Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by an under-strength Arsenal side at the Emirates Stadium as they lost ground to Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
The Gunners, who were without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney, started brightly, but United, who lost Scott McTominay early in the match to injury, grew into the game and fashioned the best chance before the break.
Bernd Leno made a smart save to deny Fred, while Marcus Rashford failed to get a shot away when free at the back post as the sides went in all-square at the break.
In the second half, Arsenal, who brought on Martin Odegaard for his debut late on, came out the stronger of the two sides as Alexandre Lacazette’s free-kick hit the crossbar before David de Gea made an excellent block to keep out Emile Smith Rowe’s strike. Nicolas Pepe sent a curling effort inches wide late on before Edinson Cavani steered arguably the best chance of the game wide in the dying stages.
The point sees Arsenal, who stretch their unbeaten league run to seven games, move up to eighth, while United, who have scored just once in five games against their big-six rivals this season, stay second, but are three points behind leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
How Man Utd lost ground in the title race…
Arsenal looked lively from the off, but it was United who fashioned the better early chances at the Emirates.
Rob Holding’s poor defensive header was collected on the edge of the penalty area by Fred, whose placed effort was tipped around the post by the diving Leno.
- Arsenal made just one change from their win at Southampton on Tuesday night as Gabriel Martinelli came in for Bukayo Saka – who missed out as a precaution due to a sore hip. New signing Martin Odegaard, who joined on loan from Real Madrid on Wednesday, was named on the bench.
- Manchester United made five changes as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacted to the shock home defeat to bottom club Sheffield United. Edinson Cavani was recalled to lead the attack with Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay and Fred also coming in. Mason Greenwood, Alex Telles, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Nemanja Matic made way for the visitors.
Smith Rowe was the player who looked to drag Arsenal forward and his pass released Pepe, who curled wide of De Gea’s upright.
However, Arsenal struggled for clear-cut opportunities as United built up a head of steam towards the half-time break. Bruno Fernandes was played in by Paul Pogba, but the midfielder’s right-footed shot drifted wide of the far post.
McTominay was then forced off with an injury and replaced by Anthony Martial as Pogba moved into a deeper midfield position, and United continued to create opportunities as Rashford had another good chance.
Arsenal: Leno (8), Bellerin (7), Holding (8), Luiz (8), Soares (7), Partey (6), Xhaka (7), Pepe (7), Smith Rowe (7), Martinelli (6), Lacazette (7).
Subs: Willian (7), Odegaard (n/a), Nketiah (n/a).
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Lindelof (7), Maguire (7), Shaw (8), McTominay (6), Fred (6), Pogba (7), Fernandes (7), Rashford (7), Cavani (6).
Subs: Martial (6), Greenwood (n/a).
Man of the match: David Luiz.
Unmarked at the far post, he failed to get a shot away and he eventually set up Fernandes, who was fouled on the edge of the box. His free-kick flicked off the head of David Luiz, wrong-footing Leno but flying narrowly over the crossbar.
Arsenal introduced Willian in place of Gabriel Martinelli for the second half, and they took the game to United. The former Chelsea midfielder and Pepe saw shots blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire respectively.
The game was starting to open up but Cavani was unable to convert Luke Shaw’s powerful drive across goal.
Arsenal were looking the more likely to score, though, and Lacazette rattled the crossbar with a free-kick before Smith Rowe’s powerful drive was pushed clear by De Gea.
Odegaard was handed 10 minutes to make an impact as he replaced the impressive Smith Rowe for the closing stages after United had brought on Mason Greenwood for Rashford.
Both sides were looking to win the game as Pepe curled wide and Cavani fluffed his lines late on with the goal at his mercy, but they were forced to settle for the draw.
18 – Manchester United are now unbeaten in 18 Premier League away games (W13 D5), the longest run without defeat on the road in their top-flight history. Cloud. pic.twitter.com/u0T5MiRCJp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 30, 2021
Neville: Arteta will be the happier manager
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“I think today tells you where both sides are currently at.
“Manchester United are well above Arsenal but they still don’t feel that they must go and win this match at all costs and take risks to lose. They still aren’t in that place, this team. They are still going about it in a very measured way.
“Mikel Arteta will be the happier manager tonight.
“One point from six is a disappointing return and it takes United off track from where they were last Sunday, which was right at the top of the league. You can’t afford to drop points like that if you are going to win the league, but I don’t think any Manchester United fan really thought they were going to do that.
“However, they’ll still be very disappointed about what’s happened in the last few days and the lack of urgency they showed in trying to win this match.”
What the managers said…
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “It was a big battle. Both teams wanted to win, and it was a really competitive match. They had some moments in the first half and we had the biggest moments in the second half, but to make the difference you need to score when we had the big chances we had.
“It is [a sign of progress]. Considering the circumstances and all the players we don’t have; it was a big test for us and I think the team turned up and showed how much they wanted to win the game.
“Everyone involved in the game tried their best and gave a really strong performance. We had some bad decisions in the first half where we lost the ball in some dangerous positions, but the moment we started to correct that and we were better in our high press, the team looked different and we were there to win the game.
“We’ve been on a really strong run and we’ve faced some difficult opponents. The schedule is crazy and we are losing players all the time, but we are in the right direction.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “Good performance, two massive chances in the second half but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We had the greater share of possession, the better chances, there was a spell in the second half we dropped off but apart from that I’m pleased with the boys.
“I felt we had the upper hand but didn’t get Paul [Pogba] in the game and we wanted him to get on the ball more and Anthony [Martial] to drive at them. We wanted Paul to dictate the play more. It [was] definitely a disappointing one [losing to Sheffield United on Wednesday]. Today they did what they should do. You can’t control if they take the chances or not.”
On taking one point from the last six available: “We take the point and move on to Southampton on Tuesday. It’s like an NBA season this, on the road again.”
Man of the match – David Luiz
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville: “It was a difficult one but I’m giving it to David Luiz. He gets it for the clean sheet that Arsenal had – they defended really well – and the celebration for blocking Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick in the first half. That just tipped it his way.”
Luiz: Arsenal need to have ambition
Arsenal defender David Luiz speaking to Sky Sports:
“You have to be humble because we are far from the first position. We have to take it game by game and try to improve. And then in the end of the season we’re going to see. The ambition is fighting for the first position. It has to be there. I never start something in my life without ambition. Until the moment it’s mathematically impossible we have to try.”
Opta stats – Arsenal’s unbeaten run against United continues
- Arsenal remain unbeaten in each of their last six league games against Manchester United (W3 D3), since losing home and away in 2017-18 – the Gunners’ longest unbeaten run against the Red Devils in league competition since October 1980 – May 1983 (also a run of six).
- Manchester United have failed to score in three consecutive league matches against Arsenal for the first time since September 1981 – May 1983 (a run of four).
- This was the first goalless draw between Arsenal and Manchester United in the Premier League since February 2014, also at the Emirates.
- Manchester United are winless in all five Premier League games against Arsenal under Ole Gunnar Solskjær (D2 L3) – the Norwegian is the only Red Devils manager to face Arsenal more than once in the top-flight without winning a game.
Arsenal are back in action on Tuesday when they travel to Wolves in the Premier League; kick-off 6pm.
Manchester United also play on Tuesday when they host Southampton at Old Trafford; kick-off 8.15pm.