Manchester United (1) 3 Arsenal (0) 1
Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Old Trafford, Stretford, Manchester M16 0RA
Sunday, 4th September 2022. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Albert Sambi Lokonga, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard (c), Gabriel Martinelli; Gabriel Jesus. Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding,
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe, Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Bukayo Saka (60 mins)
Yellow Cards: William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 61%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Lee Mason; AVAR Neil Davies
Here we are again, another year, another clash with Manchester United, this time at Old Trafford for the first time this season. Today will be the acid test for us, to see whether Mikel Arteta’s new signings and his tactics will hold up in this white-hot atmosphere.
Within minutes of the kick-off, despite the lively start from the home side as Diogo Dalot went on a wild run towards our goal, Arsenal cleared easily and Gabriel Jesus muscled Lisandro Martínez off the ball to win us a free-kick, just to the side of the United penalty area. Although the subsequent free-kick went nowhere, the spirit of the game was there for all to see early on. Gabriel Jesus hit his head on the ground after a firm Lisandro Martinez tackle, and because of the new rules surrounding head injuries, the match was stopped and he left the field to recover for a while. Christian Eriksen came close to scoring, but thankfully his attempt went wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s post after some work out on the right wing by United’s new signing, Antony. Despite some initial pressure on our goal, on the twelfth minute, Gabriel Martinelli ran through and scored, but after consultation with the VAR team at Stockley Park, Paul Tierney cancelled the goal because of a foul on Christian Eriksen by our captain, which was extremely soft, by anyone’s standards. The disallowed goal changed our attitude and resolve, with Arsenal fighting for every ball, challenging every tackle. Gabriel Jesus came close to scoring from a Bukayo Saka tackle, and as the match goes on, we are looking more and more comfortable on the ball. William Saliba was booked for a tactical foul on Lisandro Martinez and as the match goes to the half hour mark, Arsenal look the better side on the day (so far). After two corners in succession, we played some fabulous possession football that put United under pressure in their own penalty area in which we were desperately unlucky not to score. Unfortunately, totally against the run of play, ten minutes before the half-time break, Antony scored on his debut for the home team. Gabriel Jesus was being pulled all over the place by Raphael Varane and won a free-kick, but we could not make it count, and as half-time approached, we still put pressure on the home side despite being unjustly one down, which was the score going into the break here at Old Trafford, despite three minutes injury time.
We kicked off the second half here in Manchester M16, with the expectation of another forty-five minutes of intense action. The opening exchanges were dominated by us, with Gabriel Jesus still causing mayhem in the United defence, and after some exciting attacking movement by us which saw Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka miss some good chances, a penalty appeal was turned down by referee Paul Tierney unfortunately. A Bukayo Saka cross bounced off the top of the United crossbar and our pressure on them continued in earnest. On the hour, a Martin Ødegaard pass into the United penalty area towards Gabriel Jesus came off Diogo Dalot into the path of Bukayo Saka who wasted no time in introducing the ball to the back on the net to equalise the scores. The goal made us grow in confidence, but totally against the run of play, Marcus Rashford ran onto a ball from Christian Eriksen and scored United’s second goal of the day. Aaron Ramsdale made a mistake in his six-yard box, but managed to correct his own mistake when he made a superb save from Cristiano Ronaldo to prevent a third goal for the home team. Martin Ødegaard, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Oleksandr Zinchenko were replaced by Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Fabio Vieira with sixteen minutes of the match remaining; sadly a minute or so later, Marcus Rashford grabbed United’s third of the day when again, their passing movements split our defence in two, and with some of our players stranded up the field, the home team simply and clinically finished the job. Just after Gabriel Jesus received a booking for a silly incident, Ben White was substituted for Takehiro Tomiyasu with ten minutes of the game remaining. There was almost a big calamity when Granit Xhaka slipped, letting Fred grab the ball and his long-range pass almost let Cristiano Ronaldo in to score, but fortunately Aaron Ramsdale nipped out of his goal quickly to save the day. We had a penalty appeal turned down by Paul Tierney when Eddie Nketiah was brought down in the penalty area, and shortly afterwards Bukayo Saka became our third player of the day to end up being booked for a frustrating late tackle on Tyrell Malacia, which was not malicious, just late, that’s all. In the four minutes injury time, we still came forward, looking for chances to score, which showed great spirit and resolve, but despite all this and more all our efforts were in vain, sadly.
We deserved so much more from this game today; with sixty-one percent possession and sixteen shots on goal (three on target), this scoreline was not representative of the match at all. We showed our worth time and time again throughout this match, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line superbly with Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka backing him up with exellent passes and dynamic play, and but for a ridiculous VAR decision that cost us the lead so early on in the match, who knows what could have happened here? However, the good news is that we are still top of the league, going into the European fixtures week, which means that we are still the team to catch.
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: FC Zűrich at Stadion Letzigrund on Thursday, 8th September at 5.45pm (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