After their blazing start to the season, which has seen them win five out of their opening five matches, Arsenal fans had the right to go into Sunday’s match against Manchester United brimming with confidence.
Add to that the availability of Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Ødegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko, the travelling fans were ready to go.
Arsenal didn’t make the best of starts to the match. Manchester United seemed to dominate most of the early passages of play and took the game to Arsenal in a big way.
Early chances fell to the likes of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, but Arsenal held their nerve in the opening ten minutes.
Eventually, Arsenal began to grow in confidence, culminating in a slide-rule pass through the middle from Bukayo Saka, allowing Gabriel Martinelli to easily outstrip the onrushing Raphaël Varane and slot the ball in the far corner for the game’s opening goal.
However, VAR had other ideas. A foul in the build-up on Christian Eriksen by Martin Ødegaard was flagged and the goal was ruled out.
This turned out to be the turning point for Arsenal. They grew in confidence and began to create some interesting openings.
They asked questions of United’s defence and were able to take advantage of how sloppy in possession United were.
Despite this, it was United’s turn to score against the run of play.
A beautiful ball through by Christian Eriksen was flicked on by Marcus Rashford, who fed new £86m man Antony, who was left unmarked, who cooly slotted a left-footed finish beyond Aaron Ramsdale.
It was a hemmer-blow to Arsenal and though they desperately tried to restore the balance, they entered half-time a goal down.
In the second half, it was essentially one-way traffic.
Arsenal dominated almost every exchange and caused United some real problems. Try as they might, United simply couldn’t get the ball off Arsenal, who created some very enticing chances.
Eventually, Arsenal did draw level.
A great ball through the middle by Granit Xhaka was too much for Gabriel Jesus, however, David de Gea could only parry the ball out into the path of Bukayo Saka, who calmly slotted home the rebounc through the legs of Lisandro Martínez.
Arsenal fans were treated to a glimpse (finally) of one Fàbio Vieira, who replaced Martin Ødegaard, but the Portuguese’s debut was marred as Manchester United punished Arsenal again against the run of play.
A superb ball through the middle punished Arsenal’s high-line, allowing Marcus Rashford a clear chance on goal, and though Benjamin White fought valiantly to win the ball off the England forward, he was unable to prevent it nestling in the far corner of the net, restoring United’s advantage.
Soon after, United broke forward again and this time, Christian Eriksen squared the ball for Rashford, who could make no mistake, rounding off the scoring and ending any chances Arsenal had of getting anything from the game.
The final whistle being blown out brought an end to a frustrating game for Arsenal, who can feel aggrieved that they didn’t get more out of it.
Ultimatley, there will be very few who would argue that Arsenal were not the better team. They utterly dominated United on the day, however, the lack of end-product ended up proving deadly and instead, the story was of a team who took their chances and one who didn’t.
Despite the result, there were some standout performances.
Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli can leave the field with their heads held high, having thrown everything they had at United today.
Martinelli was unlucky to have his goal disallowed through VAR. The talented winger was exceptional throughout the game and United were simply unable to cope with him. Had his crosses fallen to better attackers, Arsenal may well have done better.
As for Gabriel Jesus, he was his usual energetic self, winning balls he had no right to win and creating chances left, right and centre.
Though he was not on the scoresheet today, he would have likely won the Man of the Match award ahead of Christian Eriksen, had United not won, but in the end, the Dane turned out the deserved winner.
It was a blow for Arsenal on Sunday. They were the better side and deserved to win, but they need to dust themselves down and carry on as attention turns to Thursday night and the opening of their UEFA Europa League campaign.
Manchester United team:
1.) David de Gea
20.) Diogo Dalot
19.) Raphaël Varane
6.) Lisandro Martínez (Maguire 80’)
12.) Tyrell Malacia
39.) Scott McTominay
14.) Christian Eriksen
21.) Antony (Ronaldo 58’)
8.) Bruno Fernandes (c)
25.) Jadon Sancho (Fred 67)
10.) Marcus Rashford (Casemiro 80’)
Manchester United subs:
22.) Tom Heaton
31.) Martin Dúbravka
2.) Victor Lindelöf
5.) Harry Maguire
23.) Luke Shaw
36.) Anthony Elanga
7.) Cristiano Ronaldo
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White (Tomiyasu 80’)
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko (Nketiah 74’)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Vieira 74’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c) (Smith Rowe 74’)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Gabriel Jesus
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
17.) Cédric Soares
3.) Kieran Tierney
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
21.) Fábio Vieira
14.) Eddie Nketiah