Mikel Arteta’s “ruthless” two-point plan shows exactly where Man Utd went wrong


Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta promised an extensive overhaul at the Emirates, while Manchester United bosses assessed they were just one or two players away from winning the title

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Manchester United unquestionably went into the summer in a stronger position than their old rivals Arsenal.

Having finished second in the Premier League and reached a European final there was a feeling United were closing in on a return to their former glories.

Arsenal meanwhile were coming fresh off a campaign which saw them miss out on European football altogether for the first time in a quarter of a century.

While Old Trafford bosses were patting themselves on the back, preparing to add to the final pieces to the puzzle, at Arsenal they were ready to smash it up and start again.

“We cannot be crying and stuck on what we don’t have,” Gunners boss Mikel Arteta said back in July. “We have to see what we do have and maximise it to get what we want.

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“I think a project has its phases and I am telling you we are in a much better position today to be where we want to be very soon, if we do what we have to do. But we have to be ruthless.”

And ruthless they were. A string of high-profile senior stars were allowed to leave the club. Including the likes of Willian and David Luiz.

Coming the other way, Arteta and technical director Edu oversaw a transformative summer window which saw foundational pieces added to the integral members of the squad.

In total, £150million was spent on six new arrivals, all of whom were 23 or under. Much was made of the approach, with many criticising a window which left a question over whether they had improved at all.

Back in Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who once upon a time had operated with a similar idea in the transfer market, put all his chips to the middle of the table.

Spending £73m on Jadon Sancho ended a year-long pursuit but in a position where they were already well stocked.

Raphael Varane’s acquisition appears a shrewd one, but landing his old Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo was more a move which took advantage of unique timing, rather than any forward planning.

On the first weekend of the new Premier League season, few would have argued that it was United who appeared to have adopted the correct strategy, thrashing Leeds at Old Trafford.

Arsenal on the other hand were handedly beaten by Brentford, before being thumped by Chelsea and Manchester City in consecutive, humbling showings.

But since then the Gunners have moved in an upward trajectory, while the hubris to anticipate this Manchester United squad was truly ready to compete has been proved false.

As performances deteriorated, there were dressing room inquests, with many of those involving players questioning the decision to hand Harry Maguire the captaincy.

Solskjaer’s desperation to bring the skipper back into the XI contributed to his eventual undoing as they continued to ship goals at an alarming rate.

When similar questions were asked regarding the captaincy at Arsenal, Arteta acted swiftly, stripping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the armband after another disciplinary breach.

With a new manager in place at Old Trafford and windows of overhaul now on the horizon, their assessment of the squad looks more misguided with every passing week.

Arsenal are well ahead of them thanks to Arteta’ sticking to the “ruthless” promise he made in May of this year.