Jose Mourinho praised the “big soul” of his Manchester United side in their 2-2 draw with Arsenal but bemoaned costly errors.
After a positive opening by United, David De Gea allowed Shkodran Mustafi’s header to slip through his hands, with Ander Herrera failing to clear in time on the line.
Arsenal’s second goal saw Marcos Rojo try desperately to make up for his error in giving the ball to Alexandre Lacazette only to slide in and score an own goal.
United responded quickly both times, with Anthony Martial grabbing the first equaliser before a calamity at the back for Arsenal allowed Jesse Lingard to nip in and level only 13 seconds after Rojo’s own goal.
Mourinho was forced into a number of changes by his ever-growing injury list, particularly in defence. He selected Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly despite neither being fully fit while Rojo made his first appearance of the season and Diogo Dalot his first ever start in the Premier League.
Mourinho said: “Maybe we feel frustrated with the result, we feel frustrated with some mistakes, we feel frustrated with some moments where a little bit more quality would be needed but we have to be happy with the spirit, we have to be happy with the effort, the dynamic, the intensity.
“The team had a big soul. We scored four goals and we drew 2-2. Even in matches like today where we play well, we always shoot ourselves.
“But good performances. I could speak about everyone. Especially in moments where we are not very happy with the result, we need happiness on the pitch.”
Mourinho dropped Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku to the bench, with both coming on in the second half, but denied the team’s level of happiness was improved by neither being in the starting line-up.
He said: “I think Paul came on and gave a good contribution. I brought freshness and power to the attacking players but our defenders were dead. That made it more difficult to keep that happiness for the 95 minutes.
“In the last part of the game it was Arsenal wanting the draw, diving, getting the game stopped.”
Mourinho reserved special praise for 19-year-old Dalot, who showed plenty of attacking intent down the right.
“The kid Diogo, fantastic,” added the United boss. “I think Gary Neville must be thinking now that Manchester United has a right-back for 10 years.”
Martial limped off during the second half but Mourinho offered a positive assessment, describing the Frenchman’s problem as a “pre-injury” after he felt tightness.
In a game crammed full of fouls, blunders and other feisty incidents, it was only fitting that another defensive error – the woeful Sead Kolasinac chief culprit – allowed Lingard to steal in for the equaliser.
Shkodran Mustafi’s header was ruled over the line via goal-line technology and an ultra-rare David De Gea blunder before Anthony Martial levelled things up despite a marginal offside shout on Ander Herrera.
Alexandre Lacazette very briefly gave the Gunners sight of the three points, this time Marcos Rojo losing possession in the build-up, but Lingard replied almost straight from kick-off.
Bernd Leno – Was barely an effort that needed saving. But could he have done better in parrying the Marcos Rojo free-kick – that resulted in Martial’s goal – out of danger? Probably. 6
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – Arsenal are becoming a hard-nosed side under Emery and Sokratis showed off his iron snout for the most part, but a mark has to be taken off for his weak challenge on Lukaku that led to the Lingard tap-in. 6
Shkodran Mustafi – Simply bullied Chris Smalling for the header that led to De Gea’s howler and is looking stronger alongside Sokratis with every passing week. 7
Rob Holding – Started the match confidently, helping weather United’s early pressure, before being stretchered off due to what looks like a nasty knee injury. 6
Hector Bellerin – Matteo Darmian was a clear weak spot in an altogether poor Red Devils defence, but Bellerin was surprisingly timid in the final third. 5
Lucas Torreira – The yapper and scrapper also looks pretty dapper with the ball at his feet, and put in another fine all-round display at Old Trafford. Delivered the cross for the opener. 8
Matteo Guendouzi – Looked pretty ragged with Ander Herrera snapping at his heels, but gained some measure of composure as the game wore on. 6
Sead Kolasinac – Should have done much better when given the freedom of Old Trafford down the left at one moment in the second half. Then stumbled over his own shoelaces to gift Lingard United’s second. 3
Aaron Ramsey – His jersey was never far away from the action and that was to be his downfall, as he tweaked his ankle going in for a lusty tackle in the first half. 6
Alex Iwobi – It’s hard to see Iwobi forming a big part of Emery’s plans going forward, particularly with young gun Reiss Nelson firing on loan at Hoffenheim. His night was littered with poor first touches. 4
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang – After a limp opening hour he finally extracted himself from Eric Bailly’s pocket and let a couple efforts fly, only being thwarted by a De Gea intent on making up for his first-half error. 6
Stephan Lichtsteiner (36′) – Got his head in the way of a dangerous looking Herrera header in the first half and was generally steady. 6
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (45′) – Helped set up the move that led to Rojo’s own goal and then could have played the hero after making space in between United’s hapless defence, only to blaze over from point-blank range. 6
Alexandre Lacazette (63′) – Seems to make something happen every time he is brought onto the pitch, though it nearly cost him dearly after Rojo’s wild lunge left him on the floor. 7
Here, we compare Pep Guardiola’s side with Arsene Wenger’s class of 15 years ago.
Start and projected finish
City, the defending champions and league leaders, have opened their season with 13 wins and two draws from their opening 15 games, earning them 41 points. This already puts them ahead of the Gunners, who had accumulated just 35 points at this stage and were a point behind then leaders Chelsea.
At their current rate of progress, City would finish the season with 104 points, eclipsing their own record 100 from last season and bettering the Invincibles’ 90 by 14.
Guardiola’s men have scored 45 goals so far this campaign, a neat average of three per game. Continuing at this rate would see them net 114, again beating their own record from last season of 106.
After 15 games in 2003/04, Arsenal had scored 29 – the same as title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United. They went on to end the campaign with 73, an average 1.92 per game.
Defensively, City have improved this term. They have conceded seven goals as opposed to the 10 they had shipped in at this stage a year ago. Arsenal had already conceded 11 goals after 15 games in 2003/04 and allowed in 26 during the whole campaign.
City conceded 27 during last season’s title success but their present average suggests they could get through the whole campaign letting in as few as 18.
Wenger’s Invincibles typically played in a 4-4-2 formation in which full-backs Lauren and Ashley Cole provided extra attacking options. Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell were solid centre-backs while Patrick Vieira and Gilberto offered protection from midfield. Creativity came from Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg while Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp made a formidable attacking pair.
Guardiola rotates his side and varies their shape more often, but the philosophy remains the same, with high pressing and fluid attacks built from the back, often beginning with goalkeeper Ederson.
There is consistency at the back with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones being this season’s preferred central pairing and Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy – before he was injured – offering pace out wide.
Fernandinho anchors the midfield while any combination of David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus add the attacking impetus. Kevin De Bruyne, last season’s star man, has barely featured yet due to injury.
Arsenal’s main challenges in 2003/04 came from United – the previous year’s champions – and Chelsea, who were newly acquired by Roman Abramovich and spending lavishly.
At the halfway stage United led the way by a point with Chelsea three points further back. United wobbled in the new year and Arsenal took a decisive grip with a nine-game winning run. They eventually finished 11 points clear of a Chelsea squad that boasted Frank Lampard, John Terry, Marcel Desailly, Emmanuel Petit, Joe Cole and Damien Duff.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United had lost David Beckham but still had Paul Scholes, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane and a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
This season, City’s biggest challenge is coming from Liverpool, who have added greater defensive strength to the attacking abilities that carried them to the Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp last season.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are the next best but are starting to fall behind. City have already won at Arsenal and Spurs and drawn at Anfield. They travel to Stamford Bridge this weekend.