Premier League: Manchester United, Arsenal play out a watered-down version of champagne football from yesteryear

  • Goals from Scott McTominay and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Manchester United and Arsenal respectively in the 48th and the 58th minute were highlights of the punches exchanged in last night's Premier League match.

  • The linesman called Aubameyang offside. VAR stepped in chalk that decision as incorrect and the goal stood to the roar in the away end.

  • The game ended 1-1. Manchester United (10th in the table) have nine points from seven games and Arsenal (4th) have 12.

Goals from Scott McTominay and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Manchester United and Arsenal respectively in the 48th and the 58th minute were highlights of the punches exchanged in last night’s Premier League match, but that simply plastered over the calciferous joints of the clubs who find themselves in the limbo of mid-table.

 Premier League: Manchester United, Arsenal play out a watered-down version of champagne football from yesteryear

Arsenal's head coach Unai Emery and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer give instructions from the side line during their Premier League match. AP

“(Based) on tonight's performance, neither of them will be in the top four," said Roy Keane in the post-match analysis in the studio over at London. The former hardboiled hero’s face wore the garb of existentialism of the French philosopher Albert Camus who upon contemplating the ennui of everyday life noting the journey of autumn leaves down the town-side canal mourned the scarcity of miracles in his novel The Fall.

In Marseille, another Manchester United maverick Eric Cantona appearing on a French channel summed up the situation in Manchester with a Latin phrase, “Memento mori.” The phrase was both used as a comment and a reminder of the mortality of glory in ancient times. Bad times makes philosophers of us all. It is followed by the pall of nostalgia falls heavy on the eyelids.

Imagine if you might a remake of Rocky IV featuring a 73-year-old Sylvester Stallone and 61-year-old Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) going against each other in an action-packed two-hour-long feature film. Long-term admirers of the Rocky franchise will crowd theatres no doubt and bring their children and grandchildren along. But in the back of their minds, they will know that the glow is far removed from the glory that made them fall in love with the idea of Rocky and Drago in the first place.

For Manchester United and Arsenal supporters attending the match at a near-capacity Old Trafford, the experience wasn’t dissimilar.

The somewhat-entertaining 1-1 draw at Manchester United’s home ground last night, under the glare of the floodlights and the deluge, exposed the weather-beaten creases, age-congealed wrinkles of the two establishments not merely in terms of their play. Rainwater flushed down through various sections of the stadium through unmaintained potholes on the roof and some fans wet as an Amazonian capybara on a rainy day. But it was not without rare glimpses of a sunny past.

A quick break on the 44th minute came from an Arsenal corner. In half-a-sneeze worth of time, Manchester United galloped up the pitch. It seemed for a moment that the chance was squandered as Marcus Rashford was pushed wide with the ball, but a cut-back from the left to the edge of the box evaded the reaching leg of Paul Pogba and fount the instep of Lancaster-born Scott McTominay. And before anyone in the stands could bring a napkin out to wipe their nose the ball sunk into the top corner in the fashion of a hot steam-iron into a memory-foam mattress.

Former Dortmund man Sokratis Papastathopoulos hoped for a hole to burrow his head in. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno stood motionless for a while as a housekeeper would upon opening a door to a bed in flames. It could have gotten worse, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived with a fire extinguisher on the other end of the half but it wasn’t without assistance.

57th minute: Manchester United newbie Axel Tuanzebe under pressure on the touchline from a throw-in gave the ball away. The joint golden boot winner Aubameyang pranced across, cut in, rounded off Harry Maguire and lifted the ball over David De Gea and into the net.

The linesman called Aubameyang offside. VAR stepped in chalk that decision as incorrect and the goal stood to the roar in the away end.

The rest of the game was a game of slips and near-hits. There more occasions of players’ cleats giving away under the slushie of grass and mud than there were clear cut chances in the match.

The early part of the game saw Arsenal employ early, nonthreatening crosses into the Manchester United box – they were far from whipped, in fact, you could say they looked fluffy. Daniel James looked lively down the left tying Calum Chambers in knots.

On the 28th minute, Andreas Pereira tried to do all on his own. Receiving the ball on the right-wing, he led David Luiz in a footrace, and with a few hip-swivels on the edge of the ARsenal box produced a saved from Leno.

42nd minute: A chance for Marcus Rashford which could as well be a commentary on the narrative of his career so far saw him find a dangerous one-on-one situation against Sokratis, only to roll his cleats over the ball and fall down.

In the span of 30 seconds, Arsenal produced a double-save from David De Gea, first from teenager Bukayo Saka and follow up at an angle from Matteo Guendouzi. McTominay has the chance of double his tally from a corner in the 69th minute with a free header.

72nd minute: Harry Maguire chanced his luck from a thunderous punt from the edge of the box making Leno pulling off the acrobatics.

91st minute: Rashford has his probing freekick turned away emphatically by a one-handed save by Leno.

When the board showed four minutes of added time, the Manchester United and Arsenal fans had visions of the past when ‘Fergie Time’ was almost a ritual. That was the time of Sol Campbell, Wayne Rooney, David Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kolo Toure; when Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger would be barking into other’s throat, and had to be kept apart by officials in the technical area. But this is a watered-down version of the champagne football we are used to from these two teams. The game ended 1-1. Manchester United (10th in the table) have nine points from seven games and Arsenal (4th) have 12.

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Updated Date: Oct 01, 2019 12:35:34 IST