Manchester United vs Arsenal: Five things we learned

19 Old Trafford

A Robin van Persie header proved the difference in the clash, with the Red Devils right back in the title race.

Manchester United recorded a much-needed 1-0 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford today, keeping their ambitions of retaining their Premier League title well and truly alive.

Robin van Persie scored the only goal of the game for the hosts, with United only five points behind Arsenal now.

Here are five things that were evident in the clash.

Rooney a standout

Despite the attacking talent on the pitch, United’s Wayne Rooney stood out from the crowd right from the first minute.

The England international put in a man of the match performance, showing a great blend of technical abilities and commitment.

David Moyes revealed recently that he turned down the opportunity to sign Mesut Ozil; Rooney’s performance here shows that the Scot was right to do so.

Jones’ versatility important

The ex-Blackburn man started in midfield but moved to centre-back in the second half, and played well in both positions.

His power and pace were evident in the first 45, with Jones going toe-to-toe with Arsenal’s talented midfield. At the back, he put in a commanding performance alongside Jonny Evans to restrict the Gunners’ chances.

With United in transition and in need of leaders, Jones will have an important role to play over the rest of the season.

Both right-backs impress

Both Chris Smalling and Bacary Sagna put in excellent performances at right-back, after recent criticism.

Predominantly a centre-back, Smalling has had question marks over whether he can play at full-back, but he proved his doubters wrong here with a fantastic defensive display.

Sagna has also been criticised of late for poor delivery from wide, but the France international put in some excellent crosses in the second half that were just begging to be converted.

Giroud not Van Persie

Former Arsenal charge Robin van Persie got the decisive goal, but he also outperformed the man who replaced him in north London, Olivier Giroud.

The Dutch attacker’s hold-up play and interchanges with Rooney and Shinji Kagawa was impressive, while he always looked like a goal threat.

Giroud had something of an off day, and was guilty of giving the ball away and conceding free-kicks. The ex-Montpellier man is a very able striker, but has work to do to be as good as Van Persie for the Gunners.

The title race wide open

Right off Manchester United at your peril; the champions are right back in the title race. With Tottenham and Manchester City both losing, and Liverpool winning, six points separates City in eight and Arsenal in first.

David Moyes will be heartened by the win, and the footballing community may well be less willing to discount United as contenders this term after the win.

image: © Paolo Camera

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