Arsenal

Lacklustre, Awful And Then There Was Wigan…

United beat Wigan 2-0 on Saturday. So, first, the formalities.

Rooney’s reception was dead even, 50/50. By the end of the match, the jeers were fading fast. By next week, they will have all but disappeared.

Yes, the match was dire, Wigan will be in the relegation fight come the end of the season, and United were particularly awful and lacklustre.

No, the red cards did not influence the outcome of the match, and there is still no clear reason why, when playing against a weaker side, United always lower their performance to the level of their opposition. But they do, and they did once again.

Of course, events elsewhere in the league this weekend have made it the best weekend for United fans in a good long while. The team sits joint top of the league, still the only unbeaten side in the Premiership, with Chelsea having lost three of their last four games. Berbatov, Giggs, Scholes and Rooney will all be raring to go against Rangers this week, and by the time United face Blackburn on Saturday they could well be through to the next round of the Champions League, with Rooney ready to play a full 90 minutes again.

All in all, then, a great few days. The match does not warrant an in-depth report or analysis, and even the staunchest of Wigan fans could surely have no argument over the dismissals. Instead, I would like to draw some positives that go beyond the current standings in the league table.

The back four now looks really established, and will give the team a sturdy platform from which to launch an assault on the title. Rafael, Rio, Vidic and Evra must now be Fergie’s first choice, and even the occasional injury has able cover in the form of Evans, Brown or Fabio.

Following on from this, Rafael has come on leaps and bounds in the last few weeks, and put in another impressive display on Saturday. Most assuring, however, is that he seems finally to have kicked the habit of grabbing at players the second it appears they might get away from him. More Rio, less Vidic: keep it up.

Gabriel Obertan. He is quick and poised, but now also confident and physically imposing. Ferguson also seems to have found Obertan’s best position; playing through the middle, either as an attacking midfielder or just off the main striker, seems to suit the Frenchman down to the ground.

Javier Hernandez. Even against 9 men, United were struggling to get the elusive second goal. On comes Chicharito, and duly obliges. This boy is certainly not a flash in the pan.

Finally, Ji Sung Park. A constant source of frustration for all United fans, aside from tireless effort, his only other contribution is usually a lack of ball control and a lot of falling over. He typically has two outstanding games a year: when United play Arsenal. But this season, Park has put in some stellar performances, particularly of late, and his cross for the first goal on Saturday was inch-perfect. Fergie may have wised up, and told him every team they play against is really Arsenal in disguise; if so, we’ll play along!

For United now, the acid test will be an early 12 days of Christmas, when they play host to Valencia on the 7th December, and Arsenal on the 13th, before finally visiting Chelsea on the 19th. Will the unbeaten record still stand by the end?

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