Saturday, February 16, 2008

Manchester United vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Manchester United routed their title rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford to knock the Gunners out of the FA Cup in the fifth round proper. The Luis Nani-inspired drubbing was only Arsenal's fourth defeat in all competitions this season, and manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping that his team can bounce back before an important midweek Champions League clash with AC Milan.

United, on the other hand, will be going into their Champions League match against Lyon full of confidence after annihilating their nearest rivals. Wayne Rooney scored the opener after just 15 minutes, and Darren Fletcher added his first of two four minutes later. Luis Nani scored the other goal, which, in addition to his two assists pinned him as the man-of-the-match.

Lineups: Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar; Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Luis Nani, Oliveira Anderson, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher; Wayne Rooney, Ji-Sung Park

Arsenal: Jens Lehman; Justin Hoyte, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Armand Traore; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Gilberto Silva, Alex Hleb; Eduardo, Nicklas Bendtner

Both managers made five changes to the squads that played in the Premier League last week, with Arsene Wenger choosing to blood some of his younger players while Alex Ferguson rested his big guns Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez ahead of this weeks Champions League matches.

This game seemed to suggest that Manchester United have greater strength in depth than the Gunners, as they got off to a blistering start with the help of Portuguese winger Luis Nani. United scored their first after a corner from the young star was flicked on by countryman Oliveira Anderson. Wayne Rooney was on hand to head the ball past Jens Lehman as United grabbed the lead.

It was 2-0 only three minutes later after Darren Fletcher met a cross from the brilliant Nani. The midfielder headed the ball home off of Arsenal defender William Gallas to double United's lead.

Rooney could have scored a third and a fourth for the home side around the half-hour mark but he twice failed to test Lehman after some good work by his teammates set him up inside the penalty box.

Manchester United made it 3-0 not too long later without Rooney's help, when Nani latched onto a long pass from Michael Carrick. The Portuguese playmaker side-stepped Justin Hoyte before notching a deserved goal with a low drive into the corner.

An impressive first half performance from United looked to have set the result of the match beyond doubt, but Alex Ferguson's stars wanted more, coming out strong in the second half.

Lehman was forced into two saves before Emmanuel Eboue was sent off in the 49th minute after a bad challenge on Patrice Evra. The sending-off only furthered Arsenal's problems as victory began to look impossible.

Lehman saved another shot from Nani after some good work by Evra, before Rooney wasted yet another chance to test the German keeper.

Eduardo had Arsenal's first real chance of the game after the Gunners launched a counter-attack in the 64th minute. A cross from Cesc Fabregas met the Croatian striker in the center of the penalty box, but the striker was uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal, heading over the top.

Anderson then poked an effort wide of goal before Darren Fletcher scored his second of the night after a cross from Nani.

United could have scored more goals, but a superb showing from last season's Premier League champions was enough to prove to any doubters that they are still very much in the chase for the Premier League title.