Man Utd at home is never an easy fixture, and neither is taking on a team managed by Mourinho. However, on this occasion, although United fielded much more than £100m-worth of talent, the opposition were there for the taking.
Despite it being examination season, this was not a true test of Arsenal’s mettle. You felt the Gunners just had to turn up to win this one, with United having one and a half eyes cast on their forthcoming Europa League semifinal second leg.
Luckily, Arsenal did turn up. Ozil came out of his shell for the first time in a while and provided a few telling passes, while Ramsey somehow got the Sky man-of-the-match award for putting in a average shift. It just goes to show the difference it makes having players prepared to run the extra mile for the team, which is something Arsenal fans have not seen often.
Holding came into a back three and nearly gifted a goal to Rooney. However, aside from that, the youngster’s performance was as assured as usual. More encouraging still was Xhaka’s display. The Swiss international managed to get himself about the pitch in a way we’ve not seen so far and even scored the opener with a long shot that took a wicked deflection. Some may have felt like singing Frere Jacques and substituting the name Granit Xhaka. Like the friar in the French nursery rhyme, Xhaka has overslept in an Arsenal, but even Sky Sports analyst Jamie Redknapp recognises the Swiss may emerge as a powerful force next season, once he has adapted to the game in this country.
The second goal came from a sublime cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain, who picked out Danny Welbeck. The United striker made it ‘the curse of the ex’ with an unstoppable header, which went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Despite all of that, the game was eminently forgettable. Although in theory, Arsenal can catch Liverpool and claim fourth spot in the league and subsequently Champions League, no one in their right mind expects that to happen. This Arsenal side stays in cruise control for too long to negotiate some of the challenges of the road, which is another way of saying the team’s away form has been atrocious.
Southampton and Stoke must be licking their lips at the prospect of playing Arsenal, who still ‘don’t like it up ’em’ in Dad’s Army-speak. That point was proven by young debutante, Tuanzebe, who marked Sanchez out of the game.
In short, of all the Arsenal-United clashes in recent years, this seemed the least significant. Even pre-season Community Shield matches between the two clubs generate more excitement so, despite this game marking the first occasion when Wenger has beaten Mourinho in the league, to paraphrase BBC Sports’ headline: ‘Nobody really cares’.