It was rainy night at Old Trafford, as Manchester United hosted Big Six rivals Arsenal. The once distinguished Theatre of Dreams, known for inciting fear into the opposition at night rang out in jeers by the culmination of 90 minutes + stoppage time, a sound José Mourinho’s men are all too familiar with hearing.
It looked to be a come-from-behind task for the Red Devils yet again, as a miscue from keeper David de Gea gave the Gunners a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute. Nevertheless, they persisted, and managed to produce another 2-2 draw, thanks to a quick tap-in from Jesse Lingard in the second half.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal.
Death, taxes and Marcos Rojo getting booked
After missing the first 13 matches of the 2018-19 campaign, centre back Marcos Rojo returned to the pitch, and immediately reminded fans why his presence was barely craved.
Viewers couldn’t even take time to wonder how a player who has been left off the roster for months would suddenly decide to change his number, since the attention immediately diverted to a series of mistakes made by the Argentinian.
Proving that he and bookings are a better combination than peanut butter and jelly, Rojo picked up a yellow card in his first match back. Then in classic Red Devil defense, went on to cause an own goal in the second half, giving away a pass to Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette.
Seems like Rojo immediately learned from his mistakes, taking no time from kick-off to set up a brilliant long pass for Lingard to find the back of the net. Everyone turning their attention to Lacazette’s fake injury likely contributed to the quick equalizer.
Defending at an all time low
Last night’s match also marked the return of centre back Eric Bailly, whose boots hadn’t touched the pitch since being subbed off in the first half of United’s 3-2 win against Newcastle in October. The only United defender who looked awake last night, the Ivorian proved that he could be Victor Lindelöf’s partner in the middle. His outstanding performance also leaves many wondering why Mourinho would rather position Scott McTominay in the back and have his team concede goals for fun. With two blocks and two interceptions in the opening 45, Mourinho’s decision to sit Bailly for whatever reason is inexcusable and frankly short sighted.
Other than Bailly, the rest of the back looked dreadful. We already touched on Rojo, so that just leaves Smalling, who was partly responsible for Arsenal’s opening goal. His marking on set pieces continue to decline, and no vegan diet can outweigh his second-team form. Last night’s skipper completely let Shkodran Mustafi outperform him on his own turf, falling down inside United’s box to allow the German international a free header.
Energetic upswing on the offense
In spite of the deficiencies in the back, the offense finally showed signs of cohesiveness, which is promising given the fixtures the Red Devils have for the rest of the year. Birthday boy Anthony Martial got his seventh goal in eight appearances, keeping José Mourinho employed for another week. Marcus Rashford’s speed and quick touches kept the Arsenal back 3 on their toes, and the striker made some impressive passes. Shameful that he couldn’t get a goal of his own, but a tireless 90 minutes was much appreciated from the Englishman. Keeping that same energy heading into this weekend’s match against Fulham would be much obliged, as United haven’t escaped a domestic match with all three points since November 3 against Bournemouth.