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A Great Eight: United 8 Arsenal 2

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A wonderful performance by Manchester United’s young players was too much too handle for an inexperienced and woeful Arsenal who conceded an astonishing eight goals in a game for the first time since 1896.

This was a game where at times it looked like men against boys, which given the fact United’s starting line-up had an average age of 23 compared to Arsenal’s 23.6, was truly extraordinary and showed already that Sir Alex Ferguson’s new-look team has a real ‘ruthless’ streak that will see them win many more games and trophies in the years to come.

United started the game as they ended their previous league fixture againgst Spurs and inside the first 10 minutes peppered the Arsenal goal. Tom Cleverley, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck all went close early on as the cracks began to open in the Gunners defence.

Bearing that in mind, it was a surprise that it only took 22 minutes before United went ahead. Moments after Carl Jenkinson was reprimanded by Theo Walcott for allowing Patrice Evra to run clear, the breakdown in communications continued in Arsenal’s defence and Anderson was allowed the time to chip in a ball into the area.

Despite three defenders around him, Welbeck was able to head the ball past Wojiech Szczesny in goal on the bounce for his second goal in 6 days at the Stretford End. It was a poor goal for the visitors to concede but one that showed the big striker’s heart and hunger to succeed and showed just why Sir Alex had kept faith with the youngster after his performance against Spurs.

United’s fans were jubilant and were sensing that with the door well and firmly open in Arsenal’s defence, that more goals would be on the way to knock down not only the door but any surrounding wall around it and a minute after Welbeck’s goal, Chris Smalling dragged a shot wide after holding of the challenge of Armand Traore.

Against the run of play though, Arsenal hit back and won a penalty when Jonny Evans dragged down Walcott in the area. There were no real complaints from the Northern Irishman who was booked for dragging down the winger. The Gunners captain Robin van Persie stepped up to take the spot-kick but could shoot weakly at David De Gea who guessed the right way palmed it away to safety.

It was a big moment for the Spaniard to prove himself on the big occasion and Old Trafford erupted like a goal had been scored. All the United players made a point in running up to De Gea and patting him on the back and celebrating, reaffirming to everyone that they believe in him as they realised it was an important moment not just for him personally but the game itself.

Amazingly that proved to be the pivotal moment in the game as on United’s very next attack, they doubled the lead. After Rooney’s cross into the box was headed out by Trarore, the ball dropped to Ashley Young just outside the area. Young showed just why Sir Alex brought him to the club, as after dropping the shoulder to Francis Coquelin he simply curled the ball into the top-corner of the net, scoring his first goal for the club

Poor Szczesny stood no chance and despite diving at full-strength couldn’t even get a fingertip to Young’s effort which even at this stage of the season is surley going to be up there with not only United’s goal of the season but the Premier League’s award as well.

De Gea was in the thick of the action shortly after and made a fine double save when he kept out a powerful shot from Andre Arshavin before doing well to block van Persie’s effort on the rebound. The confidence in the whole team was surging and even when Welbeck departed due to a hamstring injury after chasing down an Evans’ ball from defence, the respite didn’t stop there as Javier Hernandez was brought on in to inject even more pace to trouble Arsenal’s defence.

Jenkinson then clumsily brought down Young on the edge of the box. Howard Webb decided not tos send the right-back off booking him instead. It didn’t matter though as Rooney worked a quick free-kick routine with Young before majestically caressing the ball over the wall and past the outstretched hands of Szczesny. It was the striker’s 150th goal for the club and a beautiful one at that.

With the game effectively all but over with half-time approaching United lost abit of concentration and after Rooney attempted to score from the half-way line, Arsenal hit back to give their fans some hope as they tucked into their burgers in the break. After Evra’s poor clearance, Tomas Rosicky played in Walcott who shot past De Gea from a tight angle for the Gunners’ first league goal of the season.

Conceding that goal before half-time seemed to set United back and strangely Arsenal started the second half well and looked likely of grabbing a second early on. De Gea though looked alert and made a nice save low down to keep out a van Persie effort inside the area. Arshavin – who was lucky not to have been sent off in the first half – then wasted a chance moments later seeing his shot deflected wide by Evans after a mazy run into the area.

The Russian’s run into the box seemed to wake up United and after Cleverley wasted a chance after a brilliant one-two with Hernandez, further cracks began to open up in Arsenal’s defence. Johan Djourou stupidly gave away a foul just outside the area and Rooney and Young repeated their routine from the first half with United’s no.10 firing the ball over the wall into the far corner of the net wrong-footing Szczesny in the process.

It was now getting embarrassing for Wenger and the Arsenal fans whose chants were declining in volume as fast as United were able to break down their team moments later as Nani made it five. Good play by Smalling thrusting forward from full-back presented Rooney with a chance 25 yards out but he chose to play in Nani (who had missed a sitter moments earlier) who coolly chipped the ball over Szcnesy who by now must have been wishing for the ground to open up and swallow him.

Nani seconds later was brought of along with Anderson with Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung coming on to replace them. That was the last thing Wenger would have wanted, as after all both men have fine scoring records against Arsenal. Bearing that in mind, he must have felt sick when three minutes after coming on Park got his customary goal slotting the ball into the far-corner after playing a one-two with Young. Park’s strike coming seconds after Rooney had hit the post with a chip from outside the area

A lack of concentration at the back presented Arsenal with a second as van Persie fired in at the back post after being picked out by a Jenkinson header. The Dutchman barley even celebrated the goal which effectively was worthless to him and his team who still looked like conceding more incredibly.

Jenkinson was given his marching orders on United’s next attack, for hauling down Hernandez outside the area after the Mexican was picked out by a brilliant 35-yard ball by Rooney. Not long after that it was 7-2 as Rooney completed his hat-trick from the spot after Evra was hauled back by Walcott in the area.

When the fourth official’s board went up showing that there was still three minutes of additional time to be played, there was a sense of inevitability around that United would make it eight, which was exactly what they did as Young curled in another classy strike after being set up by Giggs.

Incredibly there was still time for Park to fire over as United looked for a ninth goal, but it didn’t matter and when the full-time whistle sounded, United’s players left the pitch knowing that they had just gone top of the league on goal difference ahead of Manchester City. Arsenal’s players could only look on shell-shocked as it hit them that he most stressful month in Wenger’s 15-year reign really had ended in complete and utter disaster.

United: De Gea, Evra, Jones, Evans, Smalling, Nani (Park), Anderson (Giggs), Cleverley, Young, Rooney, Welbeck (Hernandez).

Star Man

Despite Rooney scoring a treble and having a hand in several of the other goals, Ashley Young for his willingness to run all day and the way that he cut Arsenal to shreds gets our award ahead of United’s star player. Young’s second goal a minute after De Gea’s penalty save was a wonderful goal to watch and the way that the winger has shone immeditaly since joining in the summer, shows just how good of a player he really is.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87

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