Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal
After last season’s winning aberration, it was back to business with another defeat at Old Trafford.
As the scoreline suggests though, it was a case of fine margins. ‘Frustrating’ was the word much of my Twitter timeline used at the final whistle, and – classic glass half full – I think that’s not a bad thing. It means we shouldn’t have lost.
I actually thought we played alright – we had more possession and more shots – and when our attacking came together, as it did for our second goal, it was a joy to watch.
But ye gods, we don’t half make things hard for ourselves, do we? We were the architects of our own demise in the end. Careless penalty box tackles, misplaced passes in midfield, defenders switching off, a lack of ruthlessness in the final third – tick, tick, tick, tick. Sure, we can put it down to it being a young team etc – but that doesn’t really apply to Aubameyang, who had another worrying performance, and Partey, who a couple of driving runs aside and a good pre-assist, wasn’t on it at all.
A football first
It’s not often you see something you’ve never seen before on a football pitch, which is what made the first goal so odd. But De Gea went down having been fouled by his own man, and assumed he’d get the free kick – but that was never going to happen. Smith Rowe was concentrating on nothing but the ball so had every right to take a pop. Goal. I can only assume De Gea thought he’d been fouled by an Arsenal player? Either that, or like many of the rest of us, he wasn’t quite sure. Not sure he’ll do that again, either way – hobble on regardless will be the instruction.
Goal ping pong followed. An equaliser when Fernandes got between White and Partey too easily, and another one for Ronaldo featuring the same suspects, before our best move of the game levelled things up. Then the penalty, which was just daft.
And that was that, despite two good crosses from Tavares finding Saka unmarked at the far post – but he was slightly too slow to capitalise.
A game of what ifs really. We didn’t capitalise enough during our good periods and we made too many mistakes, which is an Arsenal story as old as time.
Hat tip to Martinelli, who was always dangerous, to Smith Rowe who was good before fading, and to both our full backs who fought hard. Gabriel was good too, but as a defensive whole we weren’t quite there and in midfield we had Partey off form, and the willing but unremarkable Elneny was unremarkable, if always willing. Xhaka, you think, will slot straight back into this side.
So another big away day ends with us empty-handed, but this one was far less demoralising than the last two. Plenty to fix – but plenty to build on too.