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Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United: Indecisive Reds fail in the final third

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Being at the top of the table was fun, if fleeting.

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates to cap off a very uneven week for the Reds as their noisy neighbors tightened their grip on the Premier League table.

The match began with the usual chippiness you expect between these long-time rivals including a collision in mid-air as Cédric’s arm met Bruno Fernandes’ face as the pair of Portuguese went for the same ball.

As the first half progressed, both teams would find themselves with opportunities in front of goal, with United edging out the hosts with arguably the more quality chances. Fred (!) found himself with a peach of a chance at the top of the box as the midfielder flicked a clever ball toward the right corner that forced an acrobatic save out of Bernd Leno to keep the score level.

Gabriel Martinelli would make the next heroic play to save a likely scoring chance for United. Some clever interplay on the left side of the pitch would see Marcus Rashford by himself near the back post. Martinelli would close out at least 20 yards as a cross came towards Rashford, and, before the ball could land at the forward’s feet, Martinelli would head the ball out of play.

Unfortunately for the visitors, it would be a first half to forget from Rashford. With Cédric on an early yellow, it was clear United were trying to funnel play more on the right-wing to take advantage. However, whether it was a lack of focus or confidence, Rashford was the killer of his team’s own chances. Despite showing his skill with the ball and dribbling past or through the legs of defenders, the moment Rashford carried or received the ball in scoring position, he was void of decision making.

The most egregious example came at the end of the first half when Rashford would again find himself on the back post alone. He received a cross, but, instead of hitting the ball one-time, he allowed defenders to close him down as he tried to decide which foot to shoot the ball with only a few yards between him and the goal.

Arsenal would take control of the early portions of the second half as United struggled to hold possession, and the home side was relentlessly pushing for the go-ahead. Yet, despite a couple of tight moments, United would weather the storm and the match would turn into a transition basketball game. Arsenal would have another sequence of events that included an Alexandre Lacazette free-kick clanging off the crossbar that would’ve had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calling for a timeout if the mechanic existed in the sport.

Indicative of the way the match played out for United, their best chance of the second half would also be the reason why they didn’t take a lead. A crossed-in ball to the center of the box would force Edinson Cavani to attempt a shot from a near-impossible angle that went just wide of the right post. Unfortunately, for the good guys, a second look would show that Anthony Martial was looking at a potential tap-in had Cavani not attempted the spectacular.

Frankly, the result was what both teams deserved considering the sloppiness and the decision making that occurred during the run of play. If you choose to be a glass-half-full person, then you’ll be glad to see United extending their unbeaten streak on the road while earning a point following a very disappointing loss against Sheffield United during the midweek. However, on the flip side, this was a win that United needed to rebound following that midweek loss considering Manchester City took a three-point lead in the Premier League table while holding a match in hand.

The Reds are right back at it on Tuesday, Feb. 2 when they host Southampton. The Saints have fallen out of their impressive early-season form and Manchester United will need to earn a much-sought-after win at home if it wishes to stay on the heels of their cross-town rivals.