The Arsenal travelled to Manchester to face one of their arch-rivals Manchester United, as the 2017 – 2018 season nears its end. Arsene Wenger, who has indicated he’ll step down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season, was honoured at Old Trafford for his involvement with English football – with Sir Alex Ferguson the core of the tribute.
With the Gunners having a huge Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid, Wenger rested quite a number of his players so they’re fresh for the second leg encounter. David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Mavropanos, Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Granit Xhaka, Reiss Nelson, Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Although the Arsenal fielded a weakened team unlike their opponents, the performance of the team was very impressive, although, the Arsenal couldn’t find the cutting edge in front of goal but were able to stand their ground and dealt with majority of the threats they faced, with the match ending in a 2-1 scoreline in favour of Manchester United.
Pogba got Manchester United in front with a follow through tap in, after the initial play started off with a well-driven cross from Lukaku aimed at Alexis Sanchez, as Alexis Sanchez header came off the right foot of Bellerin and then came off the post – with Pogba properly positioned as the ball came to his strides and slotting it home to give his supports something to cheer about.
In the build-up to the opening goal, Reiss Nelson was fouled by Antonio Valencia but the referee waved play-on, waving off any protest from the Arsenal team.
Mkhitaryan was a menace to his old team, looking very threatening and the most likely to score on the Arsenal team. He came close to equalising for the Gunners in the first half, when he and Maitland-Niles combined well in the Manchester United penalty box, playing a beautiful one-two but the Armenian’s shot was just an inch away from going in on the far post.
Aubameyang had an effort to put the Gunners level or at least force a good save from De Gea, following a well-worked play between Nelson and Bellerin, who deliver a good cross into the Manchester United box – but Aubameyang lacked power in his header to force anything worthwhile from the Manchester United goalkeeper.
Arsenal would eventually draw level just five minutes into the second half, and it was no other than Mkhitaryan who got the goal for the Gunners – striking the finger that once fed him. Xhaka was able to steal the ball from a United player, feeding the ball to United’s old boy who struck the ball well into the corner of the post to level things up.
United would steal the show from the Gunners, who were very impressive playing their second team against a fully loaded Manchester United side right in the 90th minute when Fellaini rose highest to head into the net and steal all three points for his team.
Ashley Young whipped in a cross for Fellaini, who has to tussle it in the air against Xhaka – but the Belgian was highest to the ball as it came off the back of his head and beyond the reach of David Ospina.
The team’s focus now has to switch to Thursday, as we pursue next season Champions League football and a European laurel to make the end of Arsene’s tenure at Arsenal. Mkhitaryan needs to be involved in the second leg, as he was my man of the match against Manchester United.