Arsenal had three key players out – Saka, Aubameyang, and Tierney. Manchester United were nearly at full strength. And they always represented a goal threat.
Looked like the number of games were catching up with the players. United had the best chances, at the end of the first half but Arsenal defended well. Arsenal had the better of the chances at the beginning of the second and a bit of luck or better finishing would have seen them ahead. Neither side really pressed high with conviction, meaning relatively slow build ups. And a draw was a fair result, with three shots on target apiece.
Arsenal will be the happier, given their absentees and United’s league position and current reputation. In fact, it is a tribute to Arteta’s defensive work, that they restricted the northerners to the extent they did.
And this performance may have lit a spark under Willian’s Arsenal career, who came on to counter United’s attacks on the right and provide a threat on the left. He looked more energetic as the half progressed.
Cedric clashed with Ferdandes early on and got a yellow. Ferdandes, whose temper was stoked by his compatriot then ran his studs down Xhaka’s achilles – and got away with it. Why take it out on a Swiss?
Martinelli set Lacazette away – but he shot straight at De Gea. Then Xhaka got his head to a corner from Pepe – but it was wide.
Martinelli cut inside and sent a looping cross which just evaded Lacazette.
At the other end, Pogba sent a dinked pass to Rashford but Martinelli rushed in and headed clear.
Smith Rowe set Pepe away and he tried three leg-overs before shooting past the far post. Probably disoriented him, in the process.
Wan Bissaka met a cross but headed it wide, followed by Fernandes beating Luiz, but hitting it wide.
Fred had a good chance from outside the area, but Leno did well to tip it wide.
McTominay was beset by stomach problems and went off on 36 minutes, which lead to Martial coming on and Pogba moving to central midfield.
The last ten of the first half, United dominated and created chances – the most dangerous of which – a Fernandes free kick – went over the bar off Luiz’s head. The Brazilian celebrated with pumped fists – later explaining that giving a free kick away just outside the area to players like Fernandes was like giving away a penalty
Martinelli came off and Willian was brought on after half time to double up defensively on Arsenal’s left.
The ball fell to him unmarked in the United area – and with a total lack of confidence he hit Wan Bissaka.
Pepe had a chance when Willian cut the ball back – but Maguire saved a certain goal with his foot.
The attacks broke down twice with Willian. But Luiz dribbled forward and played a one-two with Pepe but blasted over.
Holding sent a looping ball and Maguire fouled Lacazette. The Frenchman got up and fired a free kick against the bar.
Partey – expected to be a rock in midfield lost the ball unexpectedly a couple of times.
Bellerin won the ball and drove forward, setting up Pepe whose low shot went just past the post.
Ødergaard came on for Smith Rowe, for his Arsenal debut on 82.
Wan Bissaka send in a looping cross and Cavani’s bicycle kick went wide.
David Luiz said: “Both the teams tried to win. We wanted to win and tried our best. The boss is doing a good job. The young boys are developing. We created a good atmosphere. We turned around a difficult moment. We have to keep going.”
Solksjaer said: “We had the bigger chance to win. It was a decent performance. Good defensively. We had two great chances. We had most of the possession and the better chances. We dropped off at the beginning of the second a bit.”
Mikel Arteta said: “We both wanted to win. We had majority of the best moments. But a draw was the correct result.
“We have so much to catch up because of the run we went on. I like the spirit and direction of where we are going.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín, 16Holding, 23David Luiz,17Cédric Soares (Booked at 13), 18Partey, 34Xhaka, 19Pépé, 32Smith Rowe (Ødegaard 82) 35Martinelli (Willian 45), 9Lacazette (Nketiah 90+)
Manchester United: 1de Gea, 29Wan-Bissaka (Booked at 51), 2Lindelöf, 5Maguire (Booked at 76), 23Shaw, 39McTominay (Substituted for Martial at 37), 17Fred, 10Rashford (Substituted for Greenwood at 80), 18Bruno Fernandes, 6Pogba Booked at 73), 7Cavani.