Old Trafford witnessed an error-strewn performance with Axel Tuanzebe’s stray pass leading to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the equaliser for the away side in the 58th minute.
Scott McTominay’s effort from range handed United the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils despite an intense last 20 minutes.
Here, we look at the talking points form the encounter.
MCTOMINAY STEPPING UP
Is there a more improved player than McTominay in the Premier League at the moment? This is not to say that the 22-year-old was lacking to begin with but he’s certainly not the most breathtaking talent to emerge from United’s academy.
However, since breaking into the first team last season, his progress has been remarkable. A strong work ethic was always present, evidenced by his gruelling training sessions in Dubai over the summer, but with every game he gets under his belt the Scot grows as a midfielder.
At 6ft 4in, McTominay is blessed with the physique to thrive in England’s top flight and as he’s become increasingly confident; his ability on the ball has been gradually revealed.
His strike to hand United the lead was top notch and didn’t belong in a match so starved of quality. He certainly did the spectators a favour though as it seemed to set up a far more tolerable spectacle in the second period.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to lead United down this long road to recovery, surely McTominay is established as an indispensable building block.
Much has been made about United dispensing of both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez over the summer without replacements. The Chilean may have been dead weight and though Lukaku wasn’t Solskjaer’s preferred choice, he did account for a good chunk of goals.
With Anthony Martial injured, United’s shortcomings in attack have been exposed. For all his good qualities, Rashford is still lacking the finishing touch. Meanwhile, Mason Greenwood has been hailed by Solskjaer as one of the best finishers he’s ever seen but the teenager is still being used sparingly.
On the other side of the battle lines, the Gunners are well-stocked for ammunition. Even in the absence of the injured Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang’s presence meant they retained a lethal goal-scorer up front.
Arsenal have hardly been impressive this season but their firepower has bailed them out repeatedly, thanks in no small part to their clinical nature in front of goal.
On this occasion, Aubameyang pounced on an error in United’s defence and when faced with an onrushing David De Gea, expertly chipped the ball over the Spaniard and into the back of the net. It was a finish that oozed class. It was one of a handful of actions from the Gabon international who otherwise lingered on the fringes of the game. But for an elite striker, one moment is all you need.
Meanwhile, United have failed to score more than one goal in a game since their opening day win over Chelsea. What they would give for a finisher in Aubameyang’s mould.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY
For years, United and Arsenal’s encounters were the ones to look out for when the fixtures were revealed. The late ’90s and early ’00s were littered with pulsating clashes between the two English giants with the monstrous figures of Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira patrolling the midfield, sporting armbands that are now donned by Ashley Young and Granit Xhaka.
It was equal parts champagne football and a bloodbath. Even when Arsenal’s title challenges fell away, you could count on good football when the two crossed paths. Entertainment was guaranteed.
This disheveled display though was indicative of how far both teams have fallen now. Neither are anywhere near mounting a title challenge and even securing a top four spot seems more like an ideal than a clear and attainable objective.
Monday night’s game was a horrible advert for the Premier League and an embarrassment to the monumental battles this fixture served up in years gone by. The only comfort for both sides remain each others’ misery. How the mighty have fallen.
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