MAN UTD 0, ARSENAL 1
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 100th match in charge of Manchester United was not a memorable landmark following the home defeat by Arsenal.
The Reds, without a home Premier League win in six attempts four of which are in the current campaign, are languishing in 15th place with a measly seven points from six games in the current campaign.
It was a disappointing day for United who lacked creativity managing only eight goal attempts in the game.
And that was against the Gunners who, until today, had failed to register a win against one of the so-called big six in 29 attempts stretching back to January 2015 when they won at Manchester City.
It was also Arsenal’s first win at Old Trafford since 2006 when Emmanuel Adebayor was their matchwinner.
This time it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whose second-half penalty lifted them to 12th place after an erratic start to their campaign.
Despite United’s impressive record in the Champions League, these are challenging times for Solskjaer as this is their worst run of home league form since 1972.
And it the lowest total after six games since 2013-14 under David Moyes when they finished seventh that season.
The defeat sparked renewed criticism from Reds’ legend and television pundit Roy Keane who pinpointed a lack of leaders in the team.Embed from Getty Images
Solskjaer admitted the Reds lacked intensity to their play,
He said: “When you have played well you think you can take your foot off the pedal but that is not how it works because this was a big game against a good team and you have to be absolutely spot on with everything.
“We were too sloppy, too many passes went astray, and the rotation was not there.
“Too many things that can go wrong in a game did for us today. We didn’t get the response we hoped for.
“We didn’t perform in the first half when we were passive and had no flair. The game had 0-0 written all over it.
“Paul (Pogba) knows it’s a soft penalty to give away similar to Nemanja (Matic) who almost got a penalty.”
On struggling at home, Solskjaer added: “Home and away form is out the window with no fans in the stadium. You can’t look at that. It doesn’t really mean too much.
“We played fantastic on Wednesday and now we lose. But we need to get points on the board. Now we need to focus on next week and Everton.
“I’ll just keep on working. It is a good group that wants to win, go forward and work hard. Today they will go home disappointed, but I know these boys and they will get back at it.”
United captain Harry Maguire admitted the Reds’ display was not good enough.
He said: “It’s hard to put your finger on it. It was disappointing from us. It was a cagey game, a game of few chances.
“We needed to do more, we needed to create more.
“We were confident going into the game. It was important to start the game well. We just gave the ball away too much.
“It’s not good enough, we’ve got to go work hard tomorrow at training. We can’t find excuses, we’ve got to look within.
“We haven’t won in the league at Old Trafford this season. It’s disappointing, we want teams to have a tough time coming here.”
Marcus Rashford was one of three changes from the side that beat RB Leipzig so emphatically in the Champions League.
After scoring a 16-minute hat-trick as a substitute, Rashford was recalled.
There were also starts for Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay as Anthony Martial, Donny van der Beek and Nemanja Matic lost out.
Arsenal made 10 changes from the side that beat Irish side Dundalk in the Europa League three days earlier, Mohamed Elneny the only player to retain his place.
A huge poppy filled the centre circle pre-match as this was the nearest match to Remembrance Sunday.
The players lined the centre circle to remember those who died in conflict but, also poignantly, Reds’ legend Nobby Stiles who died on Friday aged 78.
Aubameyang, sliding in at the far post, just failed to connect with Hector Bellerin’s low cross from a couple of yards, the first opening after a disjointed and scrappy opening quarter of an hour.
Bernd Leno was the first goalkeeper to be forced int action in the 21st minute.
Rashford’s brilliant Crossfield pass released Mason Greenwood on the left of the box and his angled shot was kept out by Leno’s legs.
The closest to a breakthrough came five minutes before the break when Willian, played a return pass with Aubameyang whose back heel, set up the Brazilian whose shot from 18 yards clipped the crossbar.
The Gunners had another glorious chance in the 44th minute when Bakayo Saka’s free header from nine yards cleared the bar following a cross from Bellerin.
United managed only one goal attempt in the opening 45 minutes, the fewest in the first half of a Premier League match since October 2015 when they played Manchester City.
United made a much brighter start to the second period as Aaron Wan-Bisska’s shot was deflected over the bar and Harry Maguire headed wide from the resulting corner.
At the other end, Alexandre Lacazette set up Aubameyang who curled a shot from outside the box just wide of the upright.
Maguire was proving to be United’s most potent attacking weapon as he headed narrowly wide from Luke Shaw’s free kick.
United made their first change mid-half when Fred made way for Matic.
The breakthrough came in the 69th minute through a penalty from Aubameyang which was awarded after a clumsy challenge by Pogba who stood on Bellerin’s foot as he burst into the penalty area.
It was the Gabon international’s fourth goal of the season but only his second in the Premier League.
United have conceded five penalties in their last seven home league games, having conceded five in their previous 101 such games and Pogba had given away three since Solskjaer became manager.
The goal was quickly followed by two more changes by Solskjaer as Fernandes and Greenwood made way for Edinson Cavani and van de Beek.
United came close to equalising in the 85th minute in bizarre circumstances.
Dutchman van de Beek drove in a hard low cross which deflected off Elneny and then the face of Leno before striking the upright.
It was the last chance with Arsenal’s game management in the latter stages superb as it was a deserved victory.