There was fight. Plenty of fight. Jose Mourinho had called for “mad dogs” after the costly draw against Southampton and he got that in a barking-mad match as Manchester United slugged it out to nevertheless once again end up with just a point, this time against Arsenal.
With Tyson Fury, a United fan, in the stands, this was another crazy, chaotic contest. The boxer does not like draws. But he may have enjoyed this one. Paul Pogba was also an observer for much of this pugilistic encounter and, although he came on as a late substitute, it was feverish enough without the so-called “virus” who Mourinho had singled out for criticism.
A draw, for once, is something for United to cling onto and, while Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches in all competitions, they will come away feeling they should have done so with a first win here since 2006.
They were the better team, whatever Mourinho claimed, and created the better chances. If David de Gea was horribly at fault for Arsenal’s first goal he was, by the end, standing between Arsenal and victory with some fine saves.
It really was bonkers. Mourinho said United scored four goals and, effectively, they did. De Gea pushed Shkodran Mustafi’s header up in the air, the ball looping over him and into his own goal for the first and then the second came as Marcos Rojo lunged in to try to stop substitute Alexandre Lacazette, only to divert the ball past De Gea.
Maybe Rojo, making his first appearance of the season, should not have been on the pitch at that point. He was fortunate to escape with a yellow card in the first half for a reckless lunge aimed at Aaron Ramsey, in which he caught Matteo Guendouzi as he tried to win the ball back inside the Arsenal penalty area after his shot was blocked.
That was one of five cautions issued by referee Andre Marriner in a furious five-minute spell and, overall, five minutes was all that Arsenal held the lead for, even though they were in front on two occasions. They were ahead for just 13 seconds after scoring their second goal.
Arsenal suffered injuries to Ramsey and, more seriously, Rob Holding. United lost Anthony Martial.
It was a bruising, uncompromising encounter. This was the first meeting between these two sides in 32 years, and 82 games, without either Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger in the dugout and it developed into something of a homage to their rivalry at its height – without quite the stellar quality.
But there was undeniably “spirit, effort, intensity”, according to Mourinho – three things sorely lacking of late even if, again, United did not win and did not really look like winning. They have now gone four league matches without gaining maximum points and are eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. If Chelsea had not lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the deficit would have been double-digits and, with that, United’s hopes may well have disappeared.