Arsenal vs Manchester United – as it happened
A superb performance from Antonio Valencia helped Manchester United edged out Arsenal in a strange game at the Emirates.
Image: Well Offside
FULL-TIME: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United. A very strange game comes to an end. For 45 minutes, neither side looked at all arsed, and the only two players who put in performances worthy of the name were Valencia and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The match can effectively be read as a duel between the two, with Valencia’s goal and fine work to create the second edging out the Arsenal winger’s creativity for their equaliser. Arsenal’s stuttering continues, and a lacklustre United get a lucky escape to keep the pressure on Manchester City. Thanks for reading, and goodnight!
90+4 min: United counter from Arsenal’s attack, and Rooney slips Welbeck clean through. He has plenty of time and space, but loses his footing of his own accord with only the keeper to beat. Surely United won’t be regretting that…
93 min: So close for Arsenal! Chaos erupts in the United box as Walcott, of all people, produces an excellent header which Lindegaard spills. Seconds later, Mertesacker wins the ball in the United area, but United clear. There are huge appeals for a hand-ball but replays show they were groundless.
90 min: There’ll be 5 minutes of added time, and Arsenal start it with a free-kick from Van Persie in a good position. Smalling deals with the aerial threat, and then Rosicky is tackled for a goal-kick. It’s not looking good for the home side.
89 min: We’re approaching the end of normal time, but it’s United who are on the front foot. Arsenal are giving away a lot of silly fouls, through Koscielny and then Walcott, and running out of time.
85 min: Five minutes of normal time for Arsenal to win this, and it’s fair to say they’ve hardly put United on the ropes. United’s defence has looked anything but solid, but Arsenal just haven’t been able to pin them down all game.
83 min: Park no. 2, Chu-Young, comes on to replace Aaron Ramsey. His Premier League debut.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United (Welbeck.) Out of nowhere, United retake the lead! Valencia bursts into the Arsenal area, jinks past a couple of players, and via Park, finds Welbeck, whose finish is clinical, instant, and unstoppable. Arsenal have 10 minutes to come back into this.
78 min: Walcott appeared to be knocked out during that. He looks like he’ll be OK – though it’s not clear exactly how it happened, you’d assume Lindegaard had something to do with it.
77 min: A difficult bouncing cross in the United area looks to be met by the flying boot of Walcott, but Lindegaard shows bravery to dive and grab hold of it. Arsenal are looking the more likely victors here.
75 min: Rafael off, Park – who has plenty of previous against Arsenal – on.
70 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain is replaced by Arshavin. The Emirates rises in a chorus of “you don’t know what you’re doing.” Wow.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United (Van Persie.) Seconds after Kosclelny produces an inch-perfect tackle to stop Rafael, who had ran clear, Arsenal go on the counter. Oxlade Chamberlain cuts inside before playing a clever reverse pass to Van Persie, who turns and shoots just past the grasp of Lindegaard. This is anyone’s now.
66 min: Welbeck gets clear again, and he and Szcesny come together competing for the ball. The Pole looks hurt, but United play on – but Welbeck tries to squeeze it in himself rather than cut it back for another United player, and doesn’t get anywhere near.
63 min: Mertesacker clears off the line! Welbeck races clear of the Arsenal backline, controls well, but under heavy pressure from Szczesny and Koscielny, can only stab it weakly towards goal. It’s rolling into the empty net, but Mertesacker manages to get back in the nick of time to clear.
61 min: Koscielny gets forwards, using his strength to hold off the challenge before providing Oxlade-Chamberlain with a good shooting opportunity. He takes it well, striking it cleanly and beating Lindegaard, but it rolls just wide of the post. Arsenal are getting closer and closer.
57 min: Close again for Arsenal! Van Persie stumbles his way down the left, before his centre is bobbled away to the feet of Rosicky, whose shot is blocked at the last by Evra. Arsenal fans want a handball, but his arms were pressed tightly against his body. Arsenal are growing into this now.
52 min: Nani gives Yennaris his first proper test, and ends up gliding past the young left-back without too much trouble. His cross flies a couple of inches in front of the forehead of Welbeck – that could’ve very easily been 2-0.
50 min: An incredible miss from Van Persie! Rosicky takes advantage of a terrible defensive mistake to run clear through on goal, but chokes and squares it for Van Persie, who’s in a worse position – it looks like a terrible decision until the Dutchman cuts inside, and he’s clean through, 10 yards out, surely all over – but he blazes it wide. That is an incredible miss, and a huge let-off for United.
47 min: Happily, both teams appear to have been given the boot up the arse they needed. We’ve gone two minutes without the first laughably bad thing happening, Carrick skelping a pass miles out of play, for which Nani gives him a round of applause. Good god, I hope it was sarcastic.
We’re off again: Niko Yennaris replaces the shocking Johan Djourou.
HALF-TIME READING: Daniel Harris presents three of the best United-Arsenal games.
HALF-TIME: Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United. That was the most subdued, casual half of football you’ll ever see these two sides produce. I anticipate a bollocking from Wenger at least, and probably Ferguson too, so hopefully things will pick up in the second half. Don’t go anywhere.
40+1 min: GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United (Valencia.) What did I tell you! Giggs appears on the left, and produces a fine cross to the far post, which Valencia bombs in to meet with a powerful header. Szczesny had no chance, and there’s no more deserving United player to score the goal, because the rest of them have been bobbins.
43 min: Rafael makes a mess of his tackle on Oxlade-Chamberlain, and allows the winger to continue down the left-wing. He cuts it back for Rosicky, who sends a trickler wide. The OC and Valencia are the only players who appear to be at all bothered.
42 min: Aaron Ramsey is the first in the book for a tame grapple on Giggs – his fave player 2K12 – in the centre-circle.
40 min: The one time a United player actually does shoot, it couldn’t have been a worse decision. Nani’s leaping touch does Djourou with remarkable ease, before he dawdles at the near post – he’s got plenty of options to cross or cut back, but he tries to shoot from an angle of about 2 degrees, and gets nowhere near.
37 min: United just won’t shoot. Valencia does brilliantly to burst between both Arsenal defenders on the right wing, before cutting it back to Giggs on the edge of the area. You don’t need to have been playing football for 20 years to know that you’re supposed to shoot when that happens – but Giggs dawdles, somehow bundles it through to Rooney, who gets the slightest of tugs from Djourou and hurls himself to the ground claiming for a penalty. By the letter of the law, I suppose it was a penalty – but he was 8 yards from goal, for christ’s sake. Disgraceful.
34 min: Evra outmuscles his marker brilliantly and darts into the same area again – his short cut-back is met by an attempt by Nani to toe-poke it precisely in at the near-post, but Szczesny guards it well. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any two teams play so casually.
32 min: Evra takes advantage of a lapse in concentration in the Arsenal defence, escaping into a dangerous position down the left, but his low centre is easily cut out. Neither team looks like they’re trying particularly hard to score a goal.
31 min: Every single time Rooney has had the ball, he’s given it away. Get him off, for all our sakes.
29 min: Giggs parties like it’s 1999 as he goes on a mazy dribble past Ramsey and Vermaelen, beating the pair a couple of times before the latter brings him down. It’s a decent opportunity from the free-kick… but it’s wasted.
28 min: Ramsey makes a fine run as he appears on the left channel, with no defender near him, but he makes a meal of controlling the pass, allowing it to ricochet off his heels. This level of attacking incompetence surely can’t last for 90 minutes.
26 min: Welbeck plays a nice give-and-go with Rooney, breaking clear of the Arsenal defence, but he can’t bring the ball under his control, and Koscielny catches up with him. I think that may have been the first time the United striker touched the ball.
25 min: United break at full stride with a menacing counter-attack, but Rooney, with three options available, decides that his best one is a six-yard pass to the nearest Arsenal defender. Both sides have been utterly dreadful so far, yet in very different ways.
24 min: Song clatters Rooney with a fair but powerful tackle in midfield, before Oxlade-Chamberlain receives the ball on the right. He gets past Evra with ridiculous ease, before his cut-back is met with a terrible effort from Walcott.
22 min: United try another game of head-tennis, this time with added danger – Nani’s cross bounces off a couple of heads and goes very close to being turned in, before Valencia’s cross goes out for a corner. From that, Giggs gets right to the byline, but his low cross is easily gathered by Szczesny. It was never finding a United shirt, but he remonstrates with his teammates, quite reasonably pointing out that they were all standing around like mannequins instead of bothering to make any runs.
20 min: United struggle to pass the ball out of their defence, even when Giggs drops deep to help out. So Evans hoofs it forwards, leading to a game of head tennis in and around the Arsenal area. This is awful stuff from both sides.
18 min: An intricate but directionless display of United passing ends with an Evra cross being headed behind by Vermaelen, with extreme cautiousness. The corner is badly-defended, but after poor control from Rooney, Arsenal attempt a counter-attack. Rafael puts a stop to their tricks, halting Walcott with a fine sliding tackle.
17 min: Yep - Rafael on, Jones off.
15 min: This is queer. Jones is being stretchered off, seemingly. He just toppled over, and even on the replay it didn’t look particularly nasty. The good news is that bundle-of-fun Rafael is warming up on the touchline.
14 min: Nani does well to keep a long Carrick pass in play, before teasing Djourou and sending in a poor cross which Mertesacker doesn’t even have to jump to head away. Seconds later, Arsenal are on the counter, as Jones keels over in pain – of his own accord – whilst trying to screen Walcott’s run. In the end, Smalling deals with the attack, but it seems Jones may have picked up a bizarre injury.
11 min: Neither team’s passing has exactly been laser-guided so far. Moments after Oxlade-Chamberlain makes a meal of a simple through-ball to Walcott, Giggs tries to play Rooney in too early and threads it to Koscielny. Speed up, please.
10 min: Djourou isn’t looking very confident at all – he looks particularly dangerous when he’s being closed down on the ball, and has to rely on the buzzing Oxlade-Chamberlain to bail him out here.
7 min: It’s been a strange game, with plenty of action at both ends for the few minutes played, but at an oddly calm pace. Ramsey – who scored the winner the last time in this fixture – lets fly from outside the area, but he doesn’t catch it well enough to seriously test Lindegaard.
6 min: Chamberlain looks lively – he crops up on the right now, pinging in a cross which Lindegaard is alert to claim.
Here’s United fan @straynomad: “Would have fancied Jones Carrick in CM. But don’t have too many choices at the back, do we?” Well, Rafael and Fabio are both on the bench, so I’m not sure about that.
4 min: Now United go on the attack. Mertesacker’s poor clearance is played back in with a clever pass from Carrick, before Rooney tries to slip Giggs through, but doesn’t get the pass quite right. Both teams probing with intent in the first few minutes.
2 min: Arsenal showing some early promise. Oxlade-Chamberlain takes advantage of a poor Carrick pass, robbing Phil Jones and cutting into a dangerous area down the left, but his low centre is hacked clear by Jonny Evans.
Alright, we’re away. PREDICTION: 2-2. I’m not saying to whom.
This is probably a must-win for United after earlier events. Anything other than victory here, and they’ll begin to look like they’re right in the brown stuff.
Crowdwatch: United, Sikh bloke. Arsenal, woman with world’s frizziest hair. Soundtrack: The Jam – Start!
Some significant changes for both teams, then – the return of Phil Jones to the Manchester United defence, with Rafael back to the bench. Arsenal, intriguingly, introduce Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Rosicky, Song, Ramsey, Walcott, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Subs: Almunia, Park, Squillaci, Arshavin, Benayoun, Miquel, Yennaris.
Man Utd: Lindegaard, Jones, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: De Gea, Berbatov, Park, Hernandez, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Scholes.