United continued their tough start to the season with the visit of Arsenal to Old Trafford, on the back of the excellent 3-0 victory over Spurs the previous Monday. Having watched rivals Manchester City emphatically dispatch Spurs earlier in the day, the pressure was on for United to deliver a performance and result to upstage our bitter rivals yet again. Fergie’s young side were massive favourites for the contest, given Arsenal’s recent alarming demise having lost key players such as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and only accumulating a solitary point from their opening 2 fixtures. Arsene Wenger’s side were further weakened by injuries to Thomas Vermaelen and Bakary Sagna, with Armand Traore and Carl Jenkinson deputising. For United, it was business as usual with the line up unchanged from that which had competently dismantled Spurs, and performed so well so far this season.
With the points seemingly there for the taking, United started brightly and with purpose looking to strike early and rattle the inexperienced Arsenal side. The early warning signs were there for Arsenal, as firstly Tom Cleverely shot narrowly wide, and then Danny Welbeck squandered a good opportunity when through on goal, within the first 10 minutes of the contest. It was no surprise then when United took the lead on 21 minutes, as Brazilian midfielder Anderson played a delightful lob over a static Arsenal defence, allowing Danny Welbeck to nip in and judge the bouncing ball perfectly, nodding over Szczesny. Smalling almost immediately doubled Uniteds lead, as the young defender found himself in a yard of space, only to send his shot wide of the far post. United appeared untouchable, however, on 26 minutes they were hit with a hammer blow as Jonny Evans was deemed to have brought down Theo Walcott in the penalty area, and Howard Webb (ardent United fan) awarded what looked a very soft penalty. Up stepped Robin Van Persie with the opportunity to bring Arsenal level, only for the Dutch striker to be thwarted by United new boy David De Gea, who anticipated and stopped the tame penalty with ease, much to the delight of his team mates and the United faithful.
De Gea’s save proved to be a pivotal moment, as United appeared buoyed whilst Arsenal looked dejected and a broken side. From a probable 1-1, United instead instantly found themselves 2 goals clear, as Ashley Young opened his United account with a delightful 20 yard curling effort into the top corner. Disappointingly, Danny Welbeck’s afternoon was cut short by a hamstring injury being replaced by Javier Hernandez, however the disappointment was short lived, as United added a 3rd on the stroke of half time, with a stunning curled free kick from the magnificent Rooney all but burying Arsenal. However, there was to be further drama in what had been in enthralling half of football, as in first half stoppage time, Theo Walcott found himself in space inside the penalty area, smashing a low shot through the legs of De Gea to give Arsenal a tenuous life line back into the game.
The disappointment of conceding after such a dominant performance seemed to affect the reds at the beginning of the second half, as Arsenal enjoyed their best spell of the match with Van Persie forcing De Gea into a superb low save from his right footed volley. United however responded in true style on 64 minutes, as once again Rooney struck gold from a free kick, this time curling it in at the far post, sending Szczesny the wrong way. Goal number 5 soon followed, with Rooney again the architect playing an incisive through ball to Nani, who audaciously lobbed the keeper from 10 yards out. With Arsenal’s heads now well and truly dropped, it was a question of how many United were in the mood for scoring as wave upon wave of attack rained down upon the Arsenal goal. Goal number 6 arrived courtesy of substitute Ji Sung Park, who maintained his excellent scoring record against Arsenal with a left footed shot into the bottom corner after a good assist from Ashley Young. There was some scant consolation for Arsenal as Van Persie volleyed in on 74 minutes after some less than convincing United defending, but nothing could taint what was proving to be a historic day at Old Trafford. Things quickly got worse for Arsenal, as Carl Jenkinson became their 3rd red card in as many games after clumsily fouling Young, receiving his second yellow card and his marching orders. With only a hat trick for Wayne Rooney missing from the days events, the opportunity arose on 81 minutes after Patrice Evra was cynically brought down by Theo Walcott awarding United a penalty. Up stepped Rooney to make it 7, without any hesitation slotting the ball into the bottom corner and rounding off one of the great individual United performances. There was still time for number 8 for United, as Ashley Young curled another delightful shot from the edge of the area into the far corner in second half stoppage time, handing Arsenal their largest defeat since the 19th century and sending the reds to the top of the table.
De Gea – 7 Some brilliant stops including pen, started attacks well. Should have saved 1st goal.
Smalling – 7 Constant attacking threat and solid defensively.
Jones – 7 Imperious once again.
Evans – 7 Unlucky to have penalty given against him, comfortable afternoon.
Evra – 6 Only weak link in United performance.
Nani – 7 Raided down the wing with freedom, delightful goal.
Cleverley – 7 Intelligent comanding performance.
Anderson – 7 Moment of genius for opening goal, very tidy in possession.
Young – 9 Two stunning goals and irrepressible throughout the game. Made mincemeat of Jenkinson.
Rooney – 10 Complete performance, passing, goals and a hunger to dismantle Arsenal.
Welbeck – 7 Took his goal well before coming off in first half with injury.
Hernandez – 6 Worked hard, showed good movement but still lacking some sharpness.
Giggs – 6 Added icing to a brilliant display.
Park – 7 Obligatory goal v Arsenal and linked up well.