Belfast Telegraph

Spineless Arsenal eight alive by rampant Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2: So much for Arsenal moving in the right direction after reaching the Champions League group stages in midweek. Try one step forward and EIGHT back after this humiliation by Manchester United at Old Trafford.



United, especially hat-trick hero Wayne Rooney and two-goal star Ashley Young, were breathtaking at times in this extraordinary 8-2 victory which took them to the top of the Premier League on goal difference.

But Arsenal FC should never be embarrassed, humbled and shamed like this, even with all the personnel problems they have encountered this season.

Understrength they may have been with injuries and suspensions, but that can't be used as an excuse for the way Arsene Wenger's side were overwhelmed by Sir Alex Ferguson's rampant team.

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, enjoying themselves at new clubs Barcelona and Manchester City, will be glad to be out of it.

If Arsenal fans had their way they would be joined by the manager and several of the pitiful players who were so soundly thrashed. Arsenal lacked organisation, discipline, strength of character, heart and tactical awareness.

Defensively they were a disgrace. The players must look at themselves after this.

So too the manager. Much of what happened at Old Trafford was his fault. For years just about everyone on the planet has been telling him to strengthen the spine of his side with no-nonsense defenders and midfielders who can actually tackle.

The calls became louder in the summer when it was clear Fabregas and Nasri were leaving. But Wenger, the man who infamously can't see anything on the pitch, has gone deaf as well as blind because he has refused to listen.

If this atrocious result doesn't make him see sense and take action, well then the time really has come for Wenger to depart the club after 15 eventful years.

Mind you, he had better be quick because the transfer window closes in a couple of days!

Diehard Arsenal fans I know will tell you a hiding like this has been coming.

And United, playing with a ruthlessness that has been foreign to the Gunners for several years, didn't let up.

Early yesterday afternoon, Manchester City enhanced their title credentials with a stunning demolition job on Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

City scored FIVE. United hit EIGHT, in an anything you can do we can do far better message to their Manchester rivals.

Bend it like Beckham? It was more a case of whip it like Wayne and ace it like Ashley as the Red Devils ripped their visitors to shreds.

In a crazy open game, with chances galore, the deadlock was broken on 22 minutes by Daniel Welbeck, later taken off after pulling his hamstring, who took advantage of dreadful defending from Johan Djourou to nip in and head home.

Five minutes later Arsenal had a golden opportunity to equalise, but Robin van Persie's penalty lacked conviction allowing David De Gea to save after Jonny Evans was adjudged to have brought down Theo Walcott in the box.

Sixty seconds on Young showed the confidence that the Dutchman was missing with a blinding goal. Collecting the ball 25 yards out, the England winger skipped past a defender before curling a magical effort into the net.

Rooney wanted to get in on the act and did with 41 minutes gone, bending home a beautiful free-kick that would have done David Beckham proud.

Suddenly that Champions League win over Udinese was forgotten with Arsenal fans fearing an almighty hammering. And so it came to pass with Walcott's first-half injury-time goal only delaying the inevitable.

Rooney was at it again, with another sublime set-piece, curling home from 25 yards on 64. He nearly had his hat-trick with a classy chip that hit the post. His third goal did come, though, as he calmly stroked home a penalty following Carl Jenkinson's red card to make it 7-1, after setting up Nani for goal number five and seeing substitute Ji-Sung Park and van Persie score at either end. Another sensational strike from Young in injury-time made it EIGHT and inflicted Wenger's heaviest defeat since he arrived in England.

Wenger was known as the Professor back then in 1996. He and his players were taught the harshest of lessons yesterday.

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