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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boss rues missed chances

Sir Alex Ferguson was rueful, but not disheartened after watching his side edged out in a thrilling game against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Samir Nasri's double gave the Gunners all three points, while United passed up a string of decent chances - including one gilt-edged opportunity for Cristiano Ronaldo shortly after Nasri's second - before Rafael's late consolation strike.

"The chances we had in the game were incredible," Sir Alex told Sky Sports. "It was the area in which we let ourselves down. I think if we'd got one when Ronaldo got his great chance, then we'd have got something out of the game.

"It was fantasy football, it was like playground stuff - you attack, we attack - and they got the goals that mattered. In fairness to my own team, after the second goal their determination and drive to try and rescue the game was fantastic, and we probably deserved something from the game, I think."

After watching his side play a huge part in a pulsating game, the United manager felt the whole affair was a tremendous advert for attacking football.

"Some of the football out there today from both teams was magnificent," he said. "I don't think you'll see a game as good as that anywhere else in the country.

"Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say 'if you're going to get beaten, just make sure it's someone who's going to play football', and Arsenal played good football at times. Not as dangerous as us in attacking play, but they got the goals that mattered."

Arsenal Vs. Manchester United Match Report

A double from French forward Samir Nasri condemned United to a second defeat of the season, and moved Arsenal ahead of the champions in the Premier League table.

The Gunners' summer signing from Marseille struck with 20-yard efforts in either half, while United had only Rafael's late consolation to show after passing up a string of chances. Wayne Rooney, Anderson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ji-sung Park were all unable to find a way past Manuel Almunia, while Gael Clichy was a touch fortunate to survive a first-half penalty claim for handball.

The entire first half was a captivating affair, with chances cropping up from the get-go. In the first minute, Manuel Almunia was punished for picking up an errant back-pass from former Reds defender Mikael Silvestre. From the resultant free-kick, Anderson’s effort was inadvertently blocked by Park, and Carrick sent the rebound just wide.

After eight minutes, the Reds went one better and found a route past Almunia, only for Berbatov to see his goal chalked off. Great build-up play between Neville, Ronaldo and Park ended with Rooney’s curling effort being parried out by Almunia, before Berbatov converted the loose ball, having been lurking in an offside position.

In response, Gael Clichy fizzed in a superb left-wing cross which found Bendtner in-between Ferdinand and Vidic, but the Dane could only guide his free header over the bar. Two minutes later, he was again guilty of a glaring miss, failing to apply any kind of touch to Nasri’s in-swinging cross.

That move was exceptional, but bettered by a piece of United teamwork in the 18th minute. Anderson skipped away from Fabregas and found Berbatov’s run inside the area. The Bulgarian fed Ronaldo, who slid a ball back for Rooney, but the England striker fired over when well-placed, 15 yards out.

For a game of such speed and incision, it was far from fitting that the opening goal came from a set-piece and a deflection. A right-wing free kick from Fabregas was headed clear by Berbatov, as far as Nasri on the edge of the area. The Frenchman’s left-footed strike took a telling deflection off Neville en route, leaving van der Sar helpless as the ball sped past him.

United’s response was to dominate possession immediately afterwards. After Gallas had prevented Evra bursting into the Arsenal area, Ronaldo's perfectly drilled in-swinging free-kick clipped Clichy’s head, but somehow inched past the far post.

The game continued at a breathless pace, with Walcott firing a volley off-target for the Gunners and Park having a fine left-footed effort powerfully parried away by Almunia. The Reds had a reasonable shout for a penalty turned down when Rooney's cross struck the arm of Clichy inside the area, before Anderson wormed himself through a cluster of Gunners defenders, but saw his close-range effort clutched gratefully by Almunia.

Somehow, just the one goal was the collective end product of some superb attacking play from both sides. Within two minutes of the restart, however, Arsenal struck again. Fabregas turned Neville and slid a pass to Nasri, who took advantage of space created by Walcott's run to drill a fine shot high past van der Sar.

Little more than a minute had passed when United had a glorious chance to pull a goal back. Park again worked well down the left and curled in a delightful back-post cross, but Ronaldo sidefooted fractionally past the far post.

Had that opening been converted, Arsenal's nerve would have been tested. As it was, the hosts were able to regroup, and proceeded to defend as if their lives depended on it. Time and again a home defender applied a telling touch or block to curtail a United forward foray, ensuring an afternoon of frustration for the Reds.

Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Rafael, Ryan Giggs and Carlos Tevez as the second period wore on, with a view to injecting more attacking incision, and it was the young Brazilian who belatedly gave his side hope.

In the final minute of normal time, Silvestre headed Giggs' cross clear as far as the edge of his own area, where Rafael took a touch on his chest and lashed a stunning left-footed volley past substitute goalkeeper Fabianski, who had earlier replaced the injured Almunia.

Team line-ups

ARSENAL: Almunia (Fabianski 78); Sagna, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy; Walcott (Song 78), Denilson, Diaby (Toure 86), Fabregas, Nasri; Bendtner.
Substitutes: Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere, Djourou.
Booked: Gallas, Sagna, Clichy

MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar; Neville (Rafael 63), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson (Giggs 72), Park; Berbatov, Rooney (Tevez 77).
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Nani, O’Shea, J Evans.
Booked: Evra, Carrick

Arsenal Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Arsenal [2 - 1] Manchester United
22' [1 - 0] S. Nasri
48' [2 - 0] S. Nasri
90' [2 - 1] R.d. Silva