Years ago, a match between Manchester United and Arsenal would glue us into the screens. When the eras of Ferguson and Wenger collided, there were some pretty epic battles in the last decade among these two elite teams.
Nowadays, however, both teams are a shadow of what they been and they both have been struggling to stay in the top 6.
Still, a classic is a classic and in the match that ended the 7th weekend of Premier League schedule football, the clash at Old Trafford had everyone buzzing.
Liverpool and Manchester City have already run away, being isolated in the top 2 and leaving Leicester in third. Arsenal needed a win to equal Leicester and get into the top 3.
They had just made a thrilling comeback during the last matchday, against Aston Villa and thus this was an opportunity to get back to back wins.
Manchester United, however, had only achieved 2 victories in the first 6 matches and had already lost twice. Both defeats weren’t even against the powerhouses of the Premier, they were against Crystal Palace and West Ham.
Ole Solskjaer, former Manchester United legend, is the man who is (still) at the wheel of Manchester United. The Norwegian had to deal with the absences of Eric Bailly, Fosu-Mensah and Martial, due to injuries and also Wan-Bissaka, since the fullback was ill.
Besides that, there were no signs of Luke Shaw or Diogo Dalot, not even on the bench. Instead, Ole put Ashley Young and Tuanzebe as right and left-back, respectively, with Maguire and Lindelof in the middle. In the center, Scottish international McTominay, who aligned with Pogba (Matic was on the bench).
In a 4-2-3-1, Ole decided to put Andreas Pereira, Lingard and Daniel James, to supply Marcus Rashford up front.
Meanwhile, Arsenal also had some surprises in the lineup. Youngster Bukayo Saka, who was under the spotlight for his performance in the Europa League, started alongside Aubameyang and Summer signing Nicolas Pepe.
Lacazette, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, hasn’t been called to this game yet. In a 4-3-3, Guendouzi, Torreira and recently appointed captain Granit Xhaka, constituted the midfield.
A normal midfield in Unai Emery’s standards, overly defensive, but, as we will see throughout the game, lacked the creativity that Ceballos could bring on the pitch.
The Spanish midfielder, on loan from Real Madrid, started on the bench and came only during the second half. Also, there was no sign of Mesut Ozil, not even in the sidelines (heading to the MLS table, maybe?).
Kolasinac and Chambers played as fullbacks – as Kieran Tierney and Bellerin are recovering from injuries too – and the Deadline Day unit, David Luiz and Sokratis pairing in the center of defense. In the goal Bernd Leno.
McTominay lights up Old Trafford before halftime
There was not much happening during the first 10 minutes. Besides an atrocious free-kick routine from Arsenal and the first yellow of the game for Callum Chambers.
Manchester United can’t brag of playing much better football, as Pogba’s first attacking attempt was a ridiculous cross into the stands.
Same fate on the other side of the pitch: Nicolas Pepe trying to put a free-kick into the box, sending the ball off the bounds. If you are a football fan, neutral or not, you can’t wonder but feel bad for Alex Ferguson. He was suffering in the stands, looking at the way his former team is playing.
The highlights of the first half pretty much sum up Fergie’s natural frustration. Besides an Andreas Pereira attempt, close to the post, we had to wait until the last minute to see an effort on target: that actually resulted in a goal.
Pogba with a run on the right-left the ball for Rashford who passed back into McTominay. The Scottish midfielder lobbed the ball from outside the box. With the help of an astonished Arsenal defense, he broke the deadlock. 1-0, before halftime.
VAR controversy and Aubameyang equalizes
Arsenal came back into the game with more energy, but without creating any actual goal chances. Despite that, Manchester United would complain about a potential Kolasinac handball claim. The ref counted it as a casual touch.
The Gunners would still equalize nonetheless, without doing much for that. A misplaced pass by Tuanzebe gave away the ball to Saka. The youngster quickly passed to Aubameyang. He made no hesitation to score his 7th goal in 7 games.
The referee ruled it offside. Though, after consulting the VAR they saw it was clear that the Gabonese striker was in a legal position.
There were not many more goal chances throughout the game, with Saka shooting it wide over De Gea’s goal. Both the Spanish keeper and Bernd Leno had quiet nights on their own, making almost no saves. It quite sums up how empty on occasions this match was.
The whistle blew with the game ending 1-1. Ole Solkskjaer unexplainably finished the game without making all 3 substitutions. Besides needing the 3 points more than Arsenal, the Norwegian seemed resolute in making changes.
With this draw, Arsenal holds on to the 4th place, 2 points away from Leicester and tied with West Ham. Manchester United are now in 10th place, having only 9 points from their 7 opening games in the Premier League table.
This is the lowest number of points at this stage of the season, since 1989-90 (7).
As for Arsenal, Unai Emery keeps being contested. Yet, the numbers show he has similar numbers in his first 44 games than Wenger had in his 44 last.
After the stalemate, both teams will have Europa League group stage matches on Thursday. Manchester United will face Eredivisie table team AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. Arsenal plays at home against Standard Liege, of Belgium.