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Man-handled Guns

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On a day Arsenal had a lot to prove — the rivalry and perhaps, animosity between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho goes beyond the usual handshake imbroglio — the Gunners opted to press the self-destruct button. Manchester United, peradventure, planned to work extremely hard if they were to get anything at the Emirates, little did they know they were off to see Santa Claus with Xmas still weeks away.

Arsenal got the game started, but before they got their guns raising, United had theirs blazing! Antonio Valencia pulled the trigger in the 4th minute. Laurent Koscielny was in a state of quandary with his pass at the backline, his compatriot Paul Pogba was on hand to help solve the problem, the Frenchman made an interception, sent the ball to Valencia — who rifled between Petr Cech’s legs for the opening goal. Seven minutes later, the Red Devils were in seventh heaven when Shkodran Mustafi made another mess of his pass in the vital area, Romelu Lukaku was available to clear the mess this time, the Belgian took delivery of the free gift and waybilled to Anthony Martial who combined with Jesse Lingard, the latter scoring the 2nd goal for United in the 11th minute. Still 23 days to Xmas, but Arsenal with gifts all over the place for their willing visitors.

Wenger was forced to withdraw Mustafi for Alex Iwobi with just a quarter of an hour on the clock. The Gunners took control of the game thereafter! The home team with more of the ball possession, but the visitors were more precise and productive when they had the ball.

The Gunners had a glorious chance to get back in it in the 32nd minute with a flurry of efforts from Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Sead Kolasinac but they all failed to hit target. Manchester United were kept within their own half as the first 45 minutes ended with Arsenal taking 2 bullets in their chest and gasping for breath.

Wenger and his lads responded quite early in the second half with Lacazette scoring in the 49th minute off an assist from Aaron Ramsey.

End to end stuff really. Lingard almost scored for United at one end, and in a blink of an eye, Iwobi in same situation at the other end. Still, United were virtually on the ropes receiving all manner of punches from Wenger’s troops. It was all hands to the United security door!

In a bid to even scores, the Gunners poured forward and left their backside tantalizingly vulnerable. The visitors obliged, and out of the blues, United scored a 3rd, with Pogba and Lingard combining well for the latter to score in the 63rd minute. The Emirates went cold again. The home fans deflated!

Mourinho looked content at this stage, Martial was withdrawn for Ander Herrera, oestensibly to tighten up the midfield. Wenger responded promptly by throwing everything and the kitchen sink — Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud joined the fray in the 74th minute. Pogba sent off for a ‘stampede’ on Hector Bellerin. Marcus Rashford came in for Ashley Young. Manchester United dug deep, had all men but Lukaku behind the ball in the dying stages of the game. And Mourinho eventually got the better of his rival.

If this was a boxing contest, perhaps, Wenger would have smiled home with unanimous decisions to his favour. The Gunners had the Red Devils on the ropes for well over 70 minutes of the game. But while their attack line was busy striking rock (David de Gea) for the proverbial water, their backline left the water tap on!

Pity for the home fans. Nothing to cheer inspite of the team’s splendour!

 

Arsenal Vs Manchester United (18:30) : Saturday, December 2, 2017

By Uche Atuma

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