Mourinho laments as United let Gunners off the hook
Gunners escape with a point as Red Devils pay for not finishing off London foes
MAN UNITED 1
(Juan Mata 69)
(Olivier Giroud 89)
For 88 minutes at Old Trafford yesterday, it looked like the same old story for Arsene Wenger against his nemesis, Jose Mourinho.
In 11 previous meetings against the Gunners, Mourinho had never lost a Premier League game.
Indeed, Wenger's only win in 15 encounters as a manager in any competition against the Portuguese came in the Community Shield last season.
When Juan Mata gave United the lead midway through the second half of a game the hosts dominated from start to finish, it seemed Wenger would once again walk away empty handed from a ground where his teams have so often been humbled, if not crushed.
How it didn't happen again will have Mourinho and United fans scratching their heads from now until May.
At the end of it all, the Portuguese could not contain his disappointment.
"We were the best team by far," he said. "They had no chances to win.
"We scored a fantastic goal, we had chances to win the game and then the only time they go there and the only time we had a situation we could not resolve, they scored.
Of all Arsenal's recent visits, this was arguably their poorest performance yet, but when you have a predator like Olivier Giroud on the bench, you always have a chance - especially against a United side that still, even under Mourinho, have not learnt the art of finishing games off.
Apart from a tame Alexis Sanchez header that should have found the target and some choice fruity chants aimed at Mourinho by the travelling fans, the opening exchanges produced little to shout about at a somewhat subdued Old Trafford.
Late in the first half, however, the game burst into life when United were denied a strong penalty claim after Nacho Monreal impeded Antonio Valencia with an outstretched arm.
Referee Andre Marriner deemed Valencia went down too easily, a borderline decision but one that infuriated Mourinho.
Anywhere else on the pitch and it would surely have been given as a foul.
Goals have been in short supply at Old Trafford this season but without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho had every reason to feel aggrieved at half-time after seeing Petr Cech save smartly from Mata and Anthony Martial, while David de Gea was a virtual spectator.
Indeed, Arsenal had been surprisingly unimaginative with Sanchez, nominally their centre forward, spending far too much time in deep positions and both Mesut Oezil and Theo Walcott were hardly a threat.
To put their display into perspective, it was the first time since April that the Gunners had failed to register a single first-half shot on target.
Sir Alex Ferguson was all smiles as he made his way out of the directors' box at the interval.
ON THE PROWL
The home side continued to show plenty of energy and pace and looked far less frail in central midfield than of late as Michael Carrick slotted in alongside Paul Pogba.
But not for the first time this season, their attacking play lacked craft, with Marcus Rashford too easily bundled off the ball by the Arsenal back four and not enough players prepared to get into the box.
It cried out for Wayne Rooney, United's second highest scorer of all time behind Bobby Charlton, who was again relegated to the bench for what Mourinho insisted beforehand were tactical reasons rather than anything to do with his much-publicised antics while on England duty last week.
Sure enough, on 62 minutes, Rooney replaced the ineffective Anthony Martial while Daley Blind was sent on for Matteo Darmian, who was perhaps fortunate not to have received a second yellow in the first half that would have reduced United to 10 men.
The Red Devils continued to control proceedings against a poor Arsenal side and it was no surprise when the visitors fell behind midway through the second half.
Ander Herrera sent a dream cut-back into Mata's path and the former Chelsea man finished with aplomb from 15 metres.
It was the first time Arsenal, unbeaten since the opening day of the campaign, had been behind away from home.
On came Giroud to try and rescue a point, though in truth, the Gunners didn't deserve anything from what was an abysmal display by their own high standards.
But United paid the price for their failure to add to their lead, and with their only worthwhile effort two minutes from time, Arsenal got out of jail.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beat Rashford too easily and whipped in a cross and fellow substitute Giroud jumped above three defenders to power in a bullet header.
Mourinho, desperate for United to go on a run in the chase for the top four, often wrongly claims there is no justice.
This time he would be right, though critics would argue this kind of setback will continue until he settles on a regular starting 11 and a back four he can rely on.
- Crystal Palace 1 Man City 2
- Everton 1 Swansea 1
- Southampton 0 Liverpool 0
- Stoke 0 Bournemouth 1
- Sunderland 3 Hull 0
- Watford 2 Leicester 1
BY THE NUMBERS
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has extended his unbeaten league record against Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger to 12, while the Gunners are unbeaten in all competitions to 17 games.