There’s nothing quite like starting a week after a serious win. It puts an extra spring in my step, a warm glow of well-being intensified by the fact that it was Arsenal who we turned over. Even my sad sack Toronto Maple Leafs managed a win so it’s a double-winning weekend – a pretty rare gift these days.
I say glow – it’s more of slightly guilty smugness, the likes of which we haven’t been able to experience for what feels like forever, which is what happens when you don’t win against big teams. When we scrape past Palace at home, for example, I’m glad of the three points but the brow remains well and truly furrowed.
It’s also relief that plays a fairly major part. Relief that not only did we not capitulate after Giroud’s goal, but also that the players have proved to themselves that they are capable of going and getting big result against a decent side. Arsenal have obviously got serious problems but it’s still no mean feat to go there and get three points considering how patchy things have been since the start of the season.
Speaking of smug, Louis van Gaal had a few things to say after the game, mostly about himself, a subject of which he really is rather fond. The manager’s combination of apparently limitless self-confidence and a unique interpretation of English gave us probably the most van Gaal-y van Gaal quote so far when he spoke about selecting three at the back:
“I am confident I made the right decision. To make it before the match, that’s a quality decision. I can say that now, that’s the life of a coach. The result always gives you the reason or not.”
“That’s a quality decision” might sound like Paul Merson, but it’s LVG at his self-backslapping best. You have to hand it to him; journalists question his decisions and he tells them he was right. You get the sense from van Gaal that he pretty much holds most of the media in something bordering on disdain; he answers most questions with a roll of the eyes and an aloof stare.
It’s almost as if he sees himself as something of a footballing professor with his work being questioned by idiotic students – not something I’m a huge fan of – but it’s certainly entertaining and with this game at least, the confidence paid off.
More from the manager:
“In the first 35 minutes, we gave the ball away so easily, that’s not possible for a top team. Arsenal created a lot of chances but fortunately we have a very good goalkeeper. After the first 35 minutes, you saw us coming back in the game. That’s what I said at half-time. When we keep the ball, when we show confidence, then we shall score goals.”
It was certainly the case that Arsenal’s onslaught seemed to run out of steam after 35 minutes, an opening period that at one point featured Paddy McNair booting the ball laterally straight into an Arsenal players legs. There was also a baffling decision by Blackett when, under extreme pressure, he nearly squared the ball straight to a red shirt in own penalty area.
In the end we were able to take advantage of Arsenal’s mental fragility and paper-thin tactical nous, something which Wenger, though erroneously claiming that David De Gea was the “story of the game” and they had “80 per cent” of the game’s play, admitted:
“We were not cautious enough. I don’t know why we had two against one at the back in our own half. You will get punished by these players. We made a big mistake on the first goal, and when we’re 1-0 down we were too impatient.”
Pretty much, yeah, though hearing their manager saying he doesn’t know why his players make fundamental errors must be frustrating for Arsenal fans to say the least. He’s the manager for fuck’s sake. Perhaps it was Steve Bould’s fault.
What should really worry Arsenal, and piss off the fans, is that Ashley Young told the official website yesterday they’d watched videos of Arsenal and knew they were vulnerable to counter attack. The Gunners will need to sort that, sharpish.
Things I didn’t mention last night was another solid performance from Fellaini who along with Carrick managed to keep Alexis Sanchez, at this point head and shoulders above his teammates, fairly quiet. Ashley Young, despite being a prancing little turd, deputised well for Luke Shaw for the most part.
I touched on van Persie yesterday, but his complete lack of sharpness could potentially become more of an issue for him this week, as Falcao tweeted yesterday afternoon that he was back in full training. Considering Rooney’s form and that Falcao’s style is closer to van Persie’s than Rooney’s, you have to wonder if van Gaal will consider starting the Colombian.
Van Persie’s time at United is surely nearing its end unless he can somehow pull himself out of this downward spiral. The Metro helpfully pointed out that he made less first-half passes than De Gea on Saturday (along with a graph that looked like it was knocked up by a seven-year-old) but that was probably because our defence were shitting themselves with such regularity that they seemed to pass it back every three minutes.
At the back, if Carrick can stay healthy, there’ll already be a little more stability back there even if he doesn’t enjoy playing the role of stand-in centre. Smalling doesn’t strike me as much of a leader, and there’s been pretty much zero authority back there since Ferdinand and Vidic left.
So that’s that. The afterglow will last well into tomorrow. Until Rooney fractures his metatarsal following a robust challenge in training and Di Maria slips on a banana skin and shatters his pelvis.
Track of the day: Black Keys, I Got Mine, Letterman 2008. Back when they were good.