Arsenal hosted Manchester United at the Emirates in a crucial game compared to the glory days.
The Gunners were looking to beat United and seal their title bid, while Ten Hag was hoping to bounce back from a disappointing draw with Crystal Palace on Wednesday and get back on winning ways.
In the absence of Casemiro, Ten Hag brought Scott McTominay back to the side, and Fred had to settle for a place on the bench.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat to Arsenal.
Angry first half
The first 45 minutes were very balanced for both teams, who had their moments.
Arsenal owned the ball a little better than United. The London club had 51%, and United had 49%.
The leaders of the table made significantly more shots on target compared to irreconcilable rivals — 11:2. However, both sides recorded two shots on target.
The Red Devils drew first blood in the 17th minute thanks to Marcus Rashford. The Englishman received a pass from Bruno Fernandes before chopping down a helpless Thomas Partey.
Rashford then fired a poison ball into Arsenal’s goal to put United ahead. However, Arsenal achieved parity after just seven minutes thanks to Eddie Nketiah, who overtook Van Bissaka and beat David de Gea with his head.
The game in the first half was on a knife edge. Both teams were resolute defensively and succeeded in weathering any storm of the opponent. There were few clean chances.
United pressed well and dominated the stages of the game, as did Arsenal in some cases. Undoubtedly, Ten Hag would have been disappointed with the way the goal was conceded, but he is glad that his team resisted in hostile territory against the best team in the country.
De Gea’s weaknesses are still a serious problem
Nketiah’s goal was the result of a mistake by United. De Gea gave a pass to Van Bissaka, who was under pressure, but he could not control the transfer. A few seconds later, Granit Djaka found himself in the penalty area and gave a magnificent cross to Nketiah, who shot unmistakably in front of the goal.
The poor distribution and initiation of De Gea’s game was a constant theme throughout the game.
The Spaniard’s limitations with his legs were fully demonstrated — this is what Mikel Arteta’s men sought to use whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Whenever De Gea had the ball, the Arsenal crowd went into ecstasy and shouted loudly, prompting their players to press the United stopper and force him to make a mistake.
Often when De Gea was hitting the ball, he couldn’t find a United shirt and instead conceded the ball to an Arsenal player. The first number of United also did not cover himself with glory because of Bukayo Saki’s goal and Arsenal’s second goal in the match.
United’s inability to operate from behind and beat the press is clearly still a hindrance. It is not surprising that after some time the tactics were abandoned, and De Gea began to play long.
Building from behind is an important part of Ten Haga’s style of play that needs to be worked on.
The top four is still the goal
There was a lot of talk ahead of the game about whether United would be legitimate title contenders if they scored all three points against Arsenal.
Roy Keane himself said the same thing, but warned that if the Red Devils failed to beat their arch-rivals, they should forget that they were fighting for the award.
🚨🎙️| Roy Keane: “Anything less than a win [against Arsenal] and you can certainly forget about #mufc for the title.” [Sky]
— centredevils. (@centredevils) January 22, 2023
This defeat is a reminder that getting into the top four is still United’s main goal this season.
There is still a lot of work to be done before United can be considered a legitimate rival. This is evidenced by the second half, where the Reds were under heavy pressure and were chained to their penalty area.