[Premier League] Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United
Clear-cut chances were at a premium on Wednesday as Manchester United recorded a competitive goalless draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The match started at a fair pace and Robin van Persie should have scored against his former club in the second minute when his scuffed shot was easily saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Not to be outdone, the Gunners then went close through Olivier Giroud, whose header flew just wide of the back post.
Playing on the left, Juan Mata began quietly but showed a glimpse of his immeasurable ability when a wonderful through-ball led to Van Persie firing a right-footed shot wide in the 19th minute. Moments later, Giroud gave everyone a sense of déjà vu as he nodded away from David De Gea’s goal for the second time. The French striker then collided with Rafael, who fell awkwardly on his shoulder and was replaced at the break by Rio Ferdinand.
Both teams made a cautious start to the second half with perhaps one eye on the counter attack, though scoring opportunities were at a premium until Laurent Koscielny’s header was cleared off the line by Antonio Valencia in the 61st minute. With the final act approaching, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes opted for youth by introducing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adnan Januzaj to the action.
United almost broke the deadlock in the 78th minute when Van Persie’s header was palmed onto the bar by Szczesny, thwarting the Reds following some excellent work from Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney. Spurred into action, Santi Cazorla then forced two athletic saves from De Gea, whose efforts helped the Reds to earn a decent away point.
The Match While Arsenal versus United is a rivalry that is most commonly known for its intense entertainment, this latest episode in the series provided a more cautious affair as both sides cancelled each other out at the Emirates Stadium. Robin van Persie twice went close to breaking the deadlock, most notably when the Dutchman’s header was palmed onto the crossbar in the second half, while Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla both tested David De Gea on a couple of occasions. A draw leaves the Reds seventh in the Barclays Premier League and 11 points shy of the Champions League places after fourth-placed Liverpool secured a late 3-2 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Quote/unquote “It was a tight game and they have been in the past. We won 1-0 at Old Trafford and it was tight, both teams had opportunities but it ended up 0-0. Overall, we looked quite compact and we defended well throughout the game and we had to do so. We had opportunities to score, even from the first minute when Robin had a great chance in the first minute.” – David Moyes
Star Men Unsurprisingly, it was the defenders who impressed most and Chris Smalling was among the best on the pitch, catching the eye at centre-back and then on the flank as deputy for Rafael in the second half. Nemanja Vidic enjoyed his personal battle with Giroud, while De Gea enhanced his reputation with a list of smart saves to rival his opposite number Wojciech Szczesny for the Man of the Match champagne.
Sub-plots As was the case last season, former Arsenal striker Van Persie received an unwelcoming reception from the Gunners supporters, who took great delight in booing the Dutchman’s every touch. Rio Ferdinand also made his first appearance for United since the FA Cup defeat to Swansea City on 5 January, replacing the injured Rafael at half-time to rekindle his famed partnership with Vidic.
Opposition Having lost heavily to Liverpool on Saturday, Arsenal were determined to beat United and get their title challenge back on track. However, while the Gunners were definitely on the offensive at times, they were evidently just as keen not to lose and seemingly placed an emphasis on defensive solidarity with one eye on the counter attack.
Move of the Match In the 78th minute, with the game’s closing act approaching, Michael Carrick reclaimed possession in the centre circle before slipping a neat pass to Van Persie. The Dutch striker then played a delightful exchange with Rooney to unleash a powerful header at Szczesny, whose quick reflexes enabled him to palm the ball onto the crossbar.
In the Stands Despite the howling wind and awful conditions, United’s travelling fans made plenty of noise and did themselves proud in North London, providing a constant backdrop of support throughout a nip and tuck encounter. Most notably, a rousing rendition of ‘We’ll Never Die’ could be heard in the closing exchanges, drowning out the noise generated by the home crowd.