“Another One Bites the Dust” should be Manchester United’s new theme song. It seems like the carousel of injuries is determined to keep Louis van Gaal’s side from truly gaining any solid momentum in the Premier League.
That has been especially evident in a defense which has been rickety at best. Early season injuries to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, and Luke Shaw has made life very difficult at Old Trafford.
Then, early season signing Marcos Rojo went down for the long term. Thankfully for supporters of the club, David De Gea’s superb play between the sticks and the emergence of 19 year-old Paddy McNair have kept United afloat when it looked almost certain they would sink.
Heading into the recent international break, it appeared as though things would finally take a turn for the better. However, international breaks haven’t been kind for Van Gaal since he took over at the end of the summer.
International break issues
Daley Blind, who has been one of United’s most consistent performers since his arrival from Ajax a couple of weeks into the season, limped off the pitch in the Netherlands’ thumping 6-0 victory over Latvia with what appears to be a fairly major injury.
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On top of that Shaw, who has steadily been finding his form for the Red Devils over the last few games, sustained an injury while playing for England that left him in doubt for the Arsenal showdown. Even De Gea and Angel Di Maria picked up some minor knocks, but nothing that would keep them out of action.
United vs Arsenal
In spite of this, when the referee called time on the highly anticipated match at the Emirates Stadium, United came out victorious. Van Gaal had finally gotten that first away victory, and he did it with a pretty banged up team.
Shaw’s woes continued, as he had to leave the game after picking up an injury after only fifteen minutes of action. Thankfully, his replacement Ashley Young, played very well and was helpful in holding off the heavy Arsenal attack.
Proof of character
More than anything, this result shows that United are indeed a resilient side, and they needed every ounce of resilience they could muster to pull out the win. Arsenal dominated possession, forcing Van Gaal’s back line, which was comprised of either three or five men, to defend for their lives.
That being said, it wasn’t a bad showing for an inconsistent Chris Smalling, two rookies (Tyler Blackett and McNair), and two wingers (Antonio Valencia and Young). Also, De Gea was also his usual brilliant self, as he made save after save to keep his team in the running.
The persistence at the back eventually carried into the attack. They had to bide their time before fortune did them a favour. After Kieran Gibbs and Wojciech Szczesny collided, the ball bounced to Valencia. He fired it into the area, and it spun off Gibbs into the semi-vacant net.
With that, it wasn’t until an 85th minute counter attack did United get their first official shot on target. Rooney finished beautifully, putting his side up 2-0. Olivier Giroud would pull one back for Arsenal with a spectacular goal of his own, but there wasn’t enough time for the Gunners to snatch the comeback in front of their home fans.
Yes, it was far from a spectacular showing from either of these English giants. Arsene Wenger has to be disappointed with his side and their inability to finish off a multitude of excellent opportunities.
On the other hand, however, Van Gaal will be satisfied with the victory. His team now moved sits fourth place in the Premier League, which has to feel good because of all the injuries and defensive frailties they’ve had to endure.