There was fight. Plenty of fight. Jose Mourinho had called for “mad dogs” after the costly draw against Southampton and he got that in a barking-mad match as Manchester United slugged it out to nevertheless once again end up with just a point, this time against Arsenal.
With Tyson Fury, a United fan, in the stands, this was another crazy, chaotic contest. The boxer does not like draws. But he may have enjoyed this one. Paul Pogba was also an observer for much of this pugilistic encounter and, although he came on as a late substitute, it was feverish enough without the so-called “virus” who Mourinho had singled out for criticism.
A draw, for once, is something for United to cling onto and, while Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches in all competitions, they will come away feeling they should have done so with a first win here since 2006.
They were the better team, whatever Mourinho claimed, and created the better chances. If David de Gea was horribly at fault for Arsenal’s first goal he was, by the end, standing between Arsenal and victory with some fine saves.
It really was bonkers. Mourinho said United scored four goals and, effectively, they did. De Gea pushed Shkodran Mustafi’s header up in the air, the ball looping over him and into his own goal for the first and then the second came as Marcos Rojo lunged in to try to stop substitute Alexandre Lacazette, only to divert the ball past De Gea.
Maybe Rojo, making his first appearance of the season, should not have been on the pitch at that point. He was fortunate to escape with a yellow card in the first half for a reckless lunge aimed at Aaron Ramsey, in which he caught Matteo Guendouzi as he tried to win the ball back inside the Arsenal penalty area after his shot was blocked.
That was one of five cautions issued by referee Andre Marriner in a furious five-minute spell and, overall, five minutes was all that Arsenal held the lead for, even though they were in front on two occasions. They were ahead for just 13 seconds after scoring their second goal.
Arsenal suffered injuries to Ramsey and, more seriously, Rob Holding. United lost Anthony Martial.
It was a bruising, uncompromising encounter. This was the first meeting between these two sides in 32 years, and 82 games, without either Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger in the dugout and it developed into something of a homage to their rivalry at its height – without quite the stellar quality.
But there was undeniably “spirit, effort, intensity”, according to Mourinho – three things sorely lacking of late even if, again, United did not win and did not really look like winning. They have now gone four league matches without gaining maximum points and are eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. If Chelsea had not lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the deficit would have been double-digits and, with that, United’s hopes may well have disappeared.
That “mad-dog” spirit was shown by Arsenal in their north London derby win at the weekend but they again made a curiously low-key start here. It exploded into life midway through the half as Mustafi met a Lucas Torreira corner, his header bouncing up off the turf.
De Gea’s reaction was weak and, although Ander Herrera hooked the ball away, it had – confirmed by goal-line technology – already crossed the line.
United struck back. Rojo’s free-kick was pushed away by goalkeeper Bernd Leno, only for Herrera to scamper across and turn the ball back in front of the goal before it could run out of play. Holding did not cut it out and Martial steered it over Torreira on the goal-line. Replays showed that Herrera was offside – having broken from the wall. But the goal stood.
Martial formed part of a quick, energetic attacking triumvirate along with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard and it certainly gave United more impetus and urgency among a raft of changes. Diogo Dalot, 19, was making his first league start and was later labelled by Mourinho as United’s right-back for the next 10 years.
Arsenal also made changes, with Granit Xhaka suspended and Ramsey taking the armband, although he had to leave at half-time to add to Unai Emery’s frustration that his side were once again unable to go in at the interval in front. They have not done so once in the league this season and were under pressure after the restart as United sensed they could gain the precious win.
Not that they created any chances. Instead, they eventually gifted the lead again to Arsenal. Rojo lost the ball to Lacazette, who strode forward and exchanged passes with another replacement, Henrikh Mkhitaryan. As Lacazette pulled his foot back to shoot, Rojo challenged and the ball trickled beyond De Gea.
There was not enough time to fully digest what had happened as United launched the ball forward. Arsenal panicked and Sead Kolasinac inadvertently teed up the onrushing Lingard, who clipped it past Leno.
It was breathless but, for all of Mourinho’s protestations that United finished the strongest, they simply did not.
Four chances came. All for Arsenal. De Gea saved superbly with an outstretched boot to divert away Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close-range shot – the first of the striker’s last 11 efforts on target not to end up in the net – before Mkhitaryan stole in to stab a shot just over the bar when he had to score.
Then De Gea darted out an arm to turn away another Aubameyang effort before he denied Torreira to seal his fightback.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 2 Arsenal 2
A fun, messy and frantic match, highly enjoyable stuff. Three men had to go off injured. A probable own goal, a goalie error, De Gea redeemed himself with some decent saves.
Rio: "both teams huffed and puffed."
Scholes: "you felt both sides had an error in them, but I thought on the whole Arsenal just about edged it."
Good night for Spurs: United, Chelsea, Arsenal all dropping points. Anyway. Jason's report coming right up.
Safe to say Arsenal are no longer obsessed with only trying to score the perfect goal.
— Darren Richman (@darrenrichman) December 5, 2018
90+ 6 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Deep into Fergie time, United on the attack, but no serious goal threat and eventually the referee decides that we can all go and have a bit of a lie down!
90+ 4 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Lichtsteiner, like so many before him, goes up for a header with Fellaini and comes down clutching part of himself in agony. The head, in this instance. Delay. He's okay. We are well over the allotted extra time now.
90+ mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Pogba and Lukaku are making up the numbers, incidentally. Guendouzi and Mkhiaryan dangerous. Four minutes added.
90 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Mkhitaryan with some great work, twists and turns in the box to set up a colleague, Torreira. The shot comes in, Mkhitaryan pounces on the rebound and volleys it magnificently from an impossible angle. Sensational technique and worthy of winning a much classier football match than this, but the linesman has rightly flagged him offside.
88 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Arsenal with a decent move, but it comes to just a tame shot from distance. As De Gea prepares to goal kick from the hand, Lacazette nods the ball out of his glove and kicks it in the net. No goal. Shades of Andy Dibble and Gary Crosby.
86 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Marouane F, who has shaved off his own bushy hair, grabs a handful of Guendouzi's mane and pulls him back!! That should be at least a yellow, surely?
84 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
United's Rashford has a shot from distance, it dips unpleasantly just in front of Jay Leno. who gets in behind okay.
81 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Mourinho prowling the touchline, he's had a little tantrum. Stomping around yelling at his guys, lifting his arsm in exasperation. It is certainly an unusual approach to motivation.
80 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Marouane lets fly but it is charged down.
77 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Superb fun this, although (because?) both sides have glaring weaknesses that a proper side would surely rip open.
Good work from Aubammers as he tracks back. Odd scenes now as Fellaini chips the ball delicately into the box. Surely you want the Moroccan Marauder on the end of those balls not playing them in?
75 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Pogba's on, Lingard off. PP's first action is a good defensive header from an Arsenal corner.
74 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Dalot has totally failed to get a tackle in, or even to get close to Aubameyang, who lets fly with a screamer. Tipped clear.
My boy Marouane is coming on. The hapless Rojo off.
71 mins: Man United 2 Arsenal 2
Crazy scenes in the MUFC box. Kolasinac drills it across the goal, Aubameyang meets it and surely this is going to be 3, but somehow DDG saves it with his feet. Seconds later, another cross, and this time it is Mkhitaryan who should have done better from point-blank.
GOAL! Man United 2 Arsenal 2 (Lingard 69)
This game gets madder yet! From the kick off, a hopeful punt forward. The Arsenal defence have made an utter pig's ear of a simple situation. Lukaku putting himself about, Kolasinac comes back to get involved, has a brain fade, and dinks the ball through his own defence to give Lingard a simple tap in. Bizarre!
A minute and 14 seconds between two of the oddest goals you'll see.
GOAL! Man United 1 Arsenal 2 (Lacazette 68)
What a bizarre goal. Rojo with an error, he just gives the ball away. Lacazette picks it up, exchanges passes and then is tackled in the area... but in the bundle it's toed past the United keeper!
66 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
I kid you not. Now Mustafi has hurt himself! And again it was an innocuous looking situation.
63 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Iwobi has run his race. Lacazette replaces him.
61 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Martial is busting a gut to close down Sokratis, which he does, but he appears to have twanged something in his exertions. He's coming off injured as well. "They're dropping like flies!" says BT Sport commentator Darren Fletcher.
60 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Down the left, once again it's that man Kolasinac, but once again he cannot find a cross.
58 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Rojo lets rip! The keeper has to top it over.
From the resultant corner Arsenal get in a pickle. They just about flap it clear, suggestion of a handball, and there is an inquest between Leno and Lichtsteiner afterwards.
57 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Martial and Rashford busy, Arsenal are on the back foot. The Super Manchester Reds ™ partner-consumers are roaring their side on.
Dalot has a good chance to cross but cannot pick out a colleague.
52 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Lingard plays a sweet little through ball through. Martial is onto it. If he had a right foot, he could have hit that but he tries to shift it. Torreira gets in a desperate tackle. And looks to have hurt himself in doing so! These Arsenal lads - what's going on?! He seems to be okay. Limping.
48 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Nice from MUFC. Darmian with a cultured ball, Rashford good movement, wins a corner.
That corner is punched out less than convincingly. Chipped back in, but the ball does not find paydirt.
48 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Kolasinac looking the boy most likely, but he's stopped down that left flank by a super covering tackle by the boy Dalot.
This shows you the good work Arsenal have been doing down that side.
46 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Rasmey has indeed have to come off. Mkhitaryan will play against his old team.
I got robbed blind in America but I don't want to go on about it.
I'd like to have the rematch here. United have been on the ropes but they could get off the canvas and land a big right hand.
[Des Kelly asks if he'd take a draw...]
No! I don't like draws. I only like wins!
HALF TIME: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Five yellow cards, a goalkeeping howler, a man off on a stretcher. One of the goals arguably offside. Not what you would call a high class football match, but are you not entertained?
Arsenal's unblemished record of never leading at HT this season remains intact.
Manchester United started so well but just allowed Arsenal to play their way into the game by not even trying to press in the opposition half
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) December 5, 2018
This game in a tweet so far?
When people call me "cute" I know I should say thank you, but a part of me always turns into Scrappy Doo. pic.twitter.com/rPV3Xbr0tq
— Jennifer Stone (@jenniferstone) December 10, 2014
45+ mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Mkhitaryan and Lacazette are warming up on the touchline. More work for Marriner as Torreira puts a reducer in on Herera. No booking on this occasion, and that'll do it for a fun and frenetic first half.
44 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Another Arsenal man limps off. It's Ramsey. Not going to make the sub just yet. Maybe he can walk it off. Three minutes of injury time.
42 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Matic has got a hold of the breaking Aubameyang and now HE goes in the book. Five yellows now! Five bookings in barely more than five mins.
41 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Marriner getting plenty of use out of that whistle. Héctor Bellerín now. For fouling Darmian.
39 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Lingard in the book for a sneaky, calculated trip on the escaping Lucas Torreira.
37 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Freekick from the training ground, Rojo meets it crisply at the edge of the box and it's charged down. There's a melee and Rojo has absolutely emptied out the lad Matteo Guendouzi. Some of the Arsenal are going mad. That's a yellow and probably should have been red. There's some afters. Good to see.
35 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Rashford with a pacy, direct run. Mustafi has cleaned him out and no mistake. That is a booking all day long.
33 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Arsenal break via Ramsey, but he eschews useful options around him and goes himself. Good enough for a corner.
United deal with that.
Rob Holding has got something wrong with his left lower leg and will have to be replaced.
Being stretchered off, I am sorry to say. Poor guy.
Stephan Lichtsteiner on, slots into the back three.
31 mins: Man United 1 Arsenal 1
Rashford catches Holding. That's not done Holding any good at all. He needs treatment.
GOAL! Man United 1 Arsenal 1 (Martial 29)
It's Martial! A really nice freekick from Rojo, the Arsenal keeper parries. United man Herera gets to the ball first, hooks it back across and there's Martial to thump it home from close in.
The reason why Herera gof their first is that he is offside as the kick is taken... But it is so marginal.
28 mins: Man United 0 Arsenal 1
United, to their credit, not letting heads drop. A couple of exciting breaks forward. Martial is unfairly stopped by Guendouzi. Freekick in a handy spot.
GOAL! Man United 0 Arsenal 1 (Mustafi 26)
A goal, and it's down to a David De Gea goalkeeping error. Regulation corner, Mustafi meets it with the header. Does not really time his header - he's just nodded that into the ground. It bounces up and De Gea has flapped at it, it's ballooned sickeningly over the line and despite the efforts of DDG and a colleague on the goalline, the automated system confirms that the ball did cross the line - and the visitors have a soft lead!
24 mins: 0-0
Arsenal are getting some joy on that left flank. Iwobi, Guendouzi and Kolasinac are making a nice triangle or two. And they win a corner.
20 mins: 0-0
Close shave! United are opened up, the ball fizzing across their area. Kolasinac on the overlap, low cross... Smalling misses it! But it does not lead to a proper opening. A second or two later, it finds its way to Hector B, whose shot is mis-struck and miles wide.
16 mins: 0-0
Arsenal have a corner. Darmian uses that opportunity to have a good goose of Aubameyang. He's all over him! Cheeky. The Rhyme of the Andre Marriner has no remarks.
12 mins: 0-0
There's some fun individual battles between the rapier United attackers and the mobile, strong Arsenal backs. Martial bursts through and shoots. Easy enough grab.
9 mins: 0-0
United, brighter and snappier, have a corner. Cleared well by the Arsenal defence.
6 mins: 0-0
Mattéo Guendouzi is running around happily but rather erratically. He's popping up everywhere. He has lost the ball. A classic case of biting off more than you can chew. Matteo Guendouzi has a shot.
4 mins: 0-0
Rojo and Darmian getting involved, it's slipped to Rashford. He shifts it and swerves a shot on target.
1 mins: 0-0
Martial and Rashford try to link up, and with Lingard overlapping this is a dangerous situation. A block comes in. Simple long ball caused AFC problems there.
1 mins: 0-0
Arsenal kick off. Good atmos. Busy from Arsenal. United look up for it.
Here's how they might line up
Seven changes for United
Jose cleverly keeping all the good footballers safe on the bench.
Man Utd: de Gea, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo, Dalot, Matic, Ander Herrera, Darmian, Lingard, Martial, Rashford. Subs: Pogba, Mata, Lukaku, Romero, Valencia, Fellaini, McTominay.
Arsenal: Leno, Papastathopoulos, Mustafi, Holding, Bellerin, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang. Subs: Cech, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Lichtsteiner, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
The players are in the tunnel
Scholes: "I don't think there is much for United to fear, I think United have the better players."
Notes and queries
Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are dropped to the bench as Jose Mourinho makes seven alterations to his injury-hit Manchester United side for the visit of Arsenal.
Having said in his programme notes that "there isn't space for people that are not ready to give it their all", the Portuguese made sweeping changes after the 2-2 draw at struggling Southampton.
Pogba and Lukaku were the headline names to drop out, while Marcos Rojo makes his first appearance of the season in a three-man defence including Eric Bailly, who starts for the first time since being withdrawn after 19 minutes against Newcastle two months ago.
Mesut Ozil remained absent for Arsenal, who brought in Matteo Guendouzi and Aaron Ramsey after the north London derby.
Most of these four look like they would answer
"NOT GREAT, since you're asking."
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2018
Here's what is wrong for the United midfield, according to JJ Bull
Mentality and desire are crucial but tactically, United have also been poor. They cannot move the ball quickly through the lines because half the time there are no clear passing options - Pogba could be seen throwing his arms out in despair while in possession against Southampton, looking for a players to either drop short or move five yards forward to free up a pass.
None did. Lukaku stayed on the shoulder of the last man, the wing-backs stayed level and Pogba's only real option was to hit the ball over the top towards a striker - a pass that would certainly give possession away immediately - or pass sideways to keep the ball. The move inevitably slowed down and Southampton got back into their defensive shape. It looked like this:
To counter-attack, or even just attack in a way that will disrupt a Premier League defence, a team must play vertical passes to shift the ball beyond each line of defence and move the defensive unit around. The wing-backs have to get ahead of the ball when in possession to create width, which creates space for the forwards or midfielders to receive the ball in. In Mourinho's 3-5-2, it has to look more like this:
Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all play a positional game that ensures passes can always be played vertically. There's no coherent or obvious plan under Mourinho just now.
Nice piece here
comparing and contrasting these two teams' differing approaches in replacing their legendary long-time managers.
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) December 5, 2018
Paul Scholes on Mourinho
"We don't mind a bit of passion. But players are more sensitive these days. Pogba was poor at the weekend and Jose cannot trust him. He cannot seem to pass a ball without doing a flick or a trick. You hope that the penny is going to drop but he is getting to that age where it has to."
Rio: "he was not the showboater in the World Cup though. He has a more respectful relationship with Deschamps. That manager laid down the law. Players today are not made of the strong stuff that the players of yesteryear had."
"I don't think about gambling, I think about sacrifice. The players who have come in are willing to make the sacrifice, like Jones made against Southampton."
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2018
On leaving out Pogba: "these are tactical and technical decisions."
Here's how they might line up
Emery: "They have big players and an experienced coach. Our priority today is keeping our mentality and performance."
Big team news
Jose Mourinho has dropped Pogba and Lukaku. He's written something tart in the programme, as well.
Paul Scholes: "this team is really struggling for confidence so that is why he has to keep changing. He's made a lot of changes."
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) December 5, 2018
Manchester United team
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2018
Here is Mourinho
coverage begins with a montage of some of the great moments: Martin Keown all over RVN, Giggs shirt off, Roy and Patrick.
The big two
as we once thought of them, do battle at Old Trafford tonight. For much of the Premier League's history, these two were the two teams we all looked to for excellence, for passion, and for trophies. But you will not find many betting that the Premier League crown will be in North London or this particular side of Manchester come May. Arsenal, with their 30 points, and Man United with a meagre 22 are playing for the minor places at best.
Similarities there, sure, but the mood in the two camps is very different. Jose Mourinho's looks a rotten lot at the moment, if he's not berating the players, he is looking sullen on the sidelines, and they look no closer to finding an answer to the post-Sir conundrum than they did under the widely pilloried Moyes, or the unpopular van Gaal.
Arsenal, by contrast, seem to be enjoying their football. Their is healthy competition for places, there is a sense of collective purpose and, for the first time in some years, a bit of fight about them. Unai Emery seems to have hit on something real and good there, and it should all add up to a stiff test for United. Arsenal have scored 16 goals in six away games in the League, and have to be fancied to hit the net again.
Here is an excellent preview from JJ Bull on the tactics that they might use in order to accomplish said end.