Manchester United (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 1
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Stretford, Manchester M16 0RA
Monday, 30th September 2019. Kick-off time:8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Nicolas Pépé, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (58 mins)
Yellow Cards: Calum Chambers, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 45%
Referee: Kevin Friend
So much was expected of tonight’s match, but in the end it was a disappointing draw; however in the greater scheme of things the point we earned from this game pushed us into fourth postion in the Premiership. In essence the first half was a cross between a dull affair and a comedy of errors from both sides. Arsenal had their chances in this rain-soaked Old Trafford; of the efforts on goal, it has to be said that both Mattéo Guendouzi and Nicolas Pépé came the closest, and in the case of the latter, desperately unlucky not to open the scoring when he was extremely hasty in taking a shot when, in reality he had more time than he thought he had. Against the run of play, on the stroke of half-time, Scott McTominay picked up the ball on the edge of our 18-yard box, and with Calum Chambers closing in on him, he struck a strong shot that gave Bernd Leno little chance of keeping out his effort. More worrying than that, was Granit Xhaka, our captain, ducking out of the way of McTominay’s shot. Perhaps if he stayed where he was and deflected the ball away with his head, then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have gone into the break in deficit?
Starting the second half one-down, we regrouped and started to play football in these difficult conditions the only way we know how, which is forward. We played some excellent football on a greasy pitch, which although didn’t reap the rewards it should have done, the movement of our players still showed that we are capable of playing some intelligent, useful football when it counts. It certainly counted with just over half an hour of the match left to run, when we finally got the ball in the back of the United net. The impressive Bukayo Saka put a superb ball through behind the United defence into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who wasted no time in bearing down on goal, and lobbing the ball over David De Gea into the goal to redress the balance. But wait! The linesman flagged for offside, and referee Kevin Friend consulted VAR, only to find that Harry Maguire played our striker onside by a country mile before he started his goalward run. But why did the linesman flag for offside before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made any movement?
Shortly after our goal, Bukayo Saka was wasteful in front of the United goal, and it was felt by everyone in the stadium (and at home too) that Arsenal should have taken the lead at this point in the game. Despite quite a few wasteful chances by both teams (just how unlucky was Reiss Nelson in not scoring at the end of the match?) the game finished in a draw, which by rights, it was truly one that we should have walked away with three points in our pockets and satisfaction with a job well done on a difficult night in Manchester.
But it wasn’t to be. Leaving the conditions aside, there are some question marks over one or two of our players’ performances tonight, our captain being just one of them. We’ve already mentioned the incident before the United goal when he ducked out of the way of Scott McTominay’s goalbound shot; he does lack concentration at times, such as the incident that led to his booking. All he had to do was think about the consequences of his actions before he floored the United player and he wouldn’t have been booked for such a rash and unnecessary tackle. We also cannot keep relying on the wonderful Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get us out of mire time and time again; in Alexandre Lacazette’s enforced absence, both Nicolas Pépé and Bukayo Saka need to take their chances better. Still, a point is good, especially when you consider the inclement weather conditions and the partisan crowd in Manchester. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Standard Liège at The Emirates on Thursday, 3rd October at 8.00pm (Europa League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.