In a crazy 12 mins, Man Utd went from being 2-1 up with a few minutes to go to losing 3-1 at the Emirates. Rashford, in what had been a nothing game, done what he done last year to score a goal from nothing. Odegaard immediately replied to make it 1-1. It was a to and fro game and it done so in Arsenal’s favour. A VAR ruling on Garnacho meant that United did not go ahead then Rice and Jesus went on to score for Arsenal to make an ultimate sucker punch. In the end, those are margins are the ones in the highest level of football and we have to accept it.

Mentality Midgets

United have had a big problem with going away from home against the better teams. Since 2021, against the top 9 in the league away from home, they have gotten 8 points out of 54. Last season, it was only 1, away to Spurs. In this fixture last year, it was lost in the last minute to an Nketiah goal and the same happened today. But there is a bigger problem than just conceding in the last few minutes. It is a problem that pervades the team.

One of the main focuses of Ten Hag was to build a better mentality into the team but it becomes clearer that it is a much harder job to instil with this current group. It is headed by Bruno Fernandes, whose passion often falls foul of petulance. You are able to tell within the first few minutes of the game what type of Bruno you are going to get and today, it was clearly the one that is happy to throw his toys out the pram and rile everyone up the wrong way. The whiny, the complaints, it grates at the best of time but when it is in the middle of the terrible performance he had as a footballer today, it gets even worse.

The fact it happened again in a big game just shines a light that he might not have the right mentality to lead the team, even if at times the passion is needed. Had Saka scored that 1v1, it would have come from Bruno once again failing in a duel and being more sad about that rather than tracking back. Then, for the winning goal, it all comes from the fact Bruno thought it better to play for a foul than clear the ball up the pitch or put a man through.

He was not the only one. 35 seconds after Rashford manages to put us ahead, we go to sleep and concede straight away. Again, similar to last season but this one was faster. Lindelof thought a high ball had gone out and decided not to see it out. Nketiah doesn’t and manages to get a foul. Lindelof once again, being victim of falling asleep. In the end, that yellow meant Ten Hag had to substitute him and bring on Jonny Evans, who looked every bit the 36 year old defender that he is. The Rice goal, Arsenal had been aiming for the back post at every corner and yet the team failed to move their zonal line to compensate and that is why Rice was free at the back post.

Then at the end, Rashford pulls out of a 1v1 in what becomes the exclamation point of the game as Gabriel Jesus puts a third in past Onana. All too often the team is just incapable of really handling the pressure moments. The freneticism of Garnacho’s goal and then its subsequent ruling out probably took the wind out of our sails but that is now two big games already this season where we have lost the game due to a crazy drop off.

Settled but too settled

Too often last season, teams were able to press up high against Man Utd because they knew the technical security and ability of the backline was lacking enough that it would give them great opportunities to generate quality chances. It came mostly from De Gea’s inability to sort his feet out. The game against Real Betis, even if there wasn’t a direct consequence of a goal, it was perhaps the worst goalkeeping performance I have seen from the standpoint of playing out the back.

Today, Arsenal, a team who are notorious for pressing aggressively from the front, were less inclined to push up that high. It came mostly from the fact that Onana was the one in goal and no longer De Gea. Man Utd played 199 passes in the own half in the first half alone. More than they played in the previous three games in full. Onana probably had about half of those. The team constantly deferred back to him, perhaps more than they should have, when looking to build up attacks. The problem is that United hardly built up to go anywhere.

It is all well and good playing out from the back to work it into midfield but that hardly happened because as much as being good on the ball is important to playing through the thirds, so it being good off it. The positions being taken up by the people in the middle and up top were not good enough. Eriksen actually did well in getting on the ball but it was often too deep to affect play. Casemiro was dropping between the CBs so he was also in the first phase. Wan Bissaka and Dalot were excellent in their individual battles as their wingers went at them but they did not bring much to the game on the ball.

It meant that the front men hardly got on the ball. Even then, the performances from Martial and Bruno in getting on the ball was very very poor. Rashford, as our only out ball, was shut out from Arsenal setting up in a deeper block. It wasn’t until Hojlund came on that United were able to offer a different type of option to get up the pitch.