For the first time in a generation, Arsenal and Manchester United played a match that lived up to the high standards set by some of the greatest contests in Premier League history, such as the Marc Overmars game in 1998, the thrilling 2-2 draw five years later, and Pizzagate. At any point during the game, it seemed as though either team could have taken control and emerged victorious. However, in retrospect, it is clear that Arsenal, led by Mikel Arteta and currently sitting at the top of the league, dominated the game. The statistics are telling; Bukayo Saka, who outplayed Luke Shaw, had more touches in the box than Manchester United’s entire team, and in just 45 minutes, backup right back Takehiro Tomiyasu had more touches in the opponent’s penalty area than any of the opposing players. Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah each took six shots, the same number as United.
The statistics alone may not fully capture the nature of the match between Arsenal and Manchester United, which was a fiercely competitive and closely contested battle. Despite being outplayed by Arsenal, Manchester United should not be underestimated as they were a formidable opponent executing a well-thought-out plan devised by coach Erik ten Hag. They were particularly dangerous on the counter-attack, with the precise passing of Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes creating numerous threats. Despite the intense pressure and opportunities created by Manchester United, it took until the 90th minute for Arsenal to secure victory with a goal from Eddie Nketiah.
Additionally, Marcus Rashford was a standout player on the pitch, playing with the confidence and skill of a player who knew he was the best on the field. He made a significant impact on the game, scoring a spectacular opening goal after a strong start by Arsenal. Throughout the pre-match warmup, he had been consistently hitting the ball into the bottom corners and he carried that momentum into the game. When Thomas Partey made a mistake with a heavy touch, Rashford capitalized, with Wout Weghorst’s smart decoy run creating space for him to take a long-range shot. He managed to get enough bend on the ball to make it dip, leaving Aaron Ramsdale no chance of saving it.
Despite the early setback, Arsenal remained unflappable and refused to let Manchester United’s aggressive press affect their game. They continued to play with the same precision and composure that had earned them 47 points in their first 18 games, disproving the recent notion that Mikel Arteta’s fiery demeanor on the sidelines would be reflected in the team’s performance. This was a marked contrast to their previous game against Manchester United earlier in the season, where a panicked Arteta made hasty substitutions and left the team vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Throughout the game, Arsenal gradually increased their intensity and momentum. Their press put pressure on Manchester United’s defense, which led to Nketiah’s first goal. Gabriel Martinelli forced a corner from Aaron Wan-Bissaka that resulted in the equalizer. By the time the teams returned from half-time, Arsenal were in full control of the game and were playing at an irresistible level. Luke Shaw, who has had plenty of experience playing against Saka with England, was unable to keep up with one of the best young forwards in the world. Even Christian Eriksen couldn’t stop Saka as he scored a beautiful goal at the far post. After the game, Shaw had the expression of a man who had just watched a horror movie, he said: “In the second half maybe we deserved that,” he acknowledged. “We were a bit passive, we let them control the game completely in the second half. To concede at the end is gutting. “You have to give them credit for what they’ve done this season. They deserve to be at the top from the way they play.”
Arsenal completely dominated Manchester United, pushing them deeper into their own half as they increased the pressure at the crucial moments of the game. This ability to overcome adversity and remain composed is becoming a characteristic of this Arsenal team. In the past, the home crowd at the Emirates Stadium would have grown restless at the sight of Ramsdale’s poor handling of a corner, and the players would have panicked and rushed to clear the ball. Instead, Arsenal methodically controlled the game, slowly breaking down Manchester United’s defense and executing a well-planned strategy to secure a victory. The presence of a serial trophy winner like Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was always available to receive a pass, was a huge asset for the team. He was often found in positions that caused problems for Manchester United. The touch map of Zinchenko in the second half, labeled as a “left-back” shows his influence on the game.
Defending against a player like Zinchenko, who is both technically proficient and tactically aware, can be a difficult task. He set the tone for the game, creating opportunities and putting pressure on Manchester United’s defense. His influence on the game was a key factor in Arsenal’s victory.
After the game, Arteta praised his team’s mental and emotional composure, saying “Mentally and emotionally we were really composed but determined. We managed those moments really well. We never panicked. We kept believing. We kept doing the same things even better than before. We always believed that we could win it.” This attitude and resilience helped Arsenal to secure a hard-fought victory against a tough opponent.
“We displayed composure in the box on several occasions, but unfortunately, the ball did not find the back of the net. However, it was not luck that secured our victory. It was our ability to control the game, our technical proficiency, and our calm and composed attitude that ultimately led us to success. These are the characteristics of a team that could potentially become champions of England.”