Result: Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 1 November 2020
Venue: Old Trafford
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin, Partey, Elneny, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Subs: Runarsson, Mustafi, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Pepe, Nketiah
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second half penalty was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Arsenal at Manchester United; our first in the Premier League at Old Trafford since 2006.
From front to back, the Gunners produced a thoroughly disciplined performance, keeping the home side at arm’s length and working some neat opportunities in the final third.
It may have taken a goal from a set-piece to win it, but there’s no denying we deserved to take the points on an encouraging evening for Project Arteta.
Mikel Arteta made three changes from the side that started against Leicester last weekend. Rob Holding returned from a hamstring issue to take his place in the backline alongside Gabriel, Mohamed Elneny, rather than Granit Xhaka, partnered Thomas Partey in midfield and Willian was preferred over Dani Ceballos. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the left with Lacazette once again leading the line. Having impressed in midweek against Dundalk, there was no room in the squad for Reiss Nelson or Joe Willock.
Mikel Arteta will have been very pleased with the way his players executed his game plan in the opening 20 minutes.
From the off, we were compact, aggressive and very quick to break up United’s possession. Partey and Gabriel both caught the eye winning challenges and sparking counters and Elneny popped the ball around trying to up the tempo.
Creating clear cut chances, something we’ve struggled with all season, still proved difficult. Saka had a shot blocked at close quarters on 10 minutes after some neat build-up involving Partey and Aubameyang. Six minutes later our captain came close to connecting with a Bellerin cross at the back post. The ball just escaped him.
At the other end, Greenwood forced Leno to save with his feet after he latched onto a fine ball by Rashford.
The game grew gradually scruffier and was increasingly pockmarked by fouls. Referee Mike Dean was itching to reach for his pocket and sure enough, Fred, Holding and Gabriel all went into the book in quick succession.
As the game edged closer to the break, we started to push forward again and created three very decent chances. Aubameyang nearly teed up Lacazette who swung a leg at a cutback but missed the ball completely. The replay let him off the hook as it showed Lindeloff just deflecting the ball out of his path.
Two minutes later, Willian clipped the bar with a left-foot effort from the edge of the box after stealing the ball deep and playing a neat one-two with Aubameyang. To cap a bright but frustrated spell, Saka headed over a Bellerin cross. The look on his face said everything. He should have done much better.
United changed shape and came out with the bit between their teeth. Fernandes had a sighter deflected over and Wan Bissaka tried his luck to no avail.
In the 10 minutes that followed both sides traded fine chances to break the deadlock. Aubameyang curled just past De Gea’s post after Lacazette teed him up following a decent steal and drive forward. Then Maguire headed a Shaw set piece just wide after Bellerin had given away a cheap free-kick for a foul on Pogba.
After weathering United’s pressure, we started to take control again. Partey and Elneny both tried to beat De Gea from range. The Ghanaian forced a save, the Egyptian did not.
On 68 minutes a prolonged period of possession finally yielded a reward. After working the ball all over the pitch, Willian found Bellerin with a penetrating pass behind Shaw. As he reached the ball, Pogba clipped his ankles and Mike Dean pointed straight to the spot. It was a stone wall penalty. Aubameyang stepped up and put De Gea the wrong way. (1-0)
With so much riding on the game – both sides desperately needing three points to keep up with the race for the top four – the tension was palpable. Substitutions and fouls helped us stymy any United momentum as we started defending deeper and deeper. The presence of Aubameyang and substitute Nketiah, on for Lacazette, forced the home side to keep looking over their shoulder.
United kept pressing. Gabriel made a brilliant stop to deny Matic and Elneny came close to scoring an own goal when he deflected the ball into the face of Leno and off the post. A real let off. Arteta reacted by sending on Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Shkodran Mustafi for Willian and Aubameyang, who was booked for taking his time.
We did just enough to keep United at bay, our defence brilliantly soaking up everything thrown into the box. Wins at Old Trafford don’t come around too often, but when they do it’s usually by our favourite 1-0 scoreline. One to savour for sure.