Manchester United slumped to a defeat against Arsenal as United’s poor home form continued. In a tightly contested match, the Gunners came out on top after Aubameyang converted a penalty in the 69th minute.
This was Arsenal’s first win at Old Trafford in 14 years as they edged United in a defensive and slow game from both teams. United failed to show consistency and character where they were expected to bounce back and make a statement of intent.
The starting lineup was a predictable one as Ole went with his preferred backline of AWB, Maguire, Lindelof, and Shaw. Fred and McTominay were the holding midfielders alongside Pogba and Fernandes- with Rashford and Mason up ahead. David de Gea continued his fine run of form in at goalkeeper. This may have been a good game to start Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani but Ole went with a tried and tested lineup.
Both teams had a very slow and drab first half as they were mostly passing the ball among themselves without offering any genuine attacking threat. United were unable to press in the midfield and win the ball, as Fred who is usually the ball winner, was playing as the 3rd center back. The overall formation and gameplay did not make a lot of sense as Pogba seemed alienated for many parts of the game and Bruno Fernandes was unable to connect with Rashford and Mason in the final third. Arsenal’s midfield and defense were crowding out Fernandes and Pogba.
Attacking runs from Rashford and Mason were few and far apart. When there was one, it would be flagged offside- highlighting the lack of coordination between the midfield and the attack. Till the 29th minute, United had only completed 3 passes in the final 3rd and had 1 shot on target. As HT approached, Arsenal’s wingers began to trouble United as crosses started flying in. Arsenal had the upper hand in the game and looked extremely dangerous but United’s defense held firm.
Ole tweaked the formation at half time as United looked much stronger at the beginning of the second half. As the midfield and attack began to connect, United looked dangerous. Arsenal responded with some good slick movement and put United on the backfoot. This moment would’ve been good to pull the trigger on subs and bring on Edinson Cavani in order to capitalize on the pressure. The battle of the midfield continued as Fred was successfully pickpocketing Arsenal’s players but unfortunately, Pogba was prone to giving the ball away too often.
Unfortunately in the 67th minute, Paul Pogba brought down Bellerin in the box. There weren’t too many protests from Pogba as his foul was unnecessary and frankly quite senseless. Aubameyang sent de Gea the wrong way and put Arsenal ahead- frustrating Manchester United. The referring came into question on multiple occasions today. The referee booked Mason Greenwood for a fair challenge. In a similar scenario, Gabriel lunged into Matic in the box making no contact with the ball- but not only was there no foul called, but VAR failed to intervene too. Ole finally pulled the trigger on attacking substitutions bringing on Cavani and Van de Beek for Mason and Fernandes. It may have been a better choice to bring Pogba off as the Frenchman struggled today. Gabriel was already on a yellow card and this challenge would’ve certainly ended his night on the pitch.
United continued to find the equalizer but their overall passing and movement were very slow and lazy. Arsenal got numbers behind the ball and held their defensive shape. During this, Edinson Cavani’s attacking runs would’ve been good to spot but United’s playmakers were completely swamped by Arsenal. A few crisp movements saw Donny van de Beek hit the post but otherwise United did not trouble Leno too much. There were a few set pieces at the death but the quality was extremely lacking. United tried to find some killer passes into the box but it was too little too late as Arsenal took all 3 points, condemning United to 15th place in the table.
- Defensively United were sound. Maguire and Lindelof have had a few good games together.
- David de Gea made a couple of good saves and gave his teammates an outlet for passes.
- Fred and McTominay did well in their positions, as did Matic but the connection between them and the attack was missing.
Things to Improve
- The quality of passing between midfield and attack must improve– there is a theme where we fail to muster up good passes against defensive teams and end up losing the ball.
- The center backs should not need to be playmakers. They are meant to pass the ball forward and man the back. Pushing Lindelof and Maguire up ahead to build up an attack leaves us vulnerable on the back
- Pogba had a rough day today- he gave the ball away too much and also gave away the penalty.
- Rashford and Mason need to run into space to give Bruno options! If they don’t move around enough they will never get open.
- Referring, but I don’t get to suggest improvements there.