Football news - Manchester United and Arsenal produce comedy of errors as neither find knockout blow

United and Arsenal produce comedy of errors as neither find knockout blow

06/12/2018 at 09:35Updated 06/12/2018 at 19:14

Tyson Fury was a special guest at Old Trafford and he was asked by BT Sport’s Des Kelly on the pitch at the interval whether a draw would suffice. "No, I don't like draws, I only do wins", came the Manchester United fan's sharp response.

But the British heavyweight boxer would have to settle for another unsatisfactory outcome. He survived two knockdowns to almost complete a remarkable comeback with victory in Los Angeles against Deontay Wilder at the weekend, but he was unable to inspire another dramatic return from the canvas watching United from the stands.

Mistakes galore, misses galore, cards galore. The first booking came in the 37th minute of this error-strewn evening, and by the 42nd minute there had been five cautions. It encapsulated the lack of control, but also how much a victory would symbolise at the start of a busy festive schedule for both sides.

For all the blood and thunder, this was a pale imitation of previous heavyweight contests between United and Arsenal, resembling a highly entertaining bout on the undercard to the real business.

While Chelsea’s surprise defeat at Wolves keeps the battle for a top four spot wide open, neither of these two sides demonstrated why they are ready to bridge the chasm that has formed between themselves, Manchester City and their nearest rivals Liverpool.

Tyson Fury was present at Old Trafford to witness the draw

Tyson Fury was present at Old Trafford to witness the drawGetty Images

Jurgen Klopp’s below-strength side showed their title credentials by coming from behind to beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor, but United are now 18 points behind their neighbours and league leaders, while they are eight adrift of Chelsea in fourth.

Arsenal’s expectations for the season are somewhat different in Unai Emery’s first campaign in charge, but they will also see this as an opportunity missed against a United side plagued by injuries and lacking in quality.

Mourinho has often deflected the attention away from his players, but the United manager praised his team for showing character to come back from behind on two occasions.

“It was open because they scored the second goal,” he told BT Sport. “In the second half, there was one team waiting to take a point while the other team increased the intensity.

Jesse Lingard restored parity for the second time

Jesse Lingard restored parity for the second timeGetty Images

“We shot ourselves [in the foot] so many times during the season and that’s difficult. But we produced some good performances in difficulty.

“We made two mistakes for their goals, we allowed them to have counter-attack situations, and the second goal [for Arsenal] came at an awful moment when we were in control of the game.

“There was big soul, and everyone gave everything. That is the positive feeling. I’m happy with the commitment and the bravery. I’m really happy with that.”

A messy first half exploded into life with two goals in mere minutes, followed by a chaotic two minute spell in the second, but the final outcome of a draw demonstrated the flaws that remain at the heart of both teams.

Arsenal restored their lead in scrappy circumstances through Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal restored their lead in scrappy circumstances through Alexandre LacazetteGetty Images

Sloppiness costs Arsenal landmark win

Arsenal found themselves in front twice, but they held onto their advantage for less than five minutes in total. There have been other moments of vulnerability already this term.

As recently as at the weekend, Arsenal shipped two quick-fire goals in the 4-2 win over Tottenham, while Bournemouth and Crystal Palace also capitalised on basic errors to score goals that were easily avoidable this term.

United will point to the individual defensive errors of David De Gea, for Shkodran Mustafi’s opener, and Marcos Rojo, at fault for Alexandre Lacazette’s strike that put Arsenal back in front.

But two lapses in concentration cost Arsenal a first win at Old Trafford since 2006 as the defence failed to follow in Rojo’s free-kick, which was eventually converted on the rebound by Anthony Martial, while Sead Kolasinac then failed to deal with a long ball as Jesse Lingard levelled just 13.76 seconds after Lacazette’s strike.

Neither side deserved to win this frantic affair, fiercely contested in the absence of a long list of illustrious names.

The draw will suit Arsenal better, of course, with the Gunners still unbeaten since the end of August. Not even the chaotic presence of Marouane Fellaini could complete the turnaround as Mourinho’s quest to find the right solution goes on.

Mourinho has made 46 changes to his Premier League starting XI

Mourinho has made 46 changes to his Premier League starting XIGetty Images

Life without Pogba and Lukaku

In a frantic final 15 minutes, Paul Pogba received a mixed reception as he emerged from the bench to join Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku. Mourinho showed his recent warning for hurling a set of drinks bottles hadn’t mellowed him, kicking the wall from his elevated technical area.

Soon he was down prowling the touchline down the front, as animated as ever as he sought the morale-boosting win that would kick-start this wretched domestic campaign.

There were signs of encouragement. Mourinho had said in his pre-match programme notes: "There isn't space for people that are not ready to give it their all.

"We must be strong, confident and unite to create an atmosphere of empathy with our supporters by playing with heart and with passion."

It preceded the announcement of a sensational starting line-up, with the seven alteration from the 2-2 draw at Southampton meaning he has now made 46 changes to his Premier League starting XI.

Shkodran Mustafi's heads in Arsenal's opener

Shkodran Mustafi's heads in Arsenal's openerGetty Images

Emery had to deal with two unforced changes by the interval as Rob Holding was carried off with right knee in a brace before Aaron Ramsey failed to emerge for the second period after rolling his ankle.

But Arsenal stuck to their game plan of targeting the right side of United defence, where Diogo Dalot was making his first Premier League start of the season.

Kolasinac was often found on the overlap by the probing passes of Alex Iwobi and Matteo Guendouzi but the Bosnian was unable to make the most of his opportunities to cross.

Despite the clear signs of danger, Mourinho retained faith in his starting line-up until the final 20 minutes and Marcus Rashford could be in line for another audition in the No 9 role at the weekend in place of Lukaku while Ander Herrera also looked composed alongside Nemanja Matic. Pogba could be watching from the sidelines for some time longer.

Arsenal frustration a sign of progress

Arsenal twice led at United only to be pegged back

Arsenal twice led at United only to be pegged backGetty Images

Despite the nature of Arsenal’s two goals conceded, this side is made of sterner stuff compared to the one left behind by Arsene Wenger.

The image of the Frenchman banished to the roof of the away technical area was a defining image of the second half of his tenure, but where Arsenal often collapsed after conceding under his reign, the catalogue of errors stopped after Lingard’s leveller.

Emery’s side looked the more likely to win it in the final 20 minutes, with De Gea keeping out a fierce effort from Aubameyang before Henrikh Mkhitaryan was denied a goal on his return to United after his fine finish from an acute angle was correctly ruled out for offside.

Mourinho will point to the positive of Eric Bailly’s performance, but his commanding display only added to the curiosity surrounding his inexplicable absence before now. Mourinho will also point to spirited response from his players, but he will struggle to pinpoint why it continues to take a goal conceded for his side to raise their game.

From the very first attack, it was clear that Arsenal would target Dalot, on his first Premier League start, and Mourinho’s decision to play three centre-halves to provide additional cover to nullify this obvious tactic was vindicated given the occasions Bailly covered the ground to support his team-mate.

The likelihood is that Mourinho will continue to change things, in search of the solution. Here, it felt his selection was based on how best to contain an in-form Arsenal, who in previous years would be only too happy to leave Old Trafford with a point.

Marcos Rojo had an eventful night back in the United side

Marcos Rojo had an eventful night back in the United sideEurosport

The lack of quality on both sides shows why this is no longer the marquee fixture that decides league titles, and Arsenal will head back south feeling this was a case of two points dropped rather than one gained against their old foes.

Despite the Gunners’ unbeaten run now stretching to 20 in all competitions, not even the most ardent supporter will say they have shown the signs of a side capable of challenging for the Premier League title.

Emery called on his players to remain positive having guided Arsenal to their longest unbeaten run since 2007, and with Huddersfield, Southampton, Burnley and Brighton to come over the festive period, there will be a belief that this rich vein of form can continue for some time longer.

With Fulham the visitors on Saturday, United supporters will expect a far more polished performance, but there is also a realisation now, with the side bereft of confidence, the gulf in class between heavyweights City and these two pretenders is only widening.