Manchester United turned in a disappointing performance at Arsenal on Sunday, eventually succumbing to a deserved 2-0 defeat. Second half goals from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck proved decisive, with a rotated United failing miserably to match their hosts.
There were chances for both sides in the first five minutes, with Mesut Özil calling David de Gea into action before Anthony Martial was denied by Petr Čech. But before long it became clear that United’s gameplan was to sit back and soak up pressure: perhaps not surprising given that Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were all rested.
Arsenal were unfortunate to not go one up inside 10 minutes, when a glorious Alexis Sánchez pass found Aaron Ramsey in space in the box. The Welshman drove his shot low across goal, but de Gea got down to make the save. A similar run caused havoc just short of the half-hour, though Chris Smalling was on hand to make a last-ditch intervention and keep the scores level.
United's best chance of the match came a couple of minutes later, when a botched pass-back by Rob Holding was pounced upon by Wayne Rooney. Alas, the angles were closed down well by Čech, who was able to thwart United’s record goalscorer from close range.
United held out until halftime, but unfortunately not much longer. Less than nine minutes of the second half had passed when Arsenal took the lead, and did so in rather fortuitous circumstances. A long-range effort by Granit Xhaka hit Ander Herrera on the neck, looping up and over de Gea and into the back of the net.
The Gunners found themselves two up just a minute later, with former United man Danny Welbeck leaping to head an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross home after being left unmarked in the penalty area.
It was difficult to envisage a way back for a United side that had struggled to create chances all afternoon, and so it proved. The remaining minutes passed by with Čech untested, and United precariously carrying all of their eggs in the Europa League basket. Let’s hope it doesn’t backfire.