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United and Arsenal share the spoils on RvP's return

A game of two halves ended very much like a cup tie

Shaun Botterill

After a shockingly lax performance for a majority of the first half, Manchester United recovered to control the match for large parts of the second which ended with both teams going for the win. As it ended, though, a 2nd minute Theo Walcott strike (which was probably a yard offside) was cancelled out by a Robin Van Persie penalty just before the break.

Without mincing words, United were quite terrible for the first 30 minutes or so. Phil Jones in particular could not cope with the pressing from Aaron Ramsey and co, with heavy touches and forced lumps up the field. Ramsey had a good game - in the absence of Wilshire, he provided industry and class and chipped in with some nice through balls as well. Thomas Rosicky was on form as well, picking out the pass that led to Walcott's opener. The assist may as well have gone to Patrice Evra, however, who had quite a bad outing. The skipper was slow and unaware of runs in behind him, and had a general lack of desire for a large part of the game (defensively). Arsenal's attacking impetus for the majority of the match was down to Santi Carzola - the little spaniard flitting between the lines. Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand, with the rock that is Michael Carrick, kept the Arsenal men largely at bay.

The first half started with 4 yellow cards in under 30 minutes, with the United players late to almost every ball. The play passed Jones by, with Carrick as usual overrun and in the limelight. After the half hour mark, however, United recovered. Rio Ferdinand provided a masterclass in defensive organization and composure, often helping Carrick build attacks while Jones drew a midfielder forward with bombing runs. Despite Arsenal's early dominance, United ended the half level on terms and arguably the better chances - a point blank save from an RvP header after some great wing play by Luis Nani comes to mind.

The second half, expectedly, saw a different United. Carrick was more authoritative, Arsenal's pressing went down and as a result we really got stuck into the game. Nani and Rooney had really good games thereafter, while RvP was consistently decent. Antonio Valencia hit a decent run of form, but his crosses really left something to be desired. Again, United had the better chances, mostly on the break from an increasingly reckless Gunners side. Aside from poor decision making by Valencia and one heavy touch from Ryan Giggs (on for Nani), United may well have clinched all 3 points.

It went from a terribly sloppy performance to quite a good one. Despite their early dominance, Arsenal never had any gilt edged chances as such and were fortunate with that early lead. United for their part were fortunate with Bacaray Sagna's generous back pass leading to the penalty, conceded by the fullback. However, the greater chances undoubtedly fell to United. The points record is out of reach now, and on the balance of the first half, that is deserved.

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