- Washout! No relief for Man Utd, Arsenal or Pepe as struggles continue14:24 | 01/10/2019
Both teams continued their patchy form on a miserable, wet night at Old Trafford as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cancelled out Scott McTominay’s opener.
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Manchester United and Arsenal are a pair of average teams, pockmarked by errors, who will do well to trouble the top four come the end of the season.
But then we knew that already.
There was a time when this fixture was must-see TV, and where not a seat would be up for grabs inside Old Trafford.
On Monday night there was probably better entertainment available on other channels, while conversations with perennial season ticket holders revealed a surplus of spares they were struggling to get shot of on a miserably wet Manchester night.
Throw in the fact that Manchester United are playing Arsenal when most of Europe’s better teams are preparing for Champions League duty on Tuesday and Wednesday and you have the overall impression of two teams in the doldrums.
That’s the reality of things, with United barely capable of beating Rochdale these days and Arsenal – like United – having trouble putting away the Premier League’s lesser lights.
Each squad is saddled with the kind of also-rans that would not have starred under Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger. Each manager is having trouble on conjuring anything approaching a coherent identity on the field.
At least Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows his team performs better on the break, even if the rest of the league has taken that as a cue to settle in and see if United can break them down. Generally, they can’t.
But Arsenal were generous enough at least to cough up one opportunity for United to gallop on the counter, which was eventually finished off by Scott McTominay.
Even that goal had a touch of the shambolic about it. Dan James is quick and probably United’s best player so far this season but has on occasion failed to match his speed with an end ball. His cross was predictably too long for Marcus Rashford, whose own pull-back for Paul Pogba at the edge of the box overran.
It was dispatched by McTominay via a fortuitous deflection. That was the only highlight of an otherwise forgettable first half in which neither team distinguished itself.
Arsenal’s equaliser was just as messy. Harry Maguire was caught too far back when Axel Tuanzebe had his pocket picked and Bukayo Saka found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with the through ball.
There will be recriminations due to referee Kevin Friend and assistant Scott Ledger initially ruling the goal out for offside and then going back and awarding the goal after a consultation with VAR.
Solskjaer could be seen approaching fourth official Chris Kavanagh miming a whistle action, suggesting he at least thought Friend had brought play to a halt.
However, players have been instructed to follow play until its conclusion, which David De Gea did not do when faced with Aubameyang’s finish.
There are green shoots for both clubs though. The performance of Saka for Arsenal and, late on, Mason Greenwood for United show that there is quality filtering through the ranks. Saka almost had a goal but his shot was steered over the top via Victor Lindelof.
And while Saka takes his chances in the first team, record signing Nicolas Pepe is still looking for his Lille form. At least he was here, unlike Mesut Ozil, who was simply not selected for this fixture by Unai Emery.
He had one good attempt saved by De Gea in the first half but was wasteful at times. His inattentiveness, also, almost presented Maguire with the chance to make amends for his offside fumble. Bernd Leno was equal to it.
Rashford, the assist aside, remains a frustrated figure. He got his legs in a tangle on one Paul Pogba through ball in the first half and just missed a connection to a header in the second.
He might have papered over the cracks in injury time with a well-directed free-kick but Leno again came out on top.
All in all, it was a game and 1-1 result that did nothing to suggest that either of these sides are going to have successful seasons. Another washout.
Source – Goal.com
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