David Moyes' decision to put Phil Jones in the centre of midfield made the difference as Manchester United defeated Arsenal in an impressive 1-0 victory at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon.
While people should not read too much into this result about the Gunners, the performance by the Red Devils was a telling one. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that David Moyes got his tactics right.
His decision to play Phil Jones right in front of the defensive four, in an anchorman type role, was a brilliant decision that effectively stopped Arsenal's creative players from receiving the ball in pockets behind the midfield and in front of the defence. Jones filled the gaps, forcing Arsenal to switch the ball continuously without any real penetration. Consequently, Arsenal were unable to make clear cut chances and United remained comfortable throughout the game.
Additionally, Moyes' substitutions were spot on today. He brought on Tom Cleverley, a player who could keep the ball while putting in a real energetic defence shift, after the departure of Nemanja Vidic through injury. Sliding Phil Jones back into the centre of defence and playing Cleverley where Jones was kept the United side solidified defensively, which was exemplified through the clean sheet.
The introduction of Ryan Giggs was a smart substitution as well. The 39-year-old Welsh winger brought experience and maturity in an important situation where Manchester United needed to hold out for the win. Giggs was able to put in a solid shift, and once again proved that Moyes made another good decision.
Finally, by bringing the struggling Fellaini into the match for the goal scorer Robin van Persie Manchester United was able to gain some height further up the pitch. Fellaini was energetic in chasing balls slightly behind Rooney, and was able to win flick-ons when United played long balls from the back. He was able to hold the ball up with his massive frame and keep possession en route a United victory.
Further kudos to David Moyes as Manchester United produced a classic performance that Sir Alex was surely proud of.
Moyes was tactically spot on as he instructed his players to soak up the pressure, with two walls of four stopping the Arsenal squad from penetrating in behind. Feed to Giroud was stopped, and players like Ozil, Ramsey, and Cazorla were forced to drop deep to get the ball and mechanically pass the ball from side to side. United's midfield and defence effectively stopped the creative players that have thrived for the Gunners so far this season.
And although there was occasional threats from Arsenal, the United squad was successful in deflecting these threats and deserved to win the match.
After this match where Moyes was tactically magnificent he can take confidence moving forward and it seems as if he is finally finding his feet at the helm of Old Trafford.
Manchester United have not lost since late September, and David Moyes can look positively as his team look ready to break into the top four and challenge for the title. He has nurtured Adnan Januzaj well, got Rooney scoring again, and the defence is looking more solid as the season evolves.
After early season criticism United fans should start to put their faith in Moyes, as they should have done when the season was at its beginnings. Moyes was magnificent against Arsenal and tactically defeated Arsene Wenger.
He looks ready to lead United to a serious title challenge and possibly a title victory.
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