It wasn’t some tactical stroke of genius from David Moyes that gave Manchester United their most meaningful win of the season. It was a Robin van Persie goal, a Wayne Rooney cross and the most committed performance from his players this season, thrusting them back into the title race.
If confidence was something that held Manchester players back, there’s nothing to worry about. Be it confidence in themselves – if they’re good enough to preform without Alex Ferguson watching from above, or actually in their manager, who had a terrible record against big clubs during his decade-long stay at Everton, it doesn’t matter now. After losing to Liverpool and Manchester City; and drawing at home against Chelsea, the schedule, for now, seems a bit easier, and the team heads into that easier patch feeling completely different than before.
What was so different in their win over Arsenal? Does it come down only to commitment and effort? Partially. Manchester United defended very well and took advantage of Arsenal’s weakness on the wings by skipping their attempts to control the midfield. They simply pushed the ball through Antonio Valencia and Shinkji Kagawa, who kept making way for Patrice Evra as well, while their defense completely blanketed the Arsenal midfield.
Either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie were always close to Mikel Arteta, and it always seemed like Arsenal weren’t sending more than three men to the danger area. The best chances they managed to create throughout the match, as Mesut Ozil completely disappeared under the watchful eye of Phil Jones, were crosses from Bacary Sagna, not finding anyone to finish them off.
It wasn’t surprising to see David Moyes leaving Adnan Januzaj on the bench – Moyes is a cautious manager, sometimes a bit too much. Despite moving back in the second half, his team was still the more dangerous of the two, making Arsenal’s possession advantage quite pointless and edge-less. Bringing in Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs instead of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa weren’t the boldest of moves, but they simply crowded the middle of the pitch more than before, denying Arsenal any chance of staging a late comeback.
Championship material? In the current Premier League, for sure. Manchester City can’t win away matches, Chelsea have an arrogant manager who is actually hitting out at his own players from time to time, Tottenham who can’t score and Liverpool, who no one really believes are going to be this high up the table for longer. Manchester United might have given everyone a head start and have the worst manager in the group, but this team wasn’t just Alex Ferguson to begin with, and counting out the ability of any side with a strike force consisting of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney seemed to be a bit rash and foolish.
Ability and quality aren’t going to be something seen constantly from this club, but the newly found belief in their defensive capabilities should be enough to keep them from falling down the table once more, and avoid more embarrassing results like in their matches against West Brom and Southampton.