AT ONE point late in the second half, Lucas Torreira’s performance became so gloriously hateful that Jose Mourinho launched a furious kick at his dugout wall.
Arsenal’s pitbull midfielder from the Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos has certainly added beef to the Gunners midfield.
Getty – Contributor6 Lucas Torreira is a blast from the past prepared to spill blood for the Arsenal cause
His was a real retro performance from the days when Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira used to ring this fixture in red ink, then steal themselves to spill blood and mince bones.
Torreira possesses the menace which Arsenal so desperately lacked in Arsene Wenger’s later years.
And he was at the centre of an pug-ugly struggle as Unai Emery’s men extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches.
The Torreira challenge which enraged Mourinho was a late one on Marouane Fellaini, with ref Andre Marriner mistakenly awarding a free-kick to Arsenal and the United manager reacting with a rage, followed by a high-five to apologise for a young fan he’d apparently terrified.
BT Sport6 Jose Mourinho was left kicking the wall in frustration after a Torreira hit on Marouane Fellaini
Getty Images – Getty6 Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira used to go at it hammer and tongs in the old days – Torreira plays with the same attitude
This had been adults-only football, anyway. Impressionable kids might have been given nightmares.
Apparently, crocodiles go to sleep worrying whether Torreira might be under their bed.
As tackles flew during a thunderous spell late in the first half, the former Sampdoria man followed through and studded Ander Herrera in the thigh.
He has produced far more accomplished displays than this, not least when he scored to cap Sunday’s 4-2 drubbing of Tottenham in a red-blooded North London derby.
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Somehow Torreira managed to escape a red card for a litany of fouls here but after so many years of Arsenal being the Premier League’s soft touches, you have to grudgingly admire the little rascal.
Arsenal, literally unrecognisable in their mucus green kits, scored two of the season’s least beautiful goals to take the lead twice.
But on the second occasion, they committed the childish blunder of switching off and were punished straight from kick-off when a shocking Sead Kolasinac blunder gifted Jesse Lingard the equaliser.
If Emery is to lead Arsenal beyond their current status of scuffling top-four contenders, he’ll need at least a couple of players with Torreira’s over-my-dead-body mentality in his defence.
“He comes from Uruguay, he’s only five foot high,” the Arsenal fans sing of Torreira, in a purely fact-based chant to the tune of their old Vieira song.
Getty – Contributor6 Torreira was a pitbull in the Arsenal midfield and is a real throwback
And at least the travelling Gunners fans have something to sing about – ‘Jose Mourinho we want you to stay’ was a particular favourite last night.
For five and half years after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United are still fumbling in the dark.
Five and half months after Wenger left town, and from a far less promising start-point, Arsenal have improved under Emery.
They hadn’t arrived here with this sort of optimism since Sylvain Wiltord was winning titles.
It was the first United-Arsenal match without Ferguson or Wenger since 1986 but the pre-eminence of the fixture had been washed away by oil money years ago.