Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Saturday was widely hailed as a thrilling fixture that showcased much of the best of what the Premier League has to offer. It was played at a high tempo, offered plenty of excitement and was bursting with quality.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, much of that quality came from the man in the Man Utd goal, with David de Gea producing what will go down as one of the performances of his life to keep the Gunners at bay in an encounter they dominated yet somehow ended up losing with a degree of comfort.
Certainly, the match was shaped in the opening quarter of an hour, when the visitors struck through Antonio Valencia and then Jesse Lingard, while Shkrodan Mustafi was withdrawn injured for the hosts.
It allowed United to play in the counterpunching style that they thrive upon, and while Arsene Wenger’s men did get one back thanks to Alexandre Lacazette in the second half, Lingard pounced again to effectively kill the match off, even in spite of Pogba’s subsequent red card.
In possession, Wenger’s spent an eye-popping 45% of their time in Man Utd’s final third, but somehow failed to make their dominance pay.
The statistics show just how outrageous Arsenal’s domination of this encounter was, with the shot count especially startling. While their opponents mustered only five shots of any kind, three of which ended as goals, the Gunners had an incredible 21 efforts, of which all but six found the target.
Indeed, the shot map displays the startling quality of opportunities that the hosts had and how hard De Gea had to work to keep them out.
But virtually all the key matrixes were slanted heavily in the favour of Wenger’s men, who enjoyed 75 per cent of possession, making 656 passes to their opponents’ relatively meagre 222 with far more accuracy to boot. Arsenal won the battle for corners 12-1 and even enjoyed a far higher tackle success rate, despite a supposedly inferior defence.
Mourinho has this game sussed, though. He knows that ultimately the only important figure is the number of goals scored, and to that end his team were outrageously efficient, striking ahead early to give them a cushion they were never likely to risk.
Man Utd may have been second best, but that certainly did not stop them from coming through first ahead of their big derby with City next week.