Wednesday 5 December 2018 10:13 pm

Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal: Five things we learned as poor defending defines scrappy Old Trafford draw

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I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering football, cricket, tennis and more. Get in touch:

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Jose Mourinho isn’t one to be understated and with his side struggling he used the visit of Arsenal to Old Trafford to make a point.

Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini were all left on the bench, with £47m summer signing Fred not even in the squad.

Pogba and Lukaku both came off the bench in the second half, but we’ve reached the stage of the season when the perennially-embattled Mourinho begins to make not-so subtle points to the fans and boardroom.

Slow starters

It’s a familiar sight for Gunners fans now. With 15 Premier League games played Unai Emery’s side are still yet to lead at half-time.

The first 45 minutes made it clear why. Arsenal were ponderous, going side-to-side far too often, with United’s makeshift defence barely tested.

They went in level at 1-1 thanks to a rare mistake by David De Gea, who failed to deal with a bouncing header from Shkodran Mustafi – Arsenal’s only first-half shot on target.

Once again the Gunners improved going forward after the break but their slow starts are not sustainable.

Stricken players

December is a packed time in the calendar, and with fixtures coming thick and fast over the next few weeks predicting line-ups becomes nigh-on impossible.

Tired legs heighten the chance of injuries but it was still strange to see such an abundance of problems at Old Trafford.

Rob Holding went off on a stretcher in the first-half after a challenge with Marcus Rashford, captain for the night Aaron Ramsey rolled his ankle and departed at half-time, while Anthony Martial also limped off after scoring his seventh Premier League goal of the season.

With six yellow cards handed out in a feisty game there will be plenty of others nursing knocks this morning.

Awful defending

De Gea’s butter fingers gave Arsenal the opener, but the following three goals did their best to out-do each other in sloppiness.

Martial’s equaliser came after both Holding and Alex Iwobi failed to intercept Ander Herrera’s scuffed pass across the six-yard box.

Marcos Rojo upped the stakes, losing the ball inside his own half to allow Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette clear. He then diverted the ball onto the French striker’s boot and into his own net while trying to complete a slide tackle.

Arsenal didn’t have long to enjoy their lead though – 13 seconds after the restart it was 2-2 as Sead Kolasinac, Sokratis and Bernd Leno were confused by a simple long ball, allowing Jesse Lingard to poke in.

De Gea shows his worth

United fans don’t need reminding of his worth, but De Gea did so anyway, producing contrasting saves to keep out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice in the second half.

The Spaniard spread his left leg to keep out a close-range shot from Kolasinac’s cross before diving to palm away a curling shot from the edge of the area to preserve a third consecutive Premier League draw for his side.

Arsenal finished much the stronger side in a match defined by the bad rather than good, but had to settle for a draw that extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches.