In Depth

Man Utd 1 Arsenal 1: reactions to the drab show at the Theatre of Dreams

Aubameyang condemns United to their worst start to a season in 30 years

Premier League matchweek seven Manchester United 1 Arsenal 1

It was a Monday night of mid-table mediocrity and a painful reminder to supporters of Manchester United and Arsenal of just how far their clubs have slipped. 

At the turn of the millennium this was the fixture that everyone relished, but those days are light years away with United and the Gunners now struggling to finish in the top four.

Shocking start

Thanks to their point last night Arsenal are now fourth in the Premier League table with United way back in tenth, having harvested nine points from seven league matches, 12 fewer than leaders Liverpool. 

It is United’s worst start to a season in 30 years and the first time they have failed to reach double figures after the opening seven matches since 1989-90, a campaign in which they finished 13th. 

That was early on in Alex Ferguson’s reign, and while the Scot was given time to transform the club current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t expect the same patience from the Old Trafford board.

United have won 49 points from their 28 Premier League games since the Norwegian took over last December, two fewer than in their final 28 under the man he replaced, Jose Mourinho.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored Arsenal’s equaliser against Man Utd at Old Trafford

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Game of moans

In a messy, error-strewn first-half, United just about deserved their half-time lead, courtesy of Scott McTominay’s rising drive from the edge of the area. 

But Arsenal’s improved performance after the break earned them their equaliser, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cool finish requiring confirmation from VAR that he had been played onside by Harry Maguire. 

In scoring Aubameyang became the first Arsenal player to net seven or more goals in the first seven Premier League games of a season since Dennis Bergkamp in 1997-98. He’s one of the few world-class players in a squad still worryingly short of genuine quality.

“How many times have we have been 1-0 up and not got the second goal?” bemoaned Solskjaer. “This is a steep learning curve for us and we’ll keep working hard and, with more experience, we’ll make the right decisions.”

Builder’s plea

A club like United with so many experienced players should not be on a learning curve and such statements will not inspire confidence among the fans. 

Solskjaer insists that he is “building something” at Old Trafford but he’s had ten months and there is little sign for the fans of anything taking shape. 

In the opinion of The Times’s Matt Dickinson, “there have to be serious doubts about whether Solskjaer is the man capable of pulling off such a big job”. 

The man himself, however, is adamant that he has what it takes to be the next Fergie. “I’m not doubting myself, no,” said Solskjaer. “If I doubt myself then the rest of the world would as well. We believe in what we are doing.”

Media reactions to the drab draw at Old Trafford

Henry Winter, The Times

“This fixture, almost fraudulently occupying the prime TV slot, offered only shadows of old greatness, two sides shorn of stellar quality engaged in the long, uninspiring chase for a Champions League place.” 

Jason Burt, The Daily Telegraph

“Manchester United and Arsenal used to play out epic contests in which neither side deserved to lose. This time they played out a draw in which neither side deserved to win.” 

Daniel Taylor, The Guardian

“Arsenal did enough, ultimately, to warrant a point from a thud-and-blunder evening that demonstrated how far these old rivals have to go before they can harbour realistic title ambitions.”

Neil Custis, The Sun

“These two were once giants of the game, but they have been overtaken by better recruitment and better ideas elsewhere.”

Phil McNulty, BBC Sport

“The Theatre of Dreams’ drowned in a downpour of rain and mediocrity, rarely enlivened by anything that could be called quality.”

Today’s back pages

VAR rescues Arsenal in a battle of the fallen giants

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