Scorers: Sanchez 6, 20, Ozil 7 | 4 October 2015 | Emirates Stadium | Att: 64,084
It was a day to forget for Manchester United in North London on Sunday as three goals in the opening 20 minutes sealed a 3-0 win for Arsenal.
The hosts raced in a two-goal lead through Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in the first 10 minutes, before Sanchez netted another soon after.
Having been outplayed for most of the first period, United improved after the break and forced Petr Cech into a couple of good stops, but the damage had already been done.
Louis van Gaal made two changes to the side that came from behind to beat Wolfsburg, with Michael Carrick and Ashley Young coming in for Morgan Schneiderlin and Antonio Valencia. Young came on at right full-back in midweek, but having impressed so much down the left last term, as a winger and wing-back, he returned to a more familiar role, with Matteo Darmian, a starter at left-back for the last two games, back in the right-back slot.
The teams came into the game on the back of contrasting Champions League results – United a 2-1 victory over Wolfsburg and Arsenal a surprise 3-2 defeat at home to Olympiacos. Many pundits wondered how Arsene Wenger’s side, who had been heavily criticised along with their manager, would respond. The answer in the opening 10 minutes was emphatically.
The Gunners came flying out of the blocks and within seven minutes were two goals to the good, without some Reds even having touched the ball. The first came on six minutes, when Ozil worked space down the right and slid a cross in for Sanchez to cleverly flick past David De Gea. Sixty seconds later, Ozil got himself on the scoresheet with a cool side-footed finish after being found by Theo Walcott in a sweeping Arsenal move.
Just as the Reds attempted to get some sort of foothold in the game with a bit of possession and pressure on Arsenal’s defence, the Gunners made it three. Walcott was involved again, finding Sanchez on the edge of the box and, after tricking his way past a clutch of defenders, he blasted the ball into the top corner to leave the Reds stunned.
It could have been four just after the half-hour mark when Sanchez turned provider for Aaron Ramsey, coming in at the back post on the right, but he volleyed wide with the goal at his mercy.
As half-time approached, the Reds were given a glimmer of hope with a first opening of the game. Darmian’s ball into the area eventually came to Anthony Martial, who controlled it and shot on the turn brilliantly, but Cech stuck out a leg to block it.
Possession: Arsenal 47% United 53%
Shots: Arsenal 7 United 2
Shots on target: Arsenal 3 United 2
Corners: Arsenal 2 United 2
Van Gaal opted to make a double substitution at the start of the second period with Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini replacing Darmian and Memphis; the changes saw Wayne Rooney switch to the left as Fellaini slotted in behind Martial.
The Reds knew a response was needed… and fast. Young almost provided it four minutes in when he cut in from the left and fired goalwards, but Cech leapt to his right to claim the ball. He was called on again just after the hour mark when Rooney guided a shot towards the target from the edge of the box, but the Arsenal stopper tipped it clear.
A neat move from the Reds on 68 minutes, involving Carrick, Juan Mata and Rooney, led to Bastian Schweinsteiger getting through, but Cech was there again to block bravely from close-range.
Arsenal had not been the attacking force they were in the first period and seemed content to sit on their lead, but they still had the ability to up the tempo when it was needed and Ozil almost made it four after another attack of pace and precision, only for De Gea to save.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain clipped the bar in injury-time as the Arsenal fans celebrated what they already had. The Reds, meanwhile, will be keen to move on from this match as quickly as possible.
Possession: Arsenal 38% United 62%
Shots: Arsenal 11 United 9
Shots on target: Arsenal 5 United 5
Corners: Arsenal 3 United 6
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Ozil (Oxlade-Chamberlain 74), Sanchez (Gibbs 81); Walcott (Giroud 74).
Subs not used: Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Campbell.
United: De Gea, Young, Smalling, Blind, Darmian (Valencia 46), Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Mata (Wilson 82), Rooney, Memphis (Fellaini 46), Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Jones, McNair, Schneiderlin.
Booked: Young, Darmian, Rooney.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Louis van Gaal: “It was a shock for me. It wasn’t a normal performance. They were much more aggressive than us and, when you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football, you know you shall lose.”
Michael Carrick: “We are bitterly disappointed and will probably beat ourselves up about it over the next few weeks, but we’ll come back looking at the bigger picture. It’s a setback, but we’re still up there.”
Manchester United legend David Beckham believes the current squad’s “togetherness” is one of the major factors behind the team’s impressive start to the campaign which has taken Louis van Gaal’s men to the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Beckham, who announced on Friday that he will be back at Old Trafford for a special charity match next month, has been impressed by what he’s seen of the team so far this season and had particular praise for the younger members of the squad for stepping up to the plate.
Sunday’s visit to Arsenal will provide a stern test for the Reds, but the former England captain is hopeful United can maintain a winning run which has been aided by the squad’s team spirit.
“I think it’s exciting at the moment because there are a lot of young players who have come into the team,” said Beckham. “You’ve got Wayne [Rooney] leading the line and everything seems to be coming together at the moment. I think it’s important we have that togetherness that obviously we had back in my day and that all Manchester United teams have had – we seem to have that which is great. Let’s hope the young players that the manager has brought in continue to play the way they’re playing.
“I’d like to think we can continue our good form on Sunday,” he added. “It’s a big game. These games are always the ones you look forward to as a player. When you get the schedule at the start of the season you always look for the City game, the Liverpool game, the Arsenal game… these are the matches you want to be part of.
“Playing against Arsenal was always one of the highlights of the season, especially given the rivalry we had in my day. United are coming off a good Champions League result, Arsenal not so much, so there will be pressure, probably a little bit more on Arsenal for this weekend, but Arsene Wenger is a great manager and has a good team. There are always difficult moments in football, but United are having a good time at the moment and I hope that continues.”
How to follow it: Sunday’s Barclays Premier League match will be broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports. Fans can also follow the 16:00 BST kick-off via our live blog and @ManUtd, our official Twitter account. MUTV’s live matchday programmes will be on air at 13:00 and 15:00 BST.
Scene-setter: United are top of the league – and it feels great – following last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Sunderland at Old Trafford. That result capitalised on Manchester City’s shock defeat at Tottenham Hotspur earlier that day and the Reds can cement that position further with victory over Arsenal, who are in a mini-crisis after their Champions League loss to Olympiacos. More on that in a second…
Form guide: Louis van Gaal’s men have registered 16 points from seven league games, which is a significant improvement on 2014/15 when the same tally was not earned until the 11th outing. United are also high on confidence following a 2-1 comeback win over Wolfsburg in midweek, when goals from Juan Mata and Chris Smalling secured an important success in Group B. Elsewhere in the competition, Arsenal were beaten by the aforementioned Greek champions at the Emirates Stadium and Arsene Wenger was heavily criticised for resting Petr Cech in favour of David Ospina, who made a fatal error on the night. Sunday’s match has since been described as a “must-win” for the Gunners.
Latest team news: Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo all missed the Wolfsburg game through injury, but van Gaal confirmed on Thursday that Carrick is available again. So other than Luke Shaw, a long-term absentee with a broken leg, the boss has plenty of options to choose from. The same can’t quite be said for Arsenal, who are without Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and former Reds striker Danny Welbeck.
Sub-plot: Anthony Martial excelled during Monaco’s trip to Arsenal in the Champions League second round last season and the Frenchman will hope to replicate that form this Sunday. Of course, the 19-year-old has often been compared to Gunners legend Thierry Henry and even manager Wenger has admitted to scouting our latest no.9 but eventually baulked at the asking price. Will he regret that?
Danger man: Alexis Sanchez has been in great form in the last week, notching four goals in two games, including a hat-trick in the 5-2 victory at Leicester City. Olivier Giroud is just behind him on three goals and netted what turned out to be Arsenal’s consolation against United at the Emirates last season.
View from the dressing room: “It is another tough test but this is what the Premier League is about and we go there full of confidence. We didn’t get the best result before the last international break against Swansea, so hopefully we can put that right and get the win we need.” – Phil Jones
Betting: Official betting partner Marathonbet prices Arsenal as evens favourites to triumph, with United at 149/50 to win. The draw is 139/50. Sign up with Marathonbet via manutd.com/bet and check out the latest odds.
Referee: Sunday’s man in the middle is Anthony Taylor. It will be the first United game he has officiated this term and the second one involving Arsenal after he took charge of their Community Shield win over Chelsea. He has issued 33 yellow cards this season and one red to West Ham goalkeeper Adrian.
Rivals watch: Manchester City host Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, before Chelsea take on Southampton at Stamford Bridge in the tea-time kick-off. On Sunday, Everton take on Liverpool in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in a match that precedes Arsenal v United.
Louis van Gaal insists Wednesday’s Champions League match-winner Chris Smalling deserves all of the credit for his immense form and development at Manchester United.
Smalling has excelled this season and has arguably been the Reds’ best player in all competitions, having producing a series of outstanding defensive performances alongside Daley Blind.
In truth, barring the odd injury or suspension, the England international has impressed since van Gaal took over the managerial reins at Old Trafford in the summer of 2014 and when asked what he has done to improve Smalling, the manager was quick to play down his own contribution.
“I think the player, when he does things, he does it all by himself,” van Gaal told reporters on Friday, ahead of United’s Barclays Premier League match with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
“I help him with advice and also with demands, also with training sessions, also with showing images to improve him, but he has to be open and he has to perform on the pitch. He does everything for himself. The greatest compliment you have to make is to Chris and not to me.”
Smalling was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010 when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were automatic choices for the centre-back positions, which allowed him to develop under their tutelage.
Chris is now a regular starter and appears to have benefited from that education. “Obviously he got the chances because of that but it is always like that,” says van Gaal. “As a player you need vacancies in positions and when it is your position you have more luck. That’s always true in football clubs.”
Clearly in a good mood, van Gaal also praised Ashley Young in his pre-match press conference at the Aon Training Complex when asked about the versatile midfielder and occasional full-back. “Ashley Young is very important,” van Gaal said. “He is a team player.
“At the first place he is a team player. Not many players are actually team players but he is always thinking about the team. He can play in a lot of positions and for a trainer-coach or a manager it is fantastic that he is willing to do that.
“Yesterday he came in as a right full-back, he hasn’t played there much I believe. The second goal started with him. It was very important that he played there in the second half and I am very happy with him. He accepts his role and that’s also important.”
Scorers: Caligiuri 4′, Mata PEN 34′ , Smalling 53′ | Champions League | OT attendance: TBC
Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Champions League on Wednesday as goals from Juan Mata and Chris Smalling secured an invaluable 2-1 victory over Wolfsburg.
The Reds had lost the opening Group B match at PSV Eindhoven earlier this month and, as a result, needed a positive result on matchday two at Old Trafford ahead of a potentially difficult trip to CSKA Moscow, who bagged an impressive 3-2 triumph over the Dutch champions elsewhere in Russia.
Although the importance of this match was emphasised by Louis van Gaal ahead of kick-off, United made a disappointing start and fell behind to Daniel Caligiuri’s goal in the fourth minute after the German-born Italian dribbled down the right flank to exchange passes inside the penalty box before finishing past David De Gea with aplomb, much to the delight of the continuously vocal travelling fans in the away end.
United responded well and Bastian Schweinsteiger hit a speculative half-volley at an open goal just moments later following a dodgy clearance from goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, before Mata’s curling effort was headed over by the physically imposing former Bayern Munich defender Dante. Anthony Martial then went close with a mazy run from the right that led to the Frenchman firing just off target.
The visiting Germans appeared to be content with their early lead and understandably held a deep defensive line for much of the first half, essentially asking what United had got in attack. An answer was almost given in the 25th minute when Martial superbly got to the byline and found Wayne Rooney with a driven pass across the area, though the captain blazed his shot over the bar from around six yards. Memphis was then frustrated as his header from Mata’s superb pass was saved by the goalkeeper.
The Spaniard was quickly celebrating, however, after his cross was handled inside the area by Caligiuri and United were rightfully awarded a penalty in front of the East Stand, which our no.8 calmly stroked into the bottom corner to inspire scenes of great relief and ecstasy at Old Trafford. The mood was only dampened slightly by the sight of yellows cards for Morgan Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger for separate fouls on Maximilian Arnold, just before the half-time break.
Possession: United 61% Wolfsburg 39%
Shots at goal: United 11 Wolfsburg 2
Shots on target: United 4 Wolfsburg 1
Corners: United 2 Wolfsburg 0
Van Gaal intervened during the interval by replacing right-back Antonio Valencia with Ashley Young, who had previously made a positive impact as a substitute this season, and United swiftly took the lead through an unlikely source when Smalling latched onto Mata’s superb backheel to prod home at the back post on 53 minutes, notching his 10th career goal for the Reds in the process.
Andreas Pereira excelled on his first competitive start against Ipswich Town a week earlier and the young Brazilian entered the fray just after the hour mark, taking the place of Memphis after the Dutchman was perhaps unfairly booked for apparently catching Christian Trasch with a flailing arm.
Wolfsburg made their own changes on 70 minutes by introducing Andre Schurrle and Nicolas Bendtner, two players who are both familiar to United fans as a result of their previous spells in the Premier League with Chelsea and Arsenal. The former almost scored with one of his first touches, too, after dragging a low shot from the right flank just wide of De Gea’s post.
Chances were ultimately few and far between in the closing stages as United looked to consolidate the advantage and a potentially crucial victory, basically by dropping deeper and soaking up all pressure that Wolfsburg tried to apply in the final third. This led to a nervous finale at Old Trafford and, in truth, the Germans looked like the team more likely to score as the clock ticked towards full-time.
Schneiderlin could and perhaps should have been sent off for a second bookable offence following a foul on Julian Draxler, which led to Ricardo Rodriguez curling a powerful free-kick inches wide on 85 minutes. That proved to be the final opportunity and United held on to claim three important Group B points.
Possession: United 53% Wolfsburg 47%
Shots at goal: United 15 Wolfsburg 7
Shots on target: United 6 Wolfsburg 2
Corner: United 3 Wolfsburg 2
United: De Gea, Valencia (Young 45′), Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger (Jones 72′), Mata, Rooney, Memphis (Pereira 62′), Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, McNair, Fellaini, Wilson.
Booked: Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Memphis, Young
Wolfsburg: Benaglio, Trasch (Jung 76′), Naldo, Dante, Rodriguez, Guilavogui, Arnold (Schurrle 70′), Caligiuri, Kruse, Draxler, Dost (Bendtner 70′).
Subs not used: Grun, Schafer, Klose, Seguin.
How to follow it: Wednesday’s match will kick off at 19:45 BST and fans can watch it live on BT Sport. You can also follow the action via our live blog and official Twitter account, @ManUtd.
State of play: This season’s Champions League campaign began disappointingly as United suffered a 2-1 defeat at PSV Eindhoven in the opening Group B match and that places added importance on the clash with Wolfsburg, who recorded a slender 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow on matchday one.
Form guide: Louis van Gaal’s team moved to the top of the Barclays Premier League on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 success against Sunderland, after rivals Manchester City lost 4-1 at Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the day. The Reds have also kept consecutive clean sheets and scored three goals in four of the last five fixtures in all competitions. In contrast, Wolfsburg are without a win in two Bundesliga outings after drawing 1-1 with Hannover 96 and losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich last Wednesday, when substitute Robert Lewandowski scored five times in just nine minutes.
Latest team news: Luke Shaw is a long-term absentee after breaking his leg in Eindhoven, which forced Matteo Darmian to play at left-back last time out. Marcos Rojo can also play in that position but the Argentina international is struggling with a hamstring injury and could miss out, while Paddy McNair is also doubtful after being unavailable for the Ipswich Town and Sunderland games. Vieirinha and Koen Casteels have sat out the Wolves’ last five matches, while Robin Knoche is sidelined for another two weeks. Luiz Gustavo missed Saturday’s match with Hannover due to a knee problem.
Sub-plot: This is the first time United have entered the second game of a Champions League campaign without a point since 1996/97, when Alex Ferguson’s men started with a 1-0 loss at Juventus. However, more encouragingly, the Reds have never lost a home game on matchday two.
Danger man: Wolfsburg sold their star player Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City in the summer, but reinvested that money straight away by signing Germany international Julian Draxler from Schalke. “Draxler was a very young talent when I was in charge of Bayern, so I know him,” van Gaal told reporters. “He has to go on a long road like Anthony Martial, although it could be a little bit shorter because he has been playing longer on that level. He is a very good player.”
View from the dressing room: “Last season, Wolfsburg had a great season in the Bundesliga and kept most of their players and bought new players like Julian Draxler, who is a very good number 10. We’ll have to be ready for that – we know in the Champions League there are no easy games and they are a difficult team to face.” – Juan Mata
Anthony Martial has injected great pace and power into Manchester United’s attack and Chris Smalling believes the Frenchman is exactly the type of player needed at Old Trafford.
Since his deadline-day arrival, Martial has impressively registered four goals in five appearances for the Reds after netting a sensational debut strike against Liverpool, scoring a clinical brace at Southampton and converting again during the Capital One Cup victory over Ipswich Town.
The 19-year-old France international and former Monaco forward most recently registered an assist for Wayne Rooney during Saturday’s 3-0 win over Sunderland, when his overall performance and ability on the ball was widely praised by United supporters both at the ground and on social media.
Smalling has trained with Martial for around a month, getting to know exactly how he plays and how to defend against him, which makes the flourishing centre-back a perfect judge of his quality. During an exclusive interview with United Review, the defender discusses the club’s exciting no.9.
“If you could ask for a moment to announce yourself on the world stage, it would be in a massive game like Liverpool at home,” Smalling explains. “It was a great moment and a lot of people took notice of how well he dribbled at players, how direct he was and how he took his goal.
“That’s something we’ve needed this season. He continued his good form by scoring twice at Southampton and again against Ipswich, so he’s enjoyed a great start to his United career.
“In that snippet against Liverpool, you get a real idea of how he is. He is one who is very direct, he is willing to take on players and he is willing to take on that risk. I think, in the final third, it is an area where you can take that risk because you can’t take it at the back. He looks a very sharp player.”
United are now top of the Barclays Premier League with 16 points from seven matches played, which is already three more than the Reds earned in the first 10 fixtures of 2014/15. There is obviously a long way to go until the end of the campaign, but Smalling is confident of progress and feels Louis van Gaal’s men can win the title if they are still in the running by the New Year.
“We have improved,” says Chris. “Last season’s start was disastrous and it didn’t give us a foothold to be able to challenge for anything. We know that we have improved in this section of the season, and we now have to improve in each other section compared to last season and aim a lot higher.
“Our aim is to be competitive in all of the competitions and to make sure that we finish higher in the Premier League than we did last season. If we keep this consistent run from the start, and can maintain that all the way through, then I don’t think anything is out of reach.
“If you show that consistency then you will always be there or thereabouts. If you’re near the top by Christmas, you then want a strong finish and a bit of luck on your side as well.”
Three nominees for United’s Player of the Month award for September will be announced after Wednesday’s Champions League match against Wolfsburg and Smalling hopes to be involved again, having finished second in the poll for the August prize – which went to Matteo Darmian.
“Yeah, I thought that was nice,” he admits. “Obviously, you want to please the coaching staff here and you want to please the fans. They are the two that I mainly concentrate on. If you listen to too many things then you can be up and down like a rollercoaster! The manager is the one who can improve you and, with the fans, if you keep them happy then you know that you are doing okay.
“Matteo was a worthy winner. He has come into the club and he hasn’t needed any time to settle in. He has literally hit the ground running and that is full credit to him, to be able to adjust to a different league and a different culture. He has improved the team in such a short space of time, so I think that makes him a very worthy winner. There’s a long way to go, but he’s made a good start.”