The rain lashed down at Old Trafford as Manchester United showed there was still life in the old dog against old rivals Arsenal. They hadn’t forgotten how to kick players up in the air or harass a referee in the hope of persuading him to alter a decision. Strangely enough that worked but more of that later.
The halcyon days of Manchester United may be over but they can console themselves that Arsenal aren’t much better and that these two old prize fighters may have to resort to talking about pugilism rather than engaging in it.
First things first, the team selection was not what most of us wanted but it was almost exactly what most expected. It appears that Emery’s knack for springing surprises or assembling an Arsenal team that could make mincemeat out of United has deserted him. Bellerin and Tierney were both missing, Ceballos was on the bench and worst still, Xhaka wasn’t.
It was a turgid first half where it appeared that no one really wanted to take hold of the game or attack with any degree of enthusiasm. How one craved the likes of the snarling Keane and the arrogance of Vieira, instead there were a series of pale impersonations all over the field and Emery must now be at the point of calling Arsene Wenger for advice as his side seem similarly unable to perform on their travels.
This fixture was an opportunity but Arsenal managed to drop two points with a wishy washy performance against a very poor United side, which doesn’t say much for the North London club.
Yet the Spaniard doesn’t exactly help himself by excluding his ace duo Bellerin and Tierney, in a game of such importance for Arsenal. No place for them in this clash, when even an injection of 20 minutes would have perhaps altered the game and how it was being played.
This game was the equivalent of visual porridge, nothing exciting, nothing exceptional, just porridge and if you wanted to edit this game to provide highlights, you’d be hard pushed to stitch together 20 decent minutes.
It was hard, it was harsh and it was wet and what we now know without a shadow of a doubt is that these two sides are no better off than they were last season and if anything, the performances have deteriorated.
A few games ago, Arsenal at least seemed to sparkle in one half, this was a horrible dish, served cold and without any hint of color. It’s hard to endure these types of contests, not just because it was staggeringly dull and uninspiring but it signals that there’s more of this to come and as for being on terms with Liverpool or City, forget it !
Both Arsenal and United are at least three seasons away from even getting close to being at that level of excellence. Emery needs to make more wholesale changes and become brutal in the execution of his duties, a similar situation awaits Solskjaer if both are to climb their way to the premiership summit but there’s a lot of work to be done. A lot !
Of the action, such as it was, there were only the goals to comment on. Although Leno did well to prevent a Pereira goal and David de Gea pulled down the shutters on Saka before stopping Matteo Guendouzi’s follow-up with his dependable legs but it took 29 long minutes before the soggy crowd were given something to get excited about.
The opener was not richly deserved but it was well taken as Scott McTominay hit a sweet drive goal wards that saw Granit Xhaka, lame warrior of Arsenal, duck out of the way giving Leno’s little chance. (45)
Another example of Captain Vanilla’s ineptitude and dereliction of duty. I could go on about the player but quite honestly, I’m sick of his name and no amount of stating the obvious will change the cemented mindset of the Spaniard.
If Arsenal fail to secure a top four this season, it will be due to decisions to include this player regardless and the choice of starting line ups that have cost points. Emery should have injected purpose at the restart but opted for the stick , rather than twist approach which probably prevented them winning this.
A draw was the right result in the end but it’s hard to say they deserved that either. Both sides would have been better employed to watch DVD’s of previous encounters because this match will be quickly forgotten.
Onwards to the Arsenal reply which came from Aubameyang, who else ? He was initially ruled offside in the worst decision in football history (58) but it was later given courtesy of VAR, not that it was needed.
His delightful dink into the net got Arsenal back on terms but the fact is that Arsenal rely on him too much to get them out of jail. It’s testament to his considerable skills but if he gets injured in the absence of Lacazette, Arsenal will be deep in the mire.
Solskjaer was reduced to doing a Ferguson by remonstrating with officials about the equaliser but it was the act of a desperate man. Solskjaer’s boat is full of holes and he knew that before he set sail, it was incredibly embarrassing! There were other chances from Pogba, McTominay and a sitter from Saka but it was hardly enough to justify the cost of a ticket and a coach journey for the away supporters.
There was another farcical element to the game when Pepe and McTominay clashed. The ref awarded an Arsenal fee kick but after some words of persuasion changed his mind. No one argues like United and it’s been an ingredient of their game that has served them well in the past but they were short of another, class.
We move on but this season is going to be a struggle at this rate for both Arsenal and United. They can only pray that they beat the lesser clubs and that some of the chasing pack play as badly as this.