It sounds too simple, but the difference between Arsenal and Manchester United on Sunday was finishing. Both teams had several chances in front of goal. Manchester United scored most of them. Arsenal missed all of them except for one deflection.
There were several shots from Arsenal that skimmed past the post or straight at Edwin van der Sar. Andrei Arshavin and Alexandre Song had plenty of chances. So too did Cesc Fabregas and others wearing red and white.
But when Manchester United pushed forward and had a chance in front of goal, you had the feeling that something was going to happen, that they would make Almunia work hard, and that they did.
The other differentiating factor in today’s game was the combination of Nani and Wayne Rooney both of whom were on fire in the first half.
Finally, finally, finally Nani showed a little bit of magic. After two years of horrible performances, pathetic even, he finally showed one flash of brilliance and deservedly got a goal after beating three players and forcing Almunia to reach back to prevent the ball going to Park, only for the Spanish goalkeeper to knock the ball into the back of the net.
Then a few minutes later with Arsenal on the attack, Manchester United cleared the ball and went on the counter. Nani linked up with Rooney in their own half and then both went sprinted forward. Nani planted a sublime pass to Rooney who had gone on a blistering run and scored a delightful goal. You won’t see many goals better than that.
The Gunners pulled back a late goal after a deflected show from Thomas Vermaelen found the back of the net, but it wasn’t enough and was quite a depressing day overall for Arsenal players and supporters alike.
One more point: I was a bit alarmed to see Manchester United away supporters holding up a banner that proclaimed “Die Die Glazer.” It’s one thing to be angry at the Americans for the debt situation that Manchester United is in, but to go to an extreme like that is uncalled for.
Photo credit: Paolo Camera.