Revenge, Cheats, and Center-Backs: Arsenal Dispatch United
Arsenal managed to hang on and dispatch a disjointed, and it must be said, disgraceful, Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It was a massive win for the Gunners, Arsene's Wenger's first in the Theater of Dreams since 2006, but for better or worse, the major talking points from the match will focus on just how disappointing a performance it was from the Red Devils.
United's players must now stand and face the embarrassment and disgrace they have brought upon their Club; a team once renowned for it's pride and spirit, determination and unrelenting grit, during the two decades of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign, were caricatures of the icons that have come before.
Angel Di Maria's pathetic dive at the top of the box, compounded by his petulant pull of Michael Oliver's shirt, was an incident that can define his career in Manchester if he is not careful.
The world-class Argentine has struggled as of late, but his class remains, case in point his measured cross to Wayne Rooney's awful toupee for the equalizer.
But there will never be an excuse for his alarming addiction to simulation.
A former Manchester United player who wore the no. 7 was prone to similar forgery.
There was a boot-throwing manager to set him straight in that era.
Questions remain as to whether the well-traveled and deeply respected Louis Van Gaal can make a similar impact on United's current no. 7.
Perhaps even more concerning is whether or not he will further misuse and stunt the talents of his team's best player, all in the name of his personal ego, and a strict adherence to his new found philosophy of attacking wing-backs, a system that United's current player pool cannot accommodate.
Di Maria is facing the most intense moment of his career, and it's hard to see who Manchester United might provide to mentor him through this difficult time.
Revenge Best Served Cold
Danny Welbeck came back to haunt the Dutch manager and make him eat his words.
It was a classic fairy tale story of former player returning to prove his critics wrong.
Wenger got it right in selecting Welbeck ahead of both Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, but Welbeck was almost too enthusiastic in the first twenty minutes, his excitement and desire to make an immediate impact was palpable, and his touch was a bit loose because of his nervous energy.
Ultimately, it was his effort and overall quick thinking, traits showcased throughout his Arsenal career, that further validated bringing him in, and nabbing the game winning goal will have meant more to the young man than any other in his career.
Welbeck will be on cloud nine this week after a fantastic return to Old Trafford, and he deserves to be, after a solid performance in what was his biggest match to date for the North Londoners.
Alexis Sanchez is Back
What a difference a goal can make.
After finally getting on the score sheet verse Queens Park Rangers, after what seemed like an eternity, Alexis looked recharged and rejuvenated verse United.
His trademark lateral agility, cutting the ball left-to-right in the blink of an eye, changing direction, tracking and hunting opponents from box-to-box, the feathery first-touch, and explosive first step, it all returned on Monday night.
Sanchez looks to have got his groove back at just the right time.
His ability stood out among the twenty-two player's on the pitch, and Arsenal fans should be hailing the Chilean as one of their most influential and potent signings in the last ten years.
Arsenal coaches, administration, and fans should consider themselves privileged to have secured such a special talent as Alexis Sanchez.
He exudes class and provides a small allowence of hope for supporters to dream of a miracle in Monaco.
United Players Have to Apologize
Di Maria and Adnan Janujaz have to apologize to their supporters.
Their attempts to deceive the referee were unbecoming of Manchester United players.
Even enemies of the Club will recognize that United players, typically, honor the game and are not cheats.
Angel and Adnan did a disservice to the badge on Monday night, and they have some work to do to repair their relationship with the fan base and former legends who will no doubt have been appalled by the performances.
How these two players choose to respond to the adversity they will face over the next few days will give a lot of insight into the shirt they will be wearing in the next few years.
United should hope both stay and forge their identities for the Club, as they both clearly possess talents that are otherwise missing from the Organization.
Center-Backs Must Be The Priority
The current Manchester United center-backs, simply stated, are not good enough.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans (and his saliva), are not of the quality to represent a Club with the pedigree of Manchester United.
If he is to enjoy success at United, LVG must spend big to bring in top central defenders.
The current crop doesn't have what it takes to succeed at United.
Arsenal is not much better off.
Per Mertesacker was awful again.
Leaving Wayne Rooney alone in the box is indicative of his poor attention to even the most obvious details.
The German makes misguided decisions time and time again, and it's easy to wonder if he even gives a damn.
His emotion at the end of the game was not matched during the 95 minutes he was actually competing.
There is a shortage of quality Center-Backs in world football.
Manchester United and Arsenal, like many Clubs, are in the same boat when it comes to a deficiency in this area.
They both need to bolster these positions, and fast, if they are ever to return to the glory of yesteryear.
It's time for player development across the globe to spend the same amount of energy on a center-back as they would nurturing a creative midfielder.
Wenger is Winning
Arsene Wenger's team has responded to the debacle against Monaco by winning three in a row - most importantly Monday's titanic FA Cup clash in Manchester.
Arsenal now have 11 wins from 14 games in all competitions since the start of 2015, and after their famous away win last night, a somewhat clear path to more silverware this season, as they are paired with a lesser-weight in the semi-finals.
There is a better bounce back instilled in the side this season, an ability to scrounge together a result after disappointment, and a lot of that seems down to having Francis Coquelin in the side.
The French ball-winner was fantastic again Monday night, battling through hits to his recently broken nose, breaking up play at vital moments, and proving his technical ability belongs with the best of his peers.
Wenger must further build the confidence of the young man and make him experience and feel full ownership of his role in the team.
Moving the needle back to the broken-record discourse on Mesut Ozil is a topic for another day, but Arsene Wenger must have the chutzpah to drop the German when he is not influencing proceedings.
The play-maker did little to impact on Monday night, albeit he did have a rather pedestrian role in the first goal, but the Professor must come to grip with the fact that it's okay to substitute the record signing, that his leadership on the matter will trickle down to others at the Club and send a message that no one is above the hook; regardless of price tag or fragile, mushy, ego...