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Manchester United inquest required after damp squib against Arsenal

Jason Burt


Manchester United 0 Arsenal 1

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Turning point: Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba reacts after conceding a penalty against Arsenal. Photo: PA

Turning point: Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba reacts after conceding a penalty against Arsenal. Photo: PA

Turning point: Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba reacts after conceding a penalty against Arsenal. Photo: PA

It never rains but it pours for Manchester United who, in the teeming wet of a November afternoon in the north-west, slumped to their third Premier League home defeat of the season as they were deservedly beaten by Arsenal.

What a damp squib for United.

It leaves them in 15th place and while they have only played six league games, this one - again - left the whiff of an inquest being required.

Much of the focus will centre on a poor performance from Paul Pogba who carelessly conceded the penalty from which Arsenal scored the only goal - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converting for the Gunners.

It ended his run of five league games without a goal and came as Pogba tracked the run of Hector Bellerin who needlessly slid in to catch the wing-back on his right foot.

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Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring the winner from the penalty spot with his team-mates. Photo: PA

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring the winner from the penalty spot with his team-mates. Photo: PA

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring the winner from the penalty spot with his team-mates. Photo: PA

For Arsenal it was a much-needed win, having lost their last two league games, and manager Mikel Arteta will have been especially pleased at outstanding performances in the centre of midfield from new signing Thomas Partey and from Mohamed Elneny, while Gabriel again impressed at the heart of the defence.

Shapeless

The result gave Arsenal their first league win at Old Trafford since September 2006.

For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, this was a soulless, shapeless mess and as right as he is getting it in Europe this season the United manager is making it very hard for himself in the league, especially with the attacking riches available to him.

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In fact, there will have been frustration for Arsenal that they did not win more comfortably.

They will have felt that they should have been ahead by half-time as, three times, Bellerin delivered from the right and three times Arsenal spurned the opportunities.

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Manchester United's Mason Greenwood in action with Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood in action with Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood in action with Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes. Photo: Reuters

For the first, Willian slipped a pass out to the full-back and his cross should have been anticipated by Aubameyang but just ran ahead of the striker.

Then Bellerin did find Aubameyang, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka misjudging the flight of the ball, and he squared only for Victor Lindelof at full stretch to toe-end the ball away before Alexandre Lacazette could shoot. So sure was Lacazette that the ball would reach him that he swung his leg in an air shot.

Finally, Bellerin picked out Bukayo Saka who could only guide his header over the bar even though there was no pressure from either Victor Lindelof or Wan-Bissaka who were both caught out.

For United, the midfield diamond that had shone so brightly against RB Leipzig in the Champions League was being overshadowed with Partey and Elneny dominant as the home side struggled to gain any grip.

Indeed Solskjaer could be heard shouting to Bruno Fernandes: "Bruno! Find our shape again".

United's only chance came when Marcus Rashford collected the ball from Wan-Bissaka and sent a superb arcing pass that caught out Rob Holding and ran into the path of Mason Greenwood whose first-time shot was bundled away by Bernd Leno with his legs.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta go their separate ways. Photo: PA

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta go their separate ways. Photo: PA

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta go their separate ways. Photo: PA

In fact, that was the only effort on target in the first half.

Wasteful

Arsenal were wasteful again when they pounced on a slip by Fred with Lacazette finding Aubameyang. As Harry Maguire covered, the Arsenal captain took the shot early from the edge of the penalty area with it bouncing a foot wide.

Soon after and Maguire was involved at the other end as he met Luke Shaw's free-kick and sent a header back across goal, drifting in front of Greenwood and past the post.

It felt like it would require an error to make the breakthrough and Pogba provided that with the concession of the penalty - United's fifth in seven home league games having taken 101 matches to previously reach that total - which Aubameyang converted.

Finally, Solskjaer made some positive changes, bringing on Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek, although at the expense of Greenwood and Fernandes.

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Manchester United's Mason Greenwood keeps possession from Arsenal's Kieran Tierney. Photo: PA

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood keeps possession from Arsenal's Kieran Tierney. Photo: PA

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood keeps possession from Arsenal's Kieran Tierney. Photo: PA

Still there was precious little width to his team who continued to try and attack through the congested middle of the pitch.

It was Van de Beek who went close when he combined with Pogba only for his angled shot to deflect off Elneny's boot, then ricochet off Leno's head before finally striking the outside of the post.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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