Football news - Paul Parker: Manchester United's terrible performance makes Arsenal favourites
The former Manchester United defender believes that United let themselves down after they pushed their luck with a middling performance against Sheffield United that resulted in an embarrassing home defeat. Looking back at how the Arsenal vs Manchester United rivalry has waned, he believes Mikel Arteta's team are the favourites for the weekend's game.
Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United walks off after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Sheffield United at Old Trafford on January 27, 2021 in Manchester, England
Paul Parker believes that Manchester United will struggle to beat Arsenal at the weekend after a complacent defeat to Sheffield United.
If Manchester United were as assured and professional as they should be, then they simply would not have been beaten at home by Sheffield United. It just shouldn’t happen. You don’t do that as title challengers.
You have to get over the line every game, however you do it. Confident sides at the top of their game deliver on that. Clubs that have the self-belief and consistency will be able to grind out results when things get tough, but when United put in displays like that then it's just not possible for them to justify being top of the league. Manchester City are ahead of them for a reason.
With United’s away form, the focus should be on the fact that they keep on going behind. Yes, they keep coming back, but it’s not a good sign that they have to keep doing that. It’s a positive to be able to do it every so often, on the odd occasion you fall back. You can only recover like that so many times, and this time their luck ran out.
This result has been in the post. For Sheffield United, it’s testament to the fact that while they’ve been on the wrong end of defeats so far this season, only rarely have they been well beaten. They stay in the running and fight hard in every game. It seems like United either weren’t aware of that or weren’t prepared for that.
United seemed a little complacent. It seemed like at 1-1 they assumed it would be destined that they would eventually win, but they let it go again with some slack defending. Defenders failed to close the ball down, and instead they just put their hands behind their backs and stood still. You might be worried about handball, but you have to defend properly and only then worry about how the rules are going to be applied.
I think that Arsenal now go into the weekend’s game as the favourites over United.
In the past, the games were more competitive. After 1996 things really kicked up a notch when Arsene Wenger arrived, and rather than the dour and mundane side they used to be, they picked up a new style. It was an exciting time for Arsenal, and when more is at stake for a club it brings out another side of their players, perhaps a side of players that people don’t always want to see.
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These days, I think the way the game has changed and the type of personnel have changed how these games are played. Some of the recent additions see rivalries between cities as just another game, they don’t see it as important as a local derby. The fans, though, remember the history of the fixture and the antipathy, and with coronavirus restrictions they aren’t there at the moment to set the tone for the players.
Chelsea vs Liverpool, United vs Arsenal, and others - they have their own backgrounds and histories and they’re in danger of becoming a thing of the past. TV will try to build it up but there’s nothing right now to build upon. Maybe when fans are back the hearts will be pumping again.
Arsenal had a poor time in the FA Cup against Southampton, and it was a poor decision from Mikel Arteta. He should have tried harder to retain a trophy, but took the game for granted instead. He made amends a few days later with a comprehensive win against the same opponents, and their Premier League form remains excellent.
They’ve been helped by the contributions from younger, hungrier players, who have reinvigorated the older pros.