Arsene Wenger’s last game at Old Trafford did not go the way he wanted it to. That may have been expected though, based on the XI he put out for the game. The Frenchman was honored before the game by old foe and new friend, Sir Alex Ferguson. There was hugging from Alexis Sanchez, and even the Old Trafford faithful gave Wenger a round of applause before the game. Not your average rivalry game, to say the least.
But specifically, the XI Wenger put out today was a clear message that the focus is on the Europa League on Thursday. Mavropanos became the 200th career debut under Wenger’s reign, getting the nod at center back. Nelson and Maitland-Niles also got the nod in the match today, underscoring the need for our first team players to get rest this weekend. In other news, Mkhitaryan is back from injury and teamed up with Aubameyang at the top, with Xhaka holding together the midfield. Full team sheet:
Despite having a second team out in the field today, Arsenal did go out there with some drive and purpose. The team played forward, attacking-minded football in the first half, despite not retaining much of the possession.
However, Man United were the first to strike on the 17th minute. The ball went to Lukaku on the side who crossed it across the box to Sanchez. Alexis headed it at the goal, but the attempt was stopped by Bellerin, who did an amazing job to get over to the ball and stop it mid-shot. The ball deflected off Bellerin, then off the post, and back to Pogba, who probably won’t be scoring many more goals easier than a tap-in.
The only real highlight Arsenal had in the first half was a shot from Mkhitaryan that just missed the outside of the post. There were multiple shouts for a penalty on two separate occasions to no luck for Arsenal. It went into the half at 1-0 United, who looked like they were going to cruise vs. this Arsenal side.
But Arsenal had other ideas to make the game a bit more competitive. Lukaku came off for injury 4 minutes into the 2nd half, which saw Rashford come on for the Belgian. Almost immediately following the substitution, Mkhitaryan saw a simple pass from Xhaka, took a touch, and slotted it home to the bottom left corner on the 51st minute. Truly making something out of nothing with the goal. The Armenian also showed his appreciation for his time at United by refusing to celebrate.
The game was 1-1 and looked certain for a deadlock. Arsenal’s youngsters worked hard to try and earn a point, but sadly this was never meant to be. An offside call in the 88th minute saved Arsenal after a shot off the post hit an offside Rashford and bounced in. It was the lifeline that could’ve seen Arsenal walk away with a point in Wenger’s final game at Old Trafford... Then Fellaini happened. A header from the physical midfielder was simple but effective. Questions have to be asked about Ospina being able to get to the ball on this one.
If there are some good takeaways from today: Mavropanos looked excellent, and the young Greek international showed a lot of promise. A tackle and 92% passing doesn’t do him justice, as he looked comfortable in his first appearance for the Gunners in the PL. Nelson began looking good as well in the minutes before his 60th minute substitution. Reiss finished the game 20/21 passing and had a key pass to add to the mix. Both youth players will look to break into the first team more come August.
The 2-1 result means that Arsenal have been mathematically eliminated from top 4 contention and will finish behind Spurs for a second straight year. The only hope for the Champions League now rests on Thursday, where Arsenal will face Atletico down 1-1 on away goals.
All eyes on Thursday.