Solskjaer delights in 'classic' Man United display
Interim manager leads Red Devils to eighth win in a row with 3-1 victory over Arsenal
|(Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 43)||(Alexis Sanchez 31, Jesse Lingard 33, Anthony Martial 82)|
Ole Gunnar Solskajer took pride in a "classic" Manchester United display of attacking flair as his side beat Arsenal 3-1 in an absorbing FA Cup fourth-round clash on Saturday morning (Jan 26, Singapore time).
First-half goals by Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard put United in control and although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replied for the Gunners, Anthony Martial sealed victory late on.
Arsenal began brightly and United back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the busier of the two custodians.
But Unai Emery’s side were rocked in the 31st minute when Lukaku’s superb reverse pass put Sanchez in and he calmly rounded Petr Cech before clipping in from a tight angle.
Two minutes later, after an Arsenal attack broke down, Luke Shaw set Lukaku away down the right and the Belgian rolled the ball across for the unmarked Lingard to sidefoot past Cech.
Arsenal got a lifeline just before the break when the excellent Aaron Ramsey’s cut-back saw Alexandre Lacazette make a hash of his attempt but the ball arrived at the feet of Aubameyang who could not miss.
A hectic finish to an absorbing first half ended with Shkodran Mustafi heading just wide and straight after the interval Romero’s reflex save stopped a Laurent Koscielny header.
Koscielny’s involvement came to an abrupt end when the Arsenal skipper was accidentally caught in the face by Lukaku’s trailing leg – the Frenchman receiving lengthy treatment before groggily going off to be replaced by Matteo Guendouzi.
Out-of-favour Mesut Oezil also came off the bench, replacing Alex Iwobi, but Arsenal’s hopes of rescuing the tie were over when Paul Pogba surged clear and his shot was parried by Cech into the path of Martial who sent the United fans wild.
EIGHT IN A ROW
Solskjaer has now won eight matches in a row since stepping in as interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho – a record that eclipses even the great Sir Matt Busby.
And while the statistics make that the best start by a United manager, the vibrant manner in which it has been achieved is perhaps even more impressive.
United have scored 22 goals under Solskjaer and have rediscovered the kind of attacking verve associated with the trophy-winning sides Solskjaer played in under Sir Alex Ferguson.
What is more, on evidence from this match, he seems to have the handy managerial knack of knowing exactly when to shuffle his plethora of attacking options.
Martial and Marcus Rashford have been livewires under Solskjaer, but he left them on the bench against Arsenal and started with former Gunners forward Sanchez and Belgian powerhouse Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku, in particular, was superb, producing an unstoppable display to run Arsenal’s defence ragged at times, while Sanchez silenced the boo boys with a sublime opener from Lukaku’s pass.
“I’ve had a (selection) headache since I came because the squad is full of good players,” Solskjaer said.
“Today, we looked more like a proper team. We looked more structured. We’d worked hard at defending and counter-attacking. Counter-attacking is classic Manchester United – Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ji-Sung Park – we’ve scored so many at Arsenal over the years.
“It was a massive step forward today for us. At Tottenham a couple of weeks ago, we hung in and (goalkeeper) David de Gea saved us, but today our structure was miles better.”
Lukaku summed up the mood under Solskjaer, agreeing that it feels like fun again playing for the club after a torrid spell.
“It does, it does,” he said. “We had clear direction today and I’m really happy with the win and the manner in which we played. Look at the history of the club, we make a statement wherever we go.
“We look to dominate and create as many chances as we can.”
Arsenal boss Emery could only look on with envy at the attacking rescources available to Solskjaer and which were inexplicably so subdued under Mourinho.
“They were clinical today,” the Spaniard told reporters. “We played against a United side in their best moment of the season and they have a lot of players to make a difference.”
Emery faces an injury crisis after a suspected broken jaw for captain Laurent Koscielny and ankle problem for Sokratis leaving him with only one fit recognised central defender. – REUTERS