Result: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: Sunday 4th September
Venue: Old Trafford
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Lokonga, Xhaka, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus
Subs: Turner, Tomiyasu, Cedric, Holding, Tierney, Smith-Rowe, Vieira, Marquinhos, Nketiah
Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners at Old Trafford, despite a largely dominant Arsenal display, to end the Gunners’ run of wins.
Man United’s goals came from Antony (on his debut) and Marcus Rashford, who bagged a brace. Saka scored Arsenal’s only goal.
This season’s trip to Old Trafford saw Arsenal arrive in a confident mood – enjoying their best start to a season since 04/05. Mikel Arteta’s men were looking to make it 6 wins out of 6 to start the season, which would be the first time it’s happened since 1948.
However, Erik Ten Hag has started to get Manchester United playing after losing their first two games of the campaign. It promised to be the toughest challenge so far for the Gunners.
Arteta recieved a big boost before the game as Aaron Ramsdale, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Martin Ødegaard were all passed fit. Zinchenko returned to the side after two games out of the team.
Manchester United kicked off and started with a period of sustained pressure. But a clearance by Sambi Lokonga saw Gabriel Jesus out-muscle Lisandro Martinez and win a free-kick. Martinez was lucky not to be booked.
Man United’s bright start continued and new signing Antony used a clever chop to find Diego Dalot, who put a cross on Christian Eriksen’s boot at the back post, but the Dane fired wide. Soon after, William Saliba popped up on the edge of the Man United box at the end of a well worked set piece, but fired high and wide.
Then 12 minutes in, Arsenal thought they broke the deadlock after a fantastic breakaway goal from Gabriel Martinelli. However, the goal was chalked off after Paul Tierney was told to review a challenge by Martin Ødegaard on Eriksen, which was deemed to be a foul. Soft.
Arsenal were first to receive a booking, naturally. The yellow card came out for Saliba’s first foul of the game, as he tripped Jadon Sancho on the halfway line.
Half an hour in and Arsenal were really asserting their dominance with excellent passing moves and creating more chances more frequently as a result. Martinelli forced a decent save from David De Gea into a save after he headed for goal from an Ødegaard cross.
But it was Man United who took the lead against the run of play on 34 minutes. A fine pass from Marcus Rashford whose pass found it’s way through to the debutant Antony – who slotted home past Ramsdale. 1-0 Man United.
Arsenal continued to trouble Man United, but their lack of cutting edge on the final ball held them back. This was epitomised by a lovely pass and go between Ødegaard and Saka, but the latter failed to pull the trigger on the return.
Arsenal continued their dominance of possession after the break. Their pressure told on 51 minutes when Jesus played a perfect cutback to Ødegaard who completely fluffed his lines and skewed the ball wide. Soon after, Saka fired a vicious shot just wide and was then clattered by Tyrell Malacia, but the unwritten rule that a defender can take out an attacker after a shot has been taken lives on.
As we approached the hour mark, Man United made the first substitution of the game as their goalscorer Antony was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bang on the hour, the Gunners hit back. Arsenal nicked the ball in midfield and Ødegaard’s pass was cut out just as Jesus was pulling the trigger, but it fell to Saka who calmly slotted home. Saka has been playing excellently of late, but there was plenty of noise about his lack of goals. Well, now there isn’t.
But for all the dominance and growing belief amongst Arsenal faithful and players alike, that they could go on and grab another goal, it was Man United who once again scored against the grain. A slow-to-react Saliba, could only watch as Rashford was slotted through the middle of the Arsenal defence and rolled the ball home to regain the lead. 2-1 Man United.
It was the 73rd minute when Arteta decided to make a triple substitution. Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, and new boy Fabio Vieira came on for Ødegaard, Lokonga and Zinchenko. An attacking change, with shades of kitchen sink, that would see Vieira make his Premier League debut.
But seemingly before Arsenal could even sort out where everyone was now playing, Man United scored a third. Eriksen just stayed onside before he broke behind the Arsenal defensive line and had Rashford for company, who he fed the ball to and the latter couldn’t miss. 3-1 Man United.
Arsenal won a free kick in the 81st minute, well within shooting range. It was Granit Xhaka who took it, but hit the top of the wall and wasted one of the last decent chances to get back in the game.
As the final whistle blew, the air was taken out of Arsenal’s robust form, but perhaps not the stuffing. It was a game that the Gunners dominated for long periods, creating plenty of chances, but their lack of killer instinct and susceptibility to the counter proved terminal in the end.
It’s Everton at home next, and it’s important Arsenal make this a blip rather than the start of a downturn in form.