Man United fight back for 2-2 draw though Arsenal's competitive spirit stands out
MANCHESTER, England -- Three thoughts from a stirring 2-2 draw between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford.
1. Man United fight back against Arsenal but winless streak continues
Manchester United extended their Premier League winless run to four games despite twice fighting back from a goal down to earn a 2-2 draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
With Jose Mourinho dropping Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku to the bench following Saturday's 2-2 draw at Southampton, the under-fire manager knew that anything but a victory would raise questions over his bold selection. Even though United's performance was better than in recent weeks, it was Arsenal who created the better chances and looked the more convincing team.
Goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexandra Lacazette twice gave the Gunners the lead, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard responding quickly on both occasions for United. But having stated last month that he believed his team could climb into the top four by the end of the year, Mourinho has now seen United claim just three points from a possible 12 and they sit eight points adrift of the top four in eighth place.
Mourinho conceded earlier this week that it was now unlikely that his team would make the top four this month, but Arsenal have no such worries, even though Emery's side dropped down to fifth after failing to win this game.
Emery has transformed Arsenal since succeeding Arsene Wenger this summer and Wednesday's draw stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 games.
2. Mourinho's misfits prove their worth
Mourinho has not hidden his disdain for Man United's defensive options this season, with the quality of his defenders being an issue that the manager has raised more than once. With injury and suspensions biting hard at Old Trafford, Mourinho had no option but to turn to the out-of-favour Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian against Arsenal.
Rojo has missed the majority of this season through injury, but even fit, the Argentine has been way down the pecking order. Wednesday saw his first appearance of the season for United, while Bailly has started only five games in all competitions. At left-back, Darmian was making only his third appearance in all competitions after being told by Mourinho that he could leave during the summer transfer window.
Summer signing Diogo Dalot has seen his progress halted by injury and the young Portuguese was making only his fourth appearance. Dalot looks a star in the making at right-back with his strength, pace and attacking adventure, but Rojo, Bailly and Darmian face an uncertain future.
Bailly did enough in this game to suggest he warrants more opportunities, while Rojo also suggested he can play a role once fully fit, despite the lapse in concentration that led to Arsenal's second goal.
Darmian has never seemed comfortable or convincing at United, but he didn't harm his case for more opportunities off the back of Wednesday's game.
3. Emery has made Arsenal competitive again at Old Trafford
One of the biggest indictments of Arsene Wenger's final years as Arsenal manager was the manner in which his teams would often fail to turn up in games at Old Trafford. The famous battles of the early 2000s against United are long gone, but Arsenal became far too much of a soft touch in the latter years of the Wenger era and United games were often proof of that.
Emery took his Arsenal team to Old Trafford looking for a first win at United in 12 years, and even though that ultimately proved elusive, Arsenal showed that they are once again capable of winning a physical encounter with their old foes.
This Arsenal side looks more physically imposing than under Wenger, with Emery having added muscle to the flair that he inherited. And when referee Andre Marriner dished out five yellow cards in the space of five minutes in the first half, it was a sign of Arsenal's readiness to go to toe-to-toe with United.
For the first time in a decade, Arsenal approached a game at Old Trafford with the belief that they could win. They are tough and resilient again, as well as being dangerous on the counter-attack, so although they failed to win, it was a positive night for Arsenal.