Manchester United 1 Arsenal 0 comment: David Moyes' decision not to sign Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid justified by German's invisible show at Old Trafford

 

Old Trafford

In the end, there was a dreadful familiarity about all of this for Arsenal. The Ryan Giggs “running down the wing”’ song.

Arsène Wenger flapping his hands in frustration in that coat which is built like a house. Defeat. But it would be wrong to say it conformed to the usual pattern of games which have yielded Wenger a single win in nine at a theatre of rather-less-than-dreams.

The visitors ended the game like a home side; tearing at Manchester United again and again, charged up by the energy which Jack Wilshere delivered when he finally arrived, and creating a contest. It eventually took us an eternity away from the dismal Arsenal defeatism of recent years: capitulating 8-2 and, in the case of Andre Santos, wanting to swap shirts at half-time. Yet for all that, we can be certain that the whole Manchester United enterprise would have had Sir Alex Ferguson shaking his head affirmatively because of the way the afternoon confirmed some of the fundamental beliefs he has had about Arsenal in recent years.

It is his conviction, for example, that Wenger is susceptible to signing players of only moderate talent. Such as Olivier Giroud – an example of the Arsenal manager’s capacity for “overestimating French football,” Ferguson once said. And there was certainly no better signifier for the difference between the teams than what the centre-forward in yellow offered and what the one in red provided on Sunday.

Matches like this are nearly always won or lost on single moments of class and while Robin van Persie won it with one – finding that incredible leverage to raise himself above Giroud and head home – the Frenchman could just not place a foot on any of the deliveries which arrived in the United area during a finale which had equaliser written across it.

Another of those moments on which these occasions turn was presented to him on 84 minutes. Chris Smalling settled that particular score with a tackle of outstanding quality on an afternoon of outstanding quality, when he really needed one to prove himself. When it came to finding something in reserve, the former Everton manager, David Moyes, turned to Ryan Giggs, for a 50th fixture against this opposition. Wenger had Nicklas Bendtner to look to. The sight of him flipped over on to his front, hair held up in a bunch, after a strained effort to connect with Bacary Sagna’s late, low cross into the area had come to nothing in the closing stages, fairly much confirmed the value of that particular substitution.

It was a measure of the impressive start that Arsenal have had to the season that Wenger did not feel any reason to hide behind the obvious excuse available to him, in defeat. His side went into the game suffering collateral damage from a sickness bug. And though Tottenham supporters will say “tell us about it” – still remembering the most famous lasagne in their club’s history which allowed Arsenal, rather than them, to qualify for the Champions League on the last day of the 2005-06 season –there was no Per Mertesacker, or Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta was suffering while playing and Serge Gnabry, on the bench, was equally unwell.

“I don’t even want to speak about the virus. They declared themselves fit,” reflected Wenger, who does not usually pass up such opportunities. Revealingly, he also spoke about a “nervousness” in his team and a feeling that his players had struggled to deal with the force of history at Old Trafford and all those defeats. This was a significant statement: an admission that although Arsenal, who had not played any of last season’s top four before yesterday, do lead the table, they do not sense the same inalienable right to be there that United do. It is the “winning mentality” that all the managers come back to, time and time again.

The failing was most evident of all in the case of Mesut Özil, the player least capable of knowing the gulf between Arsenal and United in recent years and the one who has allowed Wenger to reacquire a transfer market reputation. Özil went absent without leave in the chill Manchester night; invisible to most of his team-mates and struggling to reach the same cognitive level as them, as passes went astray. A single moment early on 60 minutes told the story. Wayne Rooney flipped a ball past Özil and, with the German unable to shift his balance and move, ran around him to collect it in space, to the raucous delight of United’s supporters. It was a moment of sweet justification for Moyes, who turned down the offer to buy Özil this summer because – not unreasonably – he felt that Rooney and Robin van Persie obviated the need.

The occasion was also beyond Santi Cazorla, as vapid as Özil, though Aaron Ramsey did not fall into the category of the “nervous.” The radar of his own passing did not match up to that we have seen as he has established himself as the Premier League’s outstanding midfielder of the past few months and it was he who failed the zonal marking test by allowing Van Persie his comfortable header. But Ramsey was enough of a presence – driving at United in a second half which grew more absorbing as afternoon drew into evening – to confirm Ferguson and Moyes’ regrets that they did not sign him.

The post-match press conferences concluded with Moyes declaring that he was not happy with being five points off the top. “No. I would want to be top. Why would you want to be five points off?” he reflected, providing in a few short observations a measure of the self-belief of which we still look for proof in Arsenal.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried