We’ve been left disappointed once again, with Arsenal failing to get anything from a game we unquestionably should have come away from with all three points. We certainly weren’t robbed though, as we got everything we deserved following an uninspired performance, with a sub-par Manchester United side getting the better of our tired and frustrated looking team.
With the shoe seemingly on the other foot for once ahead of the game, Manchester United were the ones with a rash of injuries spreading through their team. They definitely weren’t anywhere near full strength, and considering a full strength United side is nothing special at the moment we really should have been dominating this one.
And we looked the dominant side early on, with our calm and considered possession game looking like it may eventually pay off. It was a similar team to the one that dismantled United in the opening 20 minutes during the reverse fixture earlier this season, but we certainly weren’t playing that way.
Regardless, we were still the ones who created the first really great chance of the game. With some great movement and quick passing seeing Nacho Monreal played through one-on-one with David de Gea. The Spaniard took too long to shoot though, before making the wrong decision and lashing the ball straight at his compatriot; a real wasted chance.
Despite the fact that we weren’t grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, we didn’t really look like conceding. Gabriel Paulista though – who had replaced Per Mertesacker in the side – decided things were too comfortable, and in a matter of minutes gave us a mountain to climb.
Theo Walcott lost the ball carelessly in midfield, and United were quickly on the attack. The ball was whipped in by Guillermo Varela, and both our centre-backs failed to deal with it. Laurent Koscielny got a slight touch, which only really served to put Gabriel off. The Brazilian swung wildly at the ball, and ended up laying it right into the path of United’s teen striker Marcus Rashford. The 18-year-old thanked Gabriel for the assist, and smashed it past Petr Cech who was partially unsighted by Jesse Lingard. 1-0.
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Moments later things got even worse, and Gabriel was again largely responsible. Another cross was fired into the box, and again it was too high for Koscielny. Gabriel had both the ball and Rashford in his line of sight though, and yet seemed totally unaware of the threat. The United striker had acres of space to settle himself and meet the cross, leaping unchallenged and heading past Cech. 2-0.
We got one back before half time, Danny Welbeck nodding a Mesut Özil free-kick past David de Gea, but even the goal seemed somewhat lazy and lacking energy – as did the celebration from the players and the fans. 2-1.
The second half started much in the same way as the first, with Manchester United allowing us most of the possession, but not really threatening themselves. We were struggling to create though, and when we pushed forward in search of that equalising goal we were hit on the counter.
It wasn’t exactly a rapid counter-attack from the home side, but our lazy defending with players jogging back and failing to apply pressure made things far easier for them. Rashford was allowed time and space once again, and was able to hold the ball up in the area until Ander Herrera arrived. He cut the ball back for the Spaniard, who fired towards the top corner, a shot Cech appeared to have covered. An agonising deflection off the chest of Koscielny took it back across goal though, and the shot-stopper was left totally helpless. 3-1.
We clawed yet another goal back before the end of the game, with Mesut Özil pouncing on a loose ball to scuff it past de Gea. 3-2.
We never really looked like getting the equaliser though, and a stop-start last quarter of an hour combined with United consistently carrying it into the corners meant we really had no hope.
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With Tottenham and Leicester winning this weekend, our job just got a whole lot harder. We may already have ruined things for ourselves, and we’ll now not only need to get the win over Tottenham in the North London Derby next weekend, but also rely on some favours from teams around us.