Manchester United’s bubble of optimism was burst at Old Trafford on Sunday evening when Arsenal beat them 1-0. Manchester United have not won a league game at home this season and this was the Gunners’ first win away at Old Trafford in the Premier League since 2006.
The Red Devils came into the game on the back of a big win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League and were expected to beat Arsenal at home.
But a lacklustre first half set the tone for the game and while Manchester United improved after the break, a silly mistake from Paul Pogba inside the penalty box gave the Gunners a penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first league goal in five games.
Arsenal have been inconsistent this season but they defended well against Manchester United and stopped them from creating many clear cut chances.
Mikel Arteta’s side moved into the top half of the Premier League table with the win while the Red Devils continue to languish in 15th in the standings.
#3 Paul Pogba can’t start big games in the Premier League
The Frenchman’s performance against Leipzig in midweek gave Manchester United hope that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has finally found a system to get the best out of him. The midfield diamond was again employed against Arsenal but the France international was again subdued.
He made very little impact at the right end and struggled to set the tone for Manchester United in the first half. Arsenal went with a more defensively robust midfield and managed to keep the Red Devils’ midfield diamond quite.
The Frenchman made the telling contribution in the game but in Arsenal’s favour when he unnecessarily tripped Hector Bellerin inside the penalty box. Paul Pogba was never going to get the ball and the Spaniard was always going to hit the ground once he felt contact.
It was the kind of mistake Manchester United didn’t expect from a senior player and it went onto cost them the game eventually. While he has performed in Europe, Pogba has struggled to make his presence felt in big games in the Premier League and four years since his arrival, Manchester United are still waiting for him to unleash himself.
And the wait is getting frustrating.
Pogba’s start against Leipzig last Wednesday was his first since Manchester United’s 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur earlier in October and it seems the Frenchman could see another spell on the bench.
#2 Mikel Arteta has found a way to keep Arsenal interested in the big games
Towards the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, the Gunners were regularly embarrassed in big games. The 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford and the 6-0 loss at Chelsea were only two examples of some of the horror shows by Arsenal away from home against the traditional top six.
Arsenal’s form away from home against the top six was also terrible but that has been gradually changing under Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard is yet to find the way to make his Arsenal side more fluid and their attacking numbers this season are nothing to write home about. But Arteta has found a way to keep Arsenal interested in the big games away from home.
They beat Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to winning the FA Cup last season and while they have lost against Pep Guardiola’s side and Liverpool in the league this term, both those games were close and the Gunners had their moments.
Arteta has managed to organise their defence to soak up the pressure against the big teams and have looked to hit on the counter.
The Gunners dominated Manchester United in the first half without really making David de Gea work. After the break, the Red Devils did put pressure on Arsenal but an organised defence meant Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men rarely threatened to penetrate and on the other end, the away side got lucky when Paul Pogba gave away a penalty.
Unlike under Wenger, Arsenal are not out of the game away from home against the big teams by the end of first half. They are keeping themselves interested and in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang they have one of the elite strikers in the game on whom you can bank to get a goal on the break.
#1 Manchester United not going anywhere in the Premier League at the moment
The wins over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the Champions League have masked over the problems the Red Devils are facing in the league.
In the first six league games, they have had just one convincing performance – the 4-1 win away at Newcastle United. The other victory in the league came at Brighton, a game that they should have lost and needed to score a penalty after the final whistle to seal three points.
Their form at Old Trafford in the league, this season should worry everyone. They have lost to Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal at home and only managed a 0-0 draw against Chelsea.
While it is only six games, they are still sitting in 15th in the league at the moment and are already nine points behind league leaders Liverpool and six points from the top four slots.
An away game at Everton awaits them next weekend and while thei Red Devils’ form on the road in the league has been brilliant, Carlo Ancelotti’s side are going to be anything but pushovers at Goodison Park.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to find a way to get his Manchester United side going in the league soon or they will soon be playing catch up and might need another late-season revival to rescue their league campaign.