VAR had to correct a poor offside decision for Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s second-half equaliser to be given after Scott McTominay’s long-range effort put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time.
Newly-appointed captain Granit Xhaka led Unai Emery’s team out at Old Trafford to face an out-of-form Ole Gunnar Solskjaer side.
Emery can’t make midfield tick
Arsenal failed to get any real purchase on possession in the first half and were largely dominated after Emery led with a defensive minded midfield three of Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira.
It was quite clear from the kick off that there was no creativity in the squad with the absence of Dani Ceballos and Mesut Ozil, the latter of whom did not even travel with the match day squad.
There seems to be a real problem with Torreira’s deployment - a player who plays best as the deepest midfielder. In previous appearances the Uruguay international has looked somewhat out of sorts with his positional contribution in Emery’s setup. Unai Emery seems to have real problem on his hands trying to balance both Xhaka and Torreira’s roles within the team and trying to get the best out of both players respectively.
The introduction of Ceballos for Torreira seemed to change Arsenal’s fortunes with the equaliser coming soon after. Many fans would have questioned why either Ceballos or in-form academy product Joe Willock didn’t make a starting eleven which screamed out for creativity on paper, let alone the pitch.
One positive from tonight’s midfield was Guendouzi who enjoyed another night of being one of Arsenal’s better players. At just 19 years old the youngster has come on leaps and bounds in his time at the club to become a regular starter who seems to be improving by the week.
Bukayo Saka made his second Premier League start for Arsenal in as many games on one of the biggest stages in English football and managed to chalk up an assist as well as being unlucky to miss from close range.
After an impressive pre-season, as well as a fantastic Europa League debut against Frankfurt, Saka has certainly given Emery and co. something to think about and even seems to have leap-frogged Reiss Nelson in the Arsenal pecking order.
At just 18 years old, it’s clear to see that the youngster has the confidence and ability to carry himself as a protagonist for Arsenal this season, especially following the outgoings of wide players Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi.
Pepe still needs time
Club-record £70m summer signing Nicolas Pepe hasn’t had the most ideal start to Arsenal life. With great price-tag comes great expectancy and some would argue that the Frenchman isn’t quite justifying that yet.
A disappointing evening under the Old Trafford lights saw Pepe make a number of mistakes before being replaced by Nelson in the second half.
Having just one goal from a penalty and one assist to his name so far in the Premier League will leave Arsenal fans hoping for the Ivorian to kick on and live up to the hype his hefty price tag has created.
It’s not been all negative, though. In previous appearances he has looked sharp on the ball, not afraid to try to beat a man and eager to drive forward to create chances. A touch more confidence and a little more time to adjust to the English game and Emery’s philosophy should see Arsenal fans enjoy a top player performing at the top of his game.
English titans fall from grace
Arsenal's fixture against Manchester United used to be one of the biggest footballing fixtures in the domestic calendar. Wenger vs Ferguson. Keane vs Vieira. Top of the table. A clash of the titans. A ‘six pointer’. In recent years the fixture seems to have lost its magic. And so have both clubs.
Tonight’s performance saw eighth face eleventh in a game absent of the quality, passion and competitive nature you’d associate with both football clubs following their meetings over the years. It seemed a sign of the times with a definite gulf in class in respect to clashes in the golden era some 15 years ago now.
Both clubs are currently a shadow of their former self and English football needs the pair to return to their former greatness to carry the legacy of the Wenger/Ferguson era forward.
Positives lie ahead
Arsenal have a chance to patch over their current weaknesses with the imminent returns of Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and introduction of summer signing Kieran Tierney.
A leaky, frustrating defence looks set to be bolstered, after Bellerin, Tierney and Holding all made impressive first appearances of the season against Nottingham Forest last week. Fans will be keen to see frustrating defensive errors finally eliminated with no more selection restrictions for Emery in coming weeks.
Arsenal are crying out for some depth in the striker department and the reintroduction of Lacazette will breathe a massive sigh of relief to an over-worked Aubameyang who has carried Arsenal so far this season with an inspiring seven goals in seven Premier League appearances.
The Gunners will be looking to rotate their squad ahead of Standard Liege’s Europa League visit to the Emirates Stadium this Thursday evening.