Manchester United vs Arsenal Match Analysis and Player Ratings

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Image from BBC
Manchester United came into this big game on the back of disappointing results against West Ham and Rochdale and not many people were expecting this injury-hit side to lose to a strong Arsenal side that have quality upfront and were on the back of three successive wins. A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford is certainly not something to celebrate but given the circumstances, the result is better than expected by most. 

United made three changes to the side that faced West Ham with Aaron Wan-Bissaka sick with tonsillitis and both Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata making the bench after below-par performances against the Hammers allowed Axel Tuanzebe, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard all coming in. Arsenal made two changes with Ainsley Maitland-Niles swapped in for Calum Chambers who was crucial in Arsenal's win against Villa and Dani Ceballos benched for Lucas Torreira.

De Gea, Young (c), Lindelof, Maguire, Tuanzebe, McTominay, Pogba, Pereira, Lingard, James, Rashford

Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka (c), Torreira, Guendouzi, Pepe, Saka, Aubameyang

The first half seemed like almost a blur as both sides lacked any true quality. The first shot came on the half-hour mark and from a surging run from Andreas Pereira who dribbled past the Arsenal defence before forcing a good save from Bernd Leno. Arsenal came close to opening the scoring from a United counter in which Saka was played through after Pereira slipped and the youngster forced a good save from David de Gea and the Spaniard made another smart stop to deny Guendouzi on the follow up. United found the opener from the subsequent corner as James was found through on goal and tried to pass it to Rashford for a tap in but United's no.10 couldn't quite reach it and so played it back to McTominay who lashed the ball into the top corner for his first Old Trafford goal and not long after, the first half whistle went.

The second half began similarly to how the first ended with Arsenal dominating play and United countering relatively well. Arsenal avoided a penalty scare as Sead Kolasinac got away with what looked like a clear handball, VAR nowhere to be seen. As Ceballos came on, Arsenal looked more direct and dangerous which eventually lead to the equaliser as Tuanzebe got caught in possession and played it straight to Saka who fed Aubameyang and the Gabon international lobbed De Gea for his seventh goal in the league so far. United came into life and almost immediately got back ahead with a curling effort from Paul Pogba just wide and again from McTominay who ought to have scored with an open header from six yards out but doesn't get the right connection. Harry Maguire almost scored his first goal for the club with a hammer of a long range effort forcing Leno into another smart save and Rashford forced another one in the 90th minute with a good effort from a freekick which turned out to be the last true chance to win the game for either side. 

Overall a pretty sloppy game of football with both sides struggling to keep possession and create good chances from set pieces. Moreover it was a terrible game of inconsistent refereeing and strange use of VAR in reference to the handball rule which is unhelpfully inconsistent. You'd have to say when you see the United squad that lined up against the fairly full-strength Arsenal side, a draw isn't the worst performance from United but easily should have won the game thrice over from easily convertible chances. 

Here are the player ratings for the game:

David de Gea 7.5/10
A good performance from United's vice-captain and his double save began the build-up to United's opener. Commanding and comfortable in the United goal and nothing he could have done with Aubameyang's tidy finish. 

Ashley Young 6.5/10
Did not look too fazed by the pacy Arsenal attack and certainly defended well. In attack his tactics were to punt the ball up the field and hope for a result which never works if you don't communicate with the winger. His set pieces improved but were below par again and he should not start regularly when Wan-Bissaka and Shaw returns.
 
Victor Lindelof 6.5/10
Made one error but overall was solid and composed. Made some important blocks and tackles to deny Arsenal some good opportunities.

Harry Maguire 7/10
Solid, composed and dynamic in his play. Almost scored from distance and brought other players into the game.

Axel Tuanzebe 7/10
Made one bad error and he paid for it. Disappointing for him as he played very well apart from it. Solid defending and decent going forward, especially as he was out of position. Has to start at left back if Shaw remains out and should definitely play over Ashley Young from now on.

Scott McTominay 8/10
United's best player today. Dynamic, physical and caused trouble all game. Scored a cracking effort and ought to have won the game with an easy header. 

Paul Pogba 7/10
Good to see Pogba back. He played deeper until Fred came on and did so economically, playing smart passes and on occasion, making a lung-busting run into the box. When Fred came on he still played some good long passes but aimed to get around the box to score. Was a bit rusty admittedly and should have scored too but should be back to full fitness for the Newcastle match.

Andreas Pereira 7/10
Pereira had a good game, probably one of his best in a United shirt. Made some good driving runs, unlucky not to score and pressed effectively despite being yellow carded in the first half. He is a good squad player and one that could shine playing regularly in the Europa League, but honestly, United need another winger in January as Pereira clearly isn't one. 

Jesse Lingard 5/10
Hmmm... I'm not sure about Lingard role yet. Is he really someone that should be starting week-in week-out? I don't think so, he has an excellent work ethic and is a pacy player but his confidence is clearly shot as he played the easy pass too often when he could have taken the Arsenal players on and doesn't have the quality to be a regular number 10 at Manchester United. 

Daniel James 7/10
Although he didn't score or assist today, he was important to the team and caused a lot of trouble. He played very wide and gave Chambers the run around early on. Crucial to the opening goal and created a lot of chances. He has come a long way since his debut against Chelsea and I expect him to improve throughout this season.

Marcus Rashford 5/10
Well, he looked injured didn't he? It was supposed to be two months, then two weeks and now he starts after one week out, baffling. He didn't seem comfortable on the ball and often got his feet muddled. Despite this he played the full 90 minutes and almost scored from a freekick. I would hope he is rested against Alkmaar as he has not looked himself all season really. 

SUBS:
Mason Greenwood 6.5/10
Lively and sharp when coming on. He could have scored late on but dragged his shot wide and linked up well with the other players. If he had started he would have certainly scored in my opinion and if he had started above Rashford or Lingard, United would have been in a better position to win the game. Alkmaar next and hopefully another start for the now-18 year old.

Fred 6.5/10
Looked tidy and composed on the ball and definitely better than Matic would have been. He seems to be building up to a regular starting position and allowing Pogba to play more advanced. This should happen by the time United play Liverpool and hopefully from that point onward until United sign a no.10 and/or another midfielder. 

MAN OF THE MATCH: SCOTT MCTOMINAY

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