Chris Smalling thinks Manchester United’s tactics surprised the Gunners on Saturday, leading to the visitors taking an early two-goal advantage at the Emirates.

United overcame Arsenal 3-1, despite a massive amount of possession and chances going in the Gunners favour.

When asked by MUTV how Mourinho’s side managed to get the win, Smalling responded: “I think we were carrying on from Watford and the fact that, when we play, obviously in this system, we can play with two strikers.

“Quite often, they [Arsenal] are only used to playing against one. We put two up front and put them under more pressure and they are not used to that.

“I think that was one to enjoy, for fans watching the game and for us as players. It was end to end, but for us to get those two early goals, I think, meant Arsenal had to come at us and that’s what made it a very entertaining game. 

“They probably had about four strikers on the pitch so it was a case of digging in and making sure, even the attacking players, were doing their job and everyone to a man was brilliant.”

andre marriner wenger
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal argues with referee Andre Marriner after during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on December 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It’s true most of the Premier League sides tend to use one striker. Chelsea have Alvaro Morata, Liverpool have Roberto Firmino, Spurs have Harry Kane.

As a result, a lot of the defending Arsenal have to do is based on facing systems similar to their own – a couple of wide-forwards and a lone striker up front.

For the first 15 minutes, the Gunners couldn’t live with the way United had set up, resulting in them falling to two earlier goals. So, perhaps Smalling is right that Jose Mourinho’s side surprised them.

However, for the rest of the game, Arsenal didn’t seem to be in any trouble tactically, and it was only individual wastefulness that prevented the Londoners from getting more from the game.

As long as Arsenal are able to adapt to the situation quickly, it shouldn’t matter if opponents set up to surprise them. The Gunners being reactive in games is something we need to see more of.

Arsene Wenger has been accused of lacking such awareness in the big games. Hopefully that won’t be the case when the two sides meet later in the season.