Three things we learned from Man United vs. Arsenal
MANCHESTER -- It was honors even between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger on Saturday at Old Trafford as Manchester United and Arsenal drew 1-1.
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Juan Mata’s second half goal was canceled out by a late Olivier Giroud header but in truth United dominated most of the play and had the better chances but couldn’t finish the Gunners off.
[ MORE: Giroud “a regular” ]
Here’s what we learned from a tense, tight encounter at Old Trafford.
Mourinho will be upset his team let a big two points drop late on against Arsenal but he won’t be upset with the performance. From the first whistle his side took the game to Arsenal and they deserved to win.
Much has been made about United’s recent run of just two wins in eight Premier League games prior to this match, but this performance epitomized a side confident in their system, manager and each other.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing, Marcus Rashford led the line well. Anthony Martial shows glimpses of promise on the left and Paul Pogba kept plugging away even if keeping possession seemed problematic for him at times.
There will be plenty of positives for Mourinho from this game and although you can point to poor defending for Arsenal’s goal, he was playing without three of his first-choice back four. Mourinho will also point to the fact that United could have had a penalty kick in the first half when Antonio Valencia was brought down by Nacho Monreal in the box but no PK was awarded. United were unlucky.
Not the result Mourinho wanted but certainly a performance to show his side are moving in the right direction.
MIDFIELD BALANCE SPOT ON
United’s midfield was far superior to Arsenal’s on Saturday. Yes, the Gunners were missing their hub in Santi Cazorla but Ander Herrera not only set up Mata’s goal but was everywhere in the middle. Alongside Michael Carrick they locked down the middle and Pogba was given license to roam forward and take more chances in support of Mata, Rashford and Martial.
It worked sublimely well.
Many have been calling for Carrick to start and it was clear to see why. Time and time again United’s captain for the day stepped in to thwart Arsenal attacks and he must now be one of the first names on the team sheet for Mourinho. United missed a chance to close the gap on Arsenal to three points but they found out their best midfield partnership.
Arsenal threatened twice in this game. Twice. In the seventh minute Alexis Sanchez (playing with a heavily bandaged right hamstring and looking far from fully fit) sent a free header across goal and wide. In the 89th minute Giroud powered a header home. In-between Wenger’s men didn’t offer much.
Wenger will likely be very happy with the draw. His side were poor and failed to take the game to United.
Aaron Ramsey looked unfit and unable to help out Nacho Monreal who struggled defensively against Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia, while Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny were full of industry but failed to get the Gunners moving forward.
Arsenal haven’t lost since the opening day of the Premier League season but Wenger knows this performance didn’t warrant anything. The fact a lackluster Arsenal dug in and struck late on to grab a point bodes well that perhaps a more rigid backbone has emerged. Maybe, just maybe this November curse will be negotiated a little better this year by the Gunners.