The curtain raiser of Premier League gameweek 12 – Manchester United vs Arsenal – had every promise to be an exciting clash, and no one can deny that it has lived up to the expectations.
Jose Mourinho chose to go with pace up front, handing starting berths to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford ahead of the skipper Wayne Rooney who has been having a hard week because of some off the field controversies. Juan Mata and Paul Pogba were also installed in the attacking midfield roles and these players made immediate impact after the kick off.
As early as in the fourth minute of the game, the home side got a freekick outside the box and Mata tried to curl the ball perfectly, but the ball went only a yard outside the left post. Alexis Sanchez, on the other hand, tried his luck with a feeble header but it could not hit the target.
While the first 45 minutes were full of action on both ends, a short spell of a few minutes around the half hour mark was extremely exhilarating for the Red Devils. It started with a penalty shout against Nacho Monreal when the Spaniard stopped Antonio Valencia inside the box. But, the referee did not consider it a serious offense. Moments later, Pogba found Mata with a delicious ball and the midfielder went past an Arsenal defender with ease, before taking a strike at the goal. Petr Cech, however, made a quick save to keep him at bay. And then, soon after, Martial took the best shot of the half that almost went in, but the Arsenal custodian managed to parry it with a stunning effort.
Without a doubt, Manchester United were playing better football, albeit they failed to break the deadlock. In particular, throughout the first half, Pogba showed his attacking prowess with quick runs and impeccable timings with killer passes. However, the attackers failed to capitalize on them and the half ended goalless.
In the beginning of the second half, Martial and Rashford were wrecking havoc on the opponent defense with their considerable pace. Carl Jenkinson, installed in the Gunners backline after more than a year, found it immensely difficult to deal with the pace and skill of the United duo. The Frenchman, a few minutes into the second half, almost got an outstanding opportunity using his speed but his effort in the end was not up to the mark. After one hour of play, however, he was substituted by the boss and in came Wayne Rooney.
The change seemed to work like a charm for the home side, and they found the breakthrough at the stroke of 68th minute. It started with Pogba as he fed a nice ball to an onrushing Ander Herrera who from the right side laid the ball on to the path of Mata. The former Chelsea man then slotted it home with a well-placed strike and United were up 1-0!
Arsene Wenger brought Olivier Giroud and Granit Xhaka in the last part of the game, but it had little effect on a confident United who almost got their second around 80th minute. Substitute Daley Blind floated in a brilliant cross that found Marcos Rojo inside the Arsenal box, but the Argentine’s head failed to test Cech at all.
And then, as it seemed that Mourinho’s men are heading towards a nice well-earned victory, the final substitute from Wenger ruined everything for United. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain came in for an out of sort Jenkinson, and he was the one to fool Rashford on the right flank, before sending a dangerous cross towards Manchester box. And it met a certain Olivier Giroud who has shown his heading strength many times in his career. The French striker jumped high and timed the header perfectly to beat David De Gea. With the first strike on target, Arsenal managed to equalize with moments to go and the viewers were in for a scintillating end to the match.
Both the teams then tried their best to find a winner during the stoppage time, but the super hyped Manchester United vs Arsenal ended 1-1, much to the dismay of the home side who were clearly the better side for most parts of the game.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian (Blind, 64′); Carrick, Herrera; Mata (Schneiderlin, 85′), Pogba, Martial (Rooney, 63′); Rashford.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson (Oxlade Chamberlain, 84′), Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin (Xhaka, 80′), Elneny (Giroud, 73′); Walcott, Ozil, Ramsey; Alexis Sanchez.
Goals: Mata (68′), Giroud (89′).
Manchester United vs Arsenal Highlights:
Manchester United vs Arsenal Match Statistics:
|Shots (on target)||12 (5)||5 (1)|
|Passes played (accuracy)||354 (80%)||437 (78%)|
|Fouls conceded (Bookings)||14 (3 yellow)||11 (3 yellow)|
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Photo by Sean MacEntee