It’s the day after the night before United lost by 3 goals to 1 against Arsenal in a painful manner but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Let’s take a look at how the players performed and how the game went.
Onana was the biggest difference in United’s away match against Arsenal from this season and that of the previous campaign. Arsenal were cautious about pressing United high due to Onana’s abilities on the ball. His calmness and quality allowed the team to play out of the back much more often than they could with David de Gea in last season’s match. That meant United were not pinned back for prolonged periods of time and could control the game much more effectively than what we’ve been used to. A big positive for other big games to come.
Wan-Bissaka had an okay game. He coped well with Martinelli defensively by showing him onto his weaker left foot consistently.
The issue with him was again his passing with a lot of his passes being either under or overbite, causing the team to turn over possession a few times. He wasn’t particularly progressive with his pass selection at any time either, predominantly choosing the safer option.
It was the typical Lindelöf performance. He only really passed sideways and backward and he was fine defensively, albeit he gave us a scare when he misjudged the ball going out of play in the first half and taking down Nketiah to salvage the situation.
Martinez did well in the first half of the game. He was progressing the ball well when United had established some control and wasn’t particularly troubled defensively. He struggled more in the second half, but that could be explained by the knock that forced him to be taken off in the 67th minute of the match.
Our makeshift left-back was fantastic. He was defending Arsenal’s biggest attacking threat, Bukayo Saka, excellently throughout the game. The Arsenal winger even ended up switching wings toward the end of the game as he was getting nothing from Dalot.
The Brazilian wasn’t great again. He only won 2 of his 6 ground duels and misplaced quite a few passes that put the team back under pressure. He was less exposed than in previous games due to there being fewer transitions from Arsenal but he still needs to improve in the coming fixtures.
Before the game, I was really worried about Eriksen playing. I thought his struggles out of possession would get badly exposed by this Arsenal team. I was partially correct as he was poor positionally for their first goal, but apart from that he was surprisingly good. The Dane was tenacious in closing down opposition players, having 2 tackles, 2 blocked shots, and 1 interception. He also created United’s first goal among other great passes from deep to start a counter-attacking move.
It wasn’t Bruno’s best game as he struggled to have an impact. He only had a figure of 0.07 Expected Assists (xA) and lost 4 of his 7 ground duels.
Another day and another game where Antony’s biggest positives were without the ball. He had 1 tackle and 3 interceptions and did well to stop quite a few Arsenal attacks. But that’s not what United paid 100 million euros for. He had zero impact in terms of creativity and didn’t get into any goal-scoring positions. Again, we can only hope this improved with the introduction of Rasmus Højlund into the starting eleven after the international break.
Playing off the left again, Rashford was the only real goal threat in this team prior to Højlund’s cameo. It was a textbook Marcus Rashford goal in transition and he was constantly worrying Ben White with his pace in behind. His skill on the byline to find Højlund in the box was another highlight of his abilities.
Our worst player on the pitch by far for me. Martial didn’t contribute to anything meaningful apart from a few nice passes on the halfway line. The man who replaced him showed us what a real centre-forward looks like.
A proper striker who isn’t 30+ years old has arrived at this club at last. Højlund got about 30 minutes in this game and showed us what we can expect from him. He was physical and aggressive with Gabriel Magalhaes and his hold-up play was impeccable. The flick for Garnacho’s disallowed goal was truly beautiful. I’m sure we’re all excited to see more of Højlund in the United colours after the international break.
We can only really talk about the disallowed goal with Garnacho as he only got 10 minutes off the bench. And he had an immediate impact, showcasing his blistering pace and finishing calmly into the bottom right corner. Sadly, a marginal offside call stopped the Argentinean from winning United the game.
Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans
If you asked anyone to predict who United’s centre-back partnership would be in the last 15 minutes of a game against Arsenal before the start of the season, these two would be a rogue shout, to say the least. It’s bizarre that we ended up in this position but I find the reaction to it all a bit overblown. By the 84th minute, United had their first four centre back options injured (Varane, Martínez, Lindelöf, and Shaw). That is some extreme level of misfortune, leading to Maguire and Evans being together. If any team in the Premier League lost four centre-backs all at once, they would struggle to field an adequate pairing in their absence.
All in all, United played a good game away from home against one of the best teams in Europe and were a marginal offside call away from winning the game.
The manner in which the game was lost was really frustrating, last minute again, just like last season. There were clear improvements from the game at the Emirates between the two teams in 2022-23 and that was largely due to what Andre Onana brings to the team.
As a team, it is worrying that we conceded another late goal in such a big game and that is something Erik ten Hag will need to address in the coming months of this campaign.