Result: Manchester United 2–2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 5th December 2018
Venue: Old Trafford
Starting XI: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Holding, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Torreira, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang
Subs: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Nketiah
Arsenal and Manchester United shared four scrappy goals in a frantic encounter at a soggy Old Trafford.
Goal-line technology stamped a mark of approval on Shkodran Mustafi’s 26th-minute header before Anthony Martial took advantage of lax defending to level for the home side four minutes later.
A scrappy affair, pockmarked by injuries to both sides, then came to life after the break. Substitute Alex Lacazette, with a helping hand from Marcos Rojo, bundled home to restore the Gunners lead on 68 minutes but it lasted only 90 seconds before Jessie Lindgard restored parity. There were chances for us to win it, but David De Dea underlined his quality with two fine saves from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The result sees Unai Emery’s side stretch the unbeaten run to 20 games, however, we fall out of the top four due to results elsewhere.
Jose Mourinho may have been forced into a number of changes, but under the lights, on a wet Manchester evening, his side were never going to find it hard to get the crowd going.
Old Trafford greeted an early Rashford effort, hit straight at Leno, with a huge roar and their was further bursts of encouragement with every misplaced pass by Arsenal. We looked a bit shaky initially, especially our three centre-backs trying to build play from the back, but there’s been nothing unusual about that this season.
Guendouzi tried to calm Torreira after the Uruguayan gave the ball away and Emery wailed at Iwobi after an over hit pass went for a goal-kick. We were careless more than cautious, but at least everyone was communicating.
We started to build attacks down the left with regularity. Kolasinac, bounding inside Diogo Dalot, was often the target. The first couple of times he made pullbacks that didn’t find anyone in a spearmint shirt, then on 25 minutes another dart forward forced a corner. Old Trafford quietened.
Torreira hit a straight ball to the penalty spot and Mustafi, getting the better of Smalling, headed the ball downwards forcing De Gea to flap the ball backwards. It looped over the Spaniard and was hacked clear off the line by Herrera. The referee looked at his watch. Goal to Arsenal! The ball had crossed the line. Cue pandemonium in the away end. (1-0)
Very annoyingly, the lead lasted only five minutes. Guendouzi’s foul on Martial 25-yards out gave Rojo the chance to test Leno with a set piece. The German made a decent save down to his left but from there, we were slow to react. From the byline, Herrera cut the ball back to Martial who scored from five yards out despite the presence of four Arsenal players. (1-1)
Life became even more difficult when Rob Holding suffered an awkward fall on the touchline that required extensive treatment. He was stretchered away in real pain to be replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner. The Swiss was immediately done for pace by Rashford who then drew a sliding tackle from Mustafi just outside the box on the byline.
Referee Andre Mariner waved a yellow at the German. In the space of five minutes, he produced four more. Rojo, Lindgard, Bellerin and Matic all went in the book as a scrappy game turned tetchy. Worryingly, Aaron Ramsey also required extensive treatment after twisting his ankle and the Welshman did well to limp through to the break.
There was no change of shape for the second half, but Ramsey was replaced by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was returning to Old Trafford for the first time since his January move.
Neither side seemed particularly fussed about going for the jugular. United, who’ve been criticised this season for the laboured build-up play, were true to form and in response, we sat back and soaked up their occasional probing.
A Dalot run down the right was a flash of danger but he dallied on the ball when he went to cross and Mustafi cleared. The noise rose again as Leno tipped over Rojo’s drive.
Back came Arsenal. Like the first half, Kolasinac on the left was the outlet, but his final ball was found wanting. Emery recognised the need for change and sent on Lacazette for Iwobi. The Frenchman took up a central position and Aubameyang, who’d been anonymous, went left. Mourinho also switched things up, sending on Lukaku for the injured Martial.
Out of nothing, the game exploded into life. And it started with us taking the lead again.
Rojo, trying to play the ball out of defence under pressure from Mkhitaryan, gave the ball to Lacazette who charged forward. A quick one-two with our Armenian put him one-on-one with De Gea, but before he could shoot, Rojo ploughed through the back of him and the ball dribbled into the net. Lacazette was left in a heap, initially mobbed by teammates but then the medical team. (2-1)
The treatment was the only thing that delayed a United equaliser. Straight from kick-off, we fell to pieces at the back and Lindgard nipped in front of Kolasinac, who’d made a terrible attempt at a back pass, to slip the ball under Leno. There were less than 90 seconds between the goals. (2-2)
We wrestled the momentum back and squandered two glorious chances to restore our lead. De Gea stopped Aubameyang from close range, then Mkhitaryan clipped over from a yard when it was harder to do that than score. The United keeper then flung himself to his left to tip an Aubameyang curler around the post. In between, Mourinho sent on Fellaini and Pogba.
On the touchline, Emery and Mourinho were full of nervous energy, flinging their arms in despair. Both wanted order, shape and a bit of calm. It wasn’t forthcoming.
Leno nearly spilled a Rashford swirler. Torreira went in the book. Fellaini pulled Guendouzi’s hair and Lacazette headed the ball out of De Gea’s hand to put the ball in the back of the net. He was the only one in the ground who tried to celebrate.
Deep into stoppage time we continued to search for a winner. De Gea saved a Torreira drive and Mkhitaryan put the ball in the net, but he was offside as he swung his terrific volley in from a tight angle. It was the last meaningful action of a crazy night.