Manchester United 2 – 2 Arsenal
It says much about how far we’ve come this season that the draw at Old Trafford left me disappointed. That we shot ourselves in the foot for the second equaliser deflates my mood more than Herrera being offside for the United opener. Neither sides’ defence comes out of an error-strewn game with any credit and nor do the officials.
Twice we led; twice we threw the points away within minutes which is a turn of events that will infuriate Unai Emery. While the failure of the officials to spot the dive and offside give rise to complaint, there is more to be concerned about our slow reactions. Herrera’s cross seemed to pass us by in slow-motion; maybe it was the car-crash inevitability of what was coming that slowed the action as I watched on?
Not that the second United goal is any easier to watch. A lazily heavy touch from Kolasinac pushed the ball into Lingard’s path and gave the midfielder the advantage over the sluggish approach of Leno. 2 – 2 within a minute of going ahead.
On the touchline, Unai Emery went from a joyous ‘WTF happened there’ look from Alexandre Lacazette’s goal to a baffled ‘WTF happened there?’ look.
Meanwhile, Andre Marriner – who else – missed so many incidents or wilfully ignored others. Five yellow cards in five minutes isn’t an official who is in control. Not dismissing Rojo for careless, reckless and dangerous play as he followed through studs up was typically appalling officiating. Not dismissing Fellaini for stopping Guendouzi by pulling his hair was just baffling.
Yes, a professional footballer committed a foul by pulling an opponent’s hair. What kind of moronic, cowardly thought process took place there? Then again, you only have to look at his manager to understand the mentality.
I Know What You’re Thinking, Punk
There was still time for Marriner to make a monumental cock-up. David de Gea stood with the ball in one hand, Lacazette headed it from its perch without touching the goalkeeper and scored. Not so, according to Marriner. According to Keith Hackett this morning, it’s “unsporting behaviour”. WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK? It’s crap goalkeeping and diabolical refereeing.
No wonder there were no Premier League referees at the last World Cup. They interpret rules liberally and make up interpretations that no-one else sees. So often we’re told continental referees are “fussy” and too rigid in applying rules. I’d rather that than officials who aren’t fit for purpose. At least you know where you stand.
Which, I confess that now I’ve got it all off my chest, makes me feel better. And appreciative of the point. Yes, we could have taken three but positively, there was rarely any danger in none. That we thought it might happen as the game drew to a close shows the depth of the scars of previous visits to Old Trafford.
The bad news didn’t end there. Rob Holding is set for a significant spell on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury. It’s a shame for him and us; our most consistent defender thus far and beginning to realise his potential under Unai Emery.
Aaron Ramsey’s twisted ankle by contrast, is a short-term problem and one which will no doubt see Mesut Özil’s back recovered by the weekend.
So, what of the performance overall? It was decent; we weathered the opening United storm and imposed ourselves. Hard work in midfield from Torreira and latterly Guendouzi, who came into his own after the interval. Defensively, Kolasinac was hit or miss and when he reached the byline in attack, every cross he hit seemed to miss its target.
Do You Feel Lucky?
For the most part, Sokratis and Mustafi were comfortable with United’s attack. They had their moments, every team does but overall, coped with everything United threw at them. And Mustafi managed the first goal with his powerful header too much for de Gea to handle. Ahem.
The intensity of Sunday impacted on last night; there were signs of fatigue in some of the players with the exertions taking their toll. It would be no surprise to see light training taking place ahead of the visit of Huddersfield this weekend.
There are issues to deal with, however. Principally, they rest with the defending which needs tightening. It seems the issue is communication which lay at the root of the second United goal. Leno seemed to be waiting for some clue what Kolasinac was going to do; would a simple instruction of ‘clear it!’ suffice?
I know that oversimplifies the situation but watching the replays it is obvious Leno expected Kolasinac to deal with the situation. It didn’t happen to our cost.
We dropped to fifth but are a point closer to Chelsea. We’ve taken four points from six and if you’d offered that last week, I would happily have taken it. The manner of Sunday’s victory and the disappointing way we conceded last night?
It feels deflating but then you remember it’s 20 unbeaten and that is nothing to sniff at. We can see the progress made by the squad over last season and positive signs for the future.
It’s Getting Better
And it is continuing improvement as well. Games we were losing last season, we are drawing or winning. The gap to the top four is closing and while we are still some way off Manchester City, Unai Emery has been in charge for six months or thereabouts.
We know it needs several transfer windows yet for the signings to be made which will make us genuine title contenders and there’s nothing to be done about that until the windows open.
If he can bring about this improvement within a short time, what limits are there to the future? Our wallets, it seems.