To put it in context, Antonio Valencia dutifully patrolled one flank while Ashley Young clinked up and down the other. Alexis Sanchez still hoped to see a glimpse of who he was before. And Arsene Wenger said goodbye to the 20-year visits to Old Trafford.
This will be the last time Manchester United won the Premier League against Arsenal. April 29, 2018.
Since then, the teams have met five more times in two years, and United haven’t cost the win.
Manchester United have only beaten Arsenal once in the league in the past two years
Scott McTominay has scored United’s only goal in their last four league games against Arsenal
Arsenal recorded their first league win at Old Trafford since 2006 in November last year
Three managers were and are – Wenger, Unai Emery and of course Jose Mourinho. The youngest bosses to oversee this often titanic battle are ex-players and only Mikel Arteta has won the game and won Arsenal’s first at Old Trafford since his own stint with the club he now directs.
But what about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men? Not only have they failed to beat these opponents in the past two years – apart from a 3-1 FA Cup win in 2019 – but have only scored one goal in their last four games after Scott McTominay utterly was unlikely.
There hasn’t been much between these two teams lately before Saturday’s meeting in the Emirates. But Manchester United have left more to be desired than their London opponents in key areas and key moments.
Solskjaer hopes these issues can be fixed to ensure he finally wins a victory over the team he will remember as his fiercest nemesis in the years he wore the United shirt.
Shots galore … but no goals
Most worrying for Solskjaer is that Manchester United have only scored one league goal in four attempts against the Gunners.
With such an array of attacking talents in the game since their last win – like Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, not to mention Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes – this is an amazing breakdown.
However, Solskjaer needn’t worry that this lack of targets translates into a lack of attack ideas. United created many chances against Arsenal, in some cases more than the Gunners in the games they won.
Marcus Rashford lets out a scream after begging for another chance at the Emirates Stadium
Mason Greenwood had the best chance for United but the side looked dull in the November loss
Romelu Lukaku had the best chance in March 2019, but hit the crossbar with 0-2
Despite the 2-2 draw in December 2018, United scored seven out of ten shots, compared to four out of nine from Arsenal. In Solskjaer’s first loss in March 2019, Arsenal had the same number of shots as United – 14 – but one less on goal.
United were particularly crooked in the 1-1 draw in September 2019 in front of goal. He scored 16 shots but only saw four hits. The final game, Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in November, was an all-round delicate affair, but both teams scored two shots on goal.
So creating coincidences is certainly not the problem, and Solskjaer’s squad have proven themselves capable of finding goals when they matter most over the past few weeks, with contributions from Pogba and Fernandes being particularly important.
If they can feed Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani, the confidence that should flow through their attacking trio could lead them to victory on this occasion.
Self inflicted wounds
Of course, it’s only worth sharpening the attack and scoring goals if you’re waterproof in the back. And in that regard, United seem to have an issue that regularly shows their ugly head when Arsenal come to town.
Every game over the past two years has been a close and often bleak affair, with victory due to fine margins and costly mistakes.
United have seen a lot of this on their own line of defense, starting with the sloppy antics of their once unbeatable goalkeeper.
Manchester United’s defensive rounds have appeared several times against Arsenal
David de Gea (left) tries unsuccessfully to catch Shkodran Mustafi’s (right) header
De Gea dives in the wrong direction when Alexandre diverts Lacazette’s attempt from Marcos Rojo
Paul Pogba (left) dirty Hector Bellerin (right) with a penalty in the 0-1 defeat in November 2020