground in 2009 and 2010 and perhaps the comparisons shouldn’t stop there.
The big test may come against Manchester City. Lingard’s worst showing for the club was arguably the first half in last season’s home derby but he might have the opportunity to put it right next week. If he passes that audition then we will have to seriously entertain the idea of the player being one of the first names on the team sheet for the big occasion.
You’re the best around
Undoubtedly the first name on that team sheet every week is David De Gea. His performance tonight had echoes of Peter Schmeichel’s game at St. James’ Park in early 1996. The saves were perhaps even better and it was just a shame that he didn’t get the clean sheet his own performance deserved. His reaction save from his own player – the Romelu Lukaku ‘effort’ late in the first half – was the most outstanding of the season and one of the best of his career. De Gea had less than half of a second to react and did. There’s just no debating it any more, he’s clearly the best goalkeeper in the world.