Manchester United 1 Arsenal 0
The first few minutes of last night’s all-English clash at Old Trafford was a warning sign of things to come for Arsenal.
Just moments into the match Manuel Almunia was forced into a save from a Wayne Rooney header as United streamed forward. It was the first of many saves that essentially keep Arsene Wenger’s side in this tie.
Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage of a slip from Kieran Gibbs as he fizzed an effort across the face of goal. Tevez then forced the Spanish goalkeeper into another fine save when he was fed by a John O’Shea cross.
United’s dominance paid off from the resulting corner when a low Michael Carrick cross deflected off the boot of Mikael Silvestre and sat perfectly for the unmarked John O’Shea, who rifled it into the roof of the net.
The goal had been coming but it was woeful Arsenal defending from a set piece. Emmanuel Adebayor casually made his way out of the penalty area with United still in possession, leaving O’Shea and Ronaldo unmarked at the far post.
Arsenal’s first shot on target came in the 27th minute when Cesc Fabregas fired a tame 20-yard effort into the hands of Edwin van der Sar. Arsenal played a 4-5-1 formation with Fabregas playing a much more attacking role just behind the Togolese striker. Frustratingly for Arsenal fans though, the pair failed to link up to any real effect on the night.
The second half saw more of the same from United with Ronaldo smashing a 30-yard shot onto the bar before Wayne Rooney released Ryan Giggs who had the ball in the back of the net only for the strike to be ruled out for a very close offside.
Arsenal could have snatched a crucial away goal right at the death when Nicklas Bentdner headed Fabregas’ cross over the bar.
Adebayor was a disappointing lone-striker. His touch was abysmal, and did not seem on the same level as his team-mates, failing to make any real impact on the game.
It says a lot about the match when Arsenal’s best players were in defence. The 18-year-old Kieran Gibbs was nothing short of fantastic at left-back. He was given the unenviable task of dealing with Ronaldo, but he battled well and along with Almunia was one of the Gunners’ best.
Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez constantly pressured Arsenal when the Gunners were in possession, forcing them into mistakes. The latter was subbed after 67 minutes but the Argentine’s work rate was absolutely terrific.
United will be ruing the fact that they only managed to score one on the night considering how the game was played, but most fans would have taken a 1-0 win before kick-off.
Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a much better overall performance from his team when the two sides meet again on Tuesday, but will be happy his side did not concede more.
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