On Monday 30 September, Manchester United and Arsenal faced off at Old Trafford in the Premier League. The match was an opportunity for both teams to get a respectable win after neither enjoyed a great start to their seasons. In the past few weeks, Arsenal lost convincingly to Liverpool and suffered a frustrating draw against Watford. Meanwhile, United came under criticism for their defeats to Crystal Palace and West Ham.
The teams lined sharply on the pitch, with young striker Marcus Rashford returning from injury for United, and Arsenals’ attack headed by the dangerous Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and new signing, Nicolas Pépé.
The opening stages of the game were tight with both teams having chances, but none clear-cut. As the match progressed, Arsenal began to put some sustained pressure on United as they fired crosses into the home side’s box.
The first real opportunity came in the 28th minute when United midfielder, Andreas Pereira, took on a few Arsenal players and found himself with a chance to shoot on goal. However, his effort was rather tame and only required a routine save from Arsenal keeper, Bernd Leno.
Arsenal’s strike force troubled United’s defence as Aubameyang and Pépé linked up nicely throughout the first half. In the 35th minute, Aubameyang managed to find Pépé in space at United’s back post, providing him with an excellent chance to test United’s keeper De Gea. Still, his shot didn’t trouble the Spaniard who dealt with it comfortably.
As half time approached, United had a chance to open the scoring in the 42nd minute after forcefully winning the ball off of Arsenal midfielder, Mattéo Guendouzi. Paul Pogba then played a clinical ball to Marcus Rashford in the final third. Right as it looked like the England international had a clear shot on goal, he lost his footing which allowed Arsenal defender, Sokratis, to catch up and block his effort.
Arsenal answered back to United’s pressure by launching a counterattack that saw a ball from Pépé find its way through to their 18-year old winger, Bukayo Saka, putting him through on goal with only United defender, Lindelöf, to beat. Saka’s effort forced a save out of De Gea who parried the shot to his left and then made another fantastic save to prevent Guendouzi’s rebound form finding the back of the net, sending the ball out for an Arsenal corner.
The resulting corner was headed away buy United who then quickly shifted from defence to attack, catching Arsenal off guard. Pereira collected the ball and played it down the line to young Welsh winger, Daniel James, who was deep In Arsenal’s half. James looked to find Rashford in the box, but his cross was too far in front of his teammate, and it looked like the chance may have fizzled out. However, Rashford kept his cool, collected the ball and found his teammate Scott McTominay on the edge of Arsenal’s penalty area. The young Scotsman calmly took a touch before releasing a ferocious shot into the top left corner of Arsenal’s goal to put his side 1-0 up in the 44th minute. The goal was a severe blow for Arsenal after an incredible first half.
As the second half began, the game continued to be a close contest as both sides had a few half chances but no real opportunities on goal.
Arsenal’s persistence paid off in the 57th minute as United carelessly lost possession in their half with a stray pass putting the ball at the feet of Arsenal’s Saka. Saka then played a simple through pass to Aubameyang as he neared United’s goal and had time to slot it past De Gea calmly. Initially, Old Trafford breathed a collective sigh of relief as the linesman’s raised his flag for offside against the Arsenal striker. However, this relief did not last long as the referee reviewed the passage of play using VAR. After further examination it was determined that Aubameyang was not offside, leveling the game at 1-1.
The home side very much dominated the closing stages of the game with United having multiple chances to take the lead. Paul Pogba saw his long-range attempt go just wide of Leno’s post in the 64th minute, minutes later McTominay had a header go over the bar from a corner. New signing, Harry Maguire, also had a shot from range which forced an acrobatic save out of Leno in the 72nd minute.
The game kept the attention of the supporters right till the end, with United awarded a free kick on the edge of Arsenal’s area in the 90th minute. Marcus Rashford stepped up to take it and potentially capture three much-needed points for his side. His effort was on target, but Arsenal’s Leno pulled off another good save to keep his side level, and the game ended 1-1.
Overall the outcome was fair, and while both sides would have loved to come away with three points, a draw against another top-six rival was a solid result for both teams given their recent run of form, particularly for United.
Both sides are in action on 3 October in the Europa League with United facing Dutch team AZ Alkmaar and Arsenal playing Belgium’s Standard Liege.