The massacre at Old Trafford
In a battle between Manchester and London in England's Premier League on Sunday, there was one clear winner.
After Manchester City crushed Tottenham 5-1 to raise a few eyebrows, defending champion Manchester United -- not wanting to be outdone -- went one better, thrashing a depleted, weary Arsenal 8-2. Call it the Massacre at Old Trafford.
Only three rounds have been contested in the 2011-12 Premier League season, but early indications suggest the Red Devils and Sky Blues will be fighting it out for the top spot. Both are a perfect 3-0, with a splendid goal difference.
The complexion of the first half at Old Trafford changed in an instant. At one end, United keeper David De Gea saved Robin van Persie's penalty; United responded instantly, with Ashley Young curling a shot into the top corner to make it 2-0 and essentially give the home team all three points.
But was it the turning point? Hardly.
Even if van Persie had scored, United still would have won -- and comfortably. Hat-trick hero Wayne Rooney was at his brilliant best.
Arsenal isn't. The Gunners have won twice in the Premier League since a last-gasp defeat to Birmingham in last winter's Carling Cup final, and the arrival of South Korean forward Park Chu-Young probably won't do much to raise fans' spirits. Arsene Wenger's detractors, rising, are sure to grow further. He remains defiant.
Here are four takeaways:
All is forgiven, Wayne
Ten months ago, it appeared Rooney was on his way out of Old Trafford. The swell of criticism in Rooney's direction following a masterstroke by United boss Alex Ferguson probably had much to do with the striker staying.
Now Rooney, Fergie and United's supporters are all happy.
Rooney is playing even better than in the second half of last season, and his first two goals, off free kicks, were stunning. Rooney went over the wall in the 41st minute to beat Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny and then fooled the young Pole again in the 64th. With Szczesny this time staying put behind the wall, Rooney went in the other direction.
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Rooney's standout effort possibly came when he didn't score: His diagonal chip from about 25 yards in the second half beat Szczesny, but not the post. It was a breathtaking piece of improvisation.
He almost set up Danny Welbeck in the first half; Welbeck's diving header from Rooney's floated cross went wide.
Young was only marginally outdone. He's made a seamless transition from Aston Villa. If Young's first goal was outstanding, his second wasn't too shabby, either, another ball landing in the far corner.
Note to defenders: Don't let Young cut inside and let rip. He's lethal.
United bossed Arsenal's half
With Arsenal missing a suspended trio in midfield, along with its two most reliable defenders, did Wenger think of parking the bus?
Of course not. He wouldn't know how.
United duo Tom Cleverley and Anderson were largely untroubled in the center of midfield by the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky, having ample time on the ball. And talk about space; United had more than enough of that. Arsenal was cut open at will.
Postgame, Wenger said that any team missing as many players would struggle against United. Maybe, but the title contenders possess depth. They wouldn't be playing Coquelin or right back Carl Jenkinson, who was sent off late in the second half. (In his defense on the sending off, Jenkinson was acting as cover.)
The two-week international break is exactly what Wenger needs, plus more than a few purchases before the transfer window shuts this week. The interval is guaranteed, buys aren't.
De Gea remains a worry
Let's not get excited about De Gea yet.
Any goalkeeper who makes a penalty save should be commended, since the odds are against him (that said, quite a few have already achieved the feat in the Premier League this season), but all De Gea did was guess, or anticipate, correctly.
Van Persie let him off the hook. Usually a lock to rifle the ball from the spot, the Dutchman had nothing behind his low effort, making things all too comfortable for the Spaniard.
De Gea's double save on Andrei Arshavin and van Persie, also in the first half, was impressive, though he was poor on Theo Walcott's goal in first-half stoppage time. He's made a mistake in every game.
Of course, not many will dwell on Sunday's performance given the final score.
The ref was so-so
Does anyone else long for the days when tackles went flying between these two teams? Bring back Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.
Referee Howard Webb didn't have an overly tough encounter to officiate, but he did get it wrong by not sending off Arshavin. Already in the book for a nasty challenge on Phil Jones, Webb took sympathy on the Russian when he scythed down Young. Webb seemed to get both penalty decisions correct, mind you.
Webb's performance, then, won't be remembered. What will be is the current gulf in class between Manchester United and Arsenal.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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