Arsenal vs. Manchester United. Two titans of the English game going head-to-head under the Emirates floodlights in the Premier League.
Discarding how utterly dreadful the Gunners have been this season, and how United are starting to gel and actually look like a decent side, this is, and always will be, a big game.
There were a plethora of talking points heading into proceedings.
Arsenal were actually involved in a relegation battle, United on the cusp of the top four places, Mikel Arteta’s new look side, Paul Pogba’s absence, the fact that this fixture maybe isn’t what it once was…the list goes on.
Either way, it was lineups that took centre stage before a ball was kicked, with the Gunners’ frontline drawing much of the attention on Twitter.
On paper, this should be Arsenals best lineup
— Wang Lin (@AzukaFred) January 1, 2020
Xhaka and Kolasinac fit? We might have a decent lineup incoming
— C (@salibaszn_) January 1, 2020
Well, well, well.
Their big money man came up with the goods just eight minutes into proceedings, getting on the end of Sead Kolasinac’ cut-back with a calm finish beyond David de Gea.
In doing so, he silenced a whole host of United fans who, for lack of a better word, thought he was pretty s–t.
Pepe scores the opener, from a Kolasinac cut-back. You wouldn’t say #AFC have started particularly well (!) but that’s a potentially massive goal for Pepe and the team.
— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) January 1, 2020
Ahahahah, it has to be Pepe when United fans have probably bantered him more than anyone
— N (@asensiones) January 1, 2020
it just HAD to be Pepe didn’t it, absolutely love to see it
— Amy (@amyjohnsonnn_) January 1, 2020
Of course Nicolas fucking Pepe scores.
— Devils of United (@DevilsOfUnited) January 1, 2020
He looked like a different player on Wednesday night, running rings around Luke Shaw was some bending runs and, naturally, causing the United Twitter army to react poorly to their left-back’s performance.
Shaw’s fat ass is on toast tonight!
— Syms Mohamed (@SymsMohamed) January 1, 2020
Pepe has got shaw on toast, would bring Williams on for him at ht
— Matt Robinson (@Tansley0790) January 1, 2020
Pepe has Shaw on toast.
— Sophskjær △⃒⃘ (@SophRicho) January 1, 2020
Like, what is going on?
Is this actually happening? Are Arsenal playing (very) good football? Blimey, I think they are.
Nobody could really believe what they were seeing. Mikel Arteta’s short reign is clearly having an effect, with the side at the Emirates nothing like the relegation fodder they’d played witness to for the first half of the season.
ARSENAL schooling MAN.U on some good football
— First of 6ix (@Oluwa_rejoice) January 1, 2020
We are playing so good but I’m just scared that all it takes with Arsenal is one counterattack
— Anu (@Chi3fAnu) January 1, 2020
Arsenal dominating United. Reading each play and bullying the midfield. If Ole has more than one trick in his bag, it’ll be a good day to pull it out
— Rishabh Jain (@ItsRishabhJain) January 1, 2020
Pepe hit the post, Alexandre Lacazette spurned a great opportunity and even Lucas Torreira fired wide from a good position. You felt that, due their incredible dominance, Arsenal needed to put more goals on the board.
Well, they did.
Pep swung the corner in, Lacazette’s flick was parried by De Gea, but Sokratis was on hand to thump home.
2-0 Sokratis! Couldn’t be more deserved absolute domination
— Ali Osman (@aliosman293) January 1, 2020
Sokratis giving Ole something to think about at HT.
— Thetabledoesn’tlie (@SC_YNWA) January 1, 2020
Even the celebrations became a talking point.
Torreira trying to lift Sokratis is the funniest thing you’ll see today
— (@iceyiyke) January 1, 2020
The second half came around and you would imagine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave his side a fairly comprehensive rollicking.
Naturally the Gunners seemed more intent on defending their advantage in the second period, but still the visitors couldn’t break down their determined opponents.
Changes were required, and the Norwegian boss decided his young striker was the man to do the damage. Enter Greenwood.
Greenwood on! Come on. Thank goodness Lingard is off
— Farlina L. Carroll (@FarlinaLCarroll) January 1, 2020
Arsenal were being forced deeper and deeper into their own half, with United dominating possession.
There was little in the way of opportunities spurned, mind.
But oh! Surely that’s a penalty on Wan-Bissaka?
Oh no, wait, he dived.
Bissaka wants a penalty for this Dive, United are hungry now 藍藍#ARSMUN
— SUPER (@StonykRichie) January 1, 2020
That’s not a penalty lol clear dive
— Alex (@AttackingFBv2) January 1, 2020
It wasn’t great from the visitors, who for the most part, looked as if they were playing without any resemblance of a game plan.
We need 3 goals in 15mins
Come on United
— Clintmeks (@meksclint) January 1, 2020
Lost count of the amount of times I’ve verbalised ‘for fucks sake’ watching this. Come on United ffs.
— Tömás (@matherto) January 1, 2020
It was supposed to be a grandstand finish.
It really wasn’t.
No, instead, having one just one game in their last 15 (FIFTEEN), Arsenal finally bagged their first win under Arteta.
And, to be fair, they were well deserved of it.
As you can imagine, their fans were somewhat…chuffed.
Do I feel like crying because we’ve just won our first game in ages? Yes… COME ON ARSENAL #ARSMUN #COYG
— JJ and TT (@TanerDonerKebab) January 1, 2020
Yes!!!!!!! Arsenal is back! Aubameyang, Luiz, Kolasinac, Niles, Pepe, Ozil, Leno, Sokratis, Torreira, Xhaka were immense. Arteta is the boss! #ARSMUN
— ™Maazi Okechukwu (@hansomevik1886) January 1, 2020
There is, of course, the other side of the coin….
Looks like am not watching united play any more as long as this shit continues united need to put things in order
— EVERYTHING UNITEDMUFC⚽️⚽️ (@vicblinksz) January 1, 2020
United were awful. So slow and absolutely zero creativity
— Philly (@PhillyC1983) January 1, 2020
Full time Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United. Not much to say, we were awful especially Lingard and Shaw & we gave away the ball too much & we need to buy in this window and the summer or we’re not getting top 4. Our midfield without McTominay and Pogba is so bad #MUFC #ARSMUN
— Sam (@gilbertsam146) January 1, 2020
The title might be sewn up, but this is set to be a tasty top four race, don’t cha think?