Old Trafford witnessed a draw today between the classic Premier League rivals – Manchester United and Arsenal. A brilliant goal by Ander Herrera put United in the lead but then an own goal by Blackett and Victor Valdes’ sheer inability at doing the one job he has, helped Arsenal equalize.
Smalling captained the Reds today in place of Wayne Rooney. The first few minutes saw both sides just passing the ball around. United gained an edge and, typical to Van Gaal’s tactics, looked to maintain possession. Young had an inswing cross flicked away by Koscielny, but the ball wasn’t cleared fully and Mata got onto it and played in Falcao, but the striker’s effort was blocked away for a corner. The ball reached Smalling at the far post, but Bellerin stopped his attempt. A follow-up corner was played short but Young’s flat delivery was cleared away by Koscielny.
Mata’s freekick was easily saved by Ospina. United impressed with their defence today, with Arsenal unable to find any pass to break through. United dealt comfortably with a sudden possession for the visitors — the first time they have completed a pass in the opposition half, almost — and got back on the attack.
Players struggled with their footing in the game today. Phil Jones slipped and Giroud was almost through on goal but a rather unusual header from the defender avoided any danger for United. Meme-makers will no doubt start capitalizing on that very soon, so brace yourself for them!
Half an hour into the game, Manchester United clinched the lead. Ashley Young put a cross to the far post. Ander Herrera was absolutely unmarked and made no mistake as he shot it past Ospina. Herrera has been missing quite a few of those chances in the last few games, and he got it absolutely right today. Frustration began to set in for Arsenal after that goal. Ozil had the ball on the edge of the United box and played in a very deft pass for Giroud, but he couldn’t anticipate it at all and the chance went futile. Ozil made no attempt to hide his irritation at that missed chance.
Arsenal needed to make some changes if they wanted to win. United looked extremely strong at that point. Only the offside flag denied Fellaini a clear shot on goal, and then subsequently Mata broke the offside trap before putting in cross that Falcao nearly turned in. In the 42nd minute, Giroud flew into the hoardings, thanks to a clumsy Phil Jones tackle. The resulting free-kick doesn’t fall to anyone however, and United clear.
At half time, United were deservedly leading by one goal. The quality of their attack today was simply splendid and Arsenal failed to impress much up until then and needed to step up their game post half time.
They did start off well in the second half, but seemed to be struggling with the same issues as in the first half. Sanchez was pushed off the ball before he could get his shot off, and at the other end, Falcao nearly created a good chance for the hosts, but it was cleared by Ospina. In the 51st minute, Sanchez went for the volley shot but missed the goal. A small spell of pressure ensued from Arsenal, with Bellerin taking the ball in from the right. Arsenal just couldn’t get the ball into the dangerous areas inside the box, however. Arsene Wenger looked on in frustration.
Van Persie replaced Falcao in the 61st minute. Falcao went out with full applause from the crowd and his wave signaled that it was goodbye and that he wouldn’t be signing on permanently, which is the best thing for him. He has had a disappointing season here at Manchester United, despite having so much of potential. Hopefully, he will go back to being the brilliant player he used to be at his old team.
There was a close chance for Arsenal as Ozil got behind the defence and passed to Giroud, who went past Rojo very well. He tried to shoot it in but a save from De Gea prevented the potential equalizer.
In the 73rd minute, De Gea limped off due to an injury which lead to Victor Valdes’ debut at Old Trafford. Also, Blackett came on for Marcos Rojo. Arsenal made changes as well and got in Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott to replace Cazorla and Bellerin respectively. The game got boring at this point as United just played around with the ball and Arsenal lacked any threats whatsoever. Walcott’s attempts resulted in nothing, so far.
However, the 82nd minute saw Arsenal equalize. The ball shot across the pitch to Walcott on the edge of the box. The winger beat Blackett and hit a low shot that deflected off the defender, over Valdes and inside the far post. That unfortunate goal seemed to give Arsenal the boost they desperately needed. There was a chance for Arsenal as Ozil beat Jones and cut the ball back for Giroud at the near post, but the Frenchman got his angles fractionally wrong and his first-time shot went straight into the side-netting. Suddenly it was all Arsenal, as another delightful Ramsey ball found Giroud between his defenders, but Jones forced him to play his shot wide and averted an Arsenal lead.
It seemed like both teams were low on energy in the added time, and nobody made an effort to try and score a winner. The first yellow card of the game came just before full time and was given to Herrera for trying to trip Flamini.
A draw served Arsenal better than United, although United will feel they were somewhat hard done by here. Ander Herrera’s close-range finish had given them a deserved first-half lead, but Theo Walcott’s deflected late strike eventually gave Arsenal their equalizer. That means Arsenal will stay in the third place, with two games to go.