The Red Devils looked favourites going into the tie but as the match progressed, it became very apparent how closely matched both sides were. United held on till halfway through the second-half when Paul Pogba awarded the Gunners a ray of hope with a penalty.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made no mistake from the spot as he fired his side into the lead and ultimately gifting them the win.
But despite being pretty evenly matched, how did Solskjaer not find a way to win at least a point back? The answer is simple — United failed to make their presence felt in midfield.
When Arteta announced a line-up with Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey as the only names in midfield, some eyes were raised. But the pair displayed an incredible performance, especially the latter. The Ghanian dominated the midfield and covered every inch of the pitch on either end. Partey was winning defensive duels in midfield whilst also taking players on and playing balls into the final third with ease as United midfielders watched on.
Paul Pogba just was not having a good day as he failed to make anything of the possession he had. Scott McTominay remained largely invisible whilst Fred failed to keep errors to a minimum. Bruno Fernandes on the other hand attempted to create something but could barely get the better of Gabriel Magalhaes. The Mancunians being overrun in midfield contributed heavily to the end result against an Arsenal side that just could not finish their chances.
However, it would be unfair to say Solskjaer was just unlucky. The Manchester giants deserved the result they got and that should not be up for debate. The Norwegian’s implementation of a midfield diamond failed to create chances tonight, which reflects in their xG of 0.38 compared to Arsenal’s 1.09. It is safe to say the better side took 3 points home today.
But the focus comes back to United’s midfield. Despite having a set of midfielders that cost over £260 million, the Old Trafford outfit get dominated in the middle of the park quite often. A record signing like Pogba should be easily contributing positive efforts in such a game. Donny van de Beek remained on the bench until the climax of the match, which did not allow him to make any sort of impact. Fernandes seemed very aimless as if he were told to do anything he pleases.
This points to mismanagement and failure tactically. Solskjaer may bag big results from time-to-time, but it should be apparent that his current system is not sustainable.
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