By Walter Broeckx
Sorry for the delay but as I had to be in the TV studios with our supporters club I couldn’t get to a computer earlier.
Lots of doubts before the match about the fitness of Alexis. But he started. So was he fit? Probably yes in the way that Alexis always is fit as long as he has two legs. But was he at the top of his game? That was something that we had to wait.
Missing right flank player (don’t dare to call him right back) Bellerin was a big blow. His replacement was Jenkinson. Defensive no problem but how much would we miss the attacking force from Bellerin? Another thing we had to find out during the match.
Elneny started next to Coquelin in midfield and also Ramsey with his first start since the opening match of the season. As far as I can remember anyway.
This gave us the following starting team: Cech, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Walcott.
On the beach we had : Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Giroud, Iwobi.
The match had an even start with both teams trying to get an attack starting but you could see some cautious play from both teams. Mata curled a free kick wide from the goal being the first real goal attempt. Arsenaly replying with Walcott on the flank but no Arsenal at the end of his cross. A bit later Arsenal threw a ball in the box and a header from Walcott brought the ball to Alexis who from a close angle completely misdirected his header. That was the first real chance of the match.
Alexis committing a foul that got him booked for a tackle from behind. No problem for me. Darmian bringing Walcott down a bit later when Theo was at full speed and again the yellow card came out. The match now being completely locked as both teams building in a lot of safety. Arsenal with lots of the ball but no penetration. Manchester United leaning back and trying to hit Arsenal on the counter but not much coming from it.
A bit of controversy then? Why not. Darmian already on a yellow coming in with his studs and catching Jenkinson on the shin. A second yellow card should have been produced and even the case for a straight red card could be made but ref Marriner being very, very mild for the Mancester United defender.
Valencia playing the ball through the legs of Monreal and then both went down in the penalty area. Maybe Marriner still had the Darmian incident in the back of his head and waved any claim away. Valencia was maybe a bit impeded by the outstretched hand of Monreal but I don’t know why then he would throw his legs behind as if he had been kicked on the legs. Maybe he tried too hard to impress the ref a foul was made. So both teams had their benefit of the doubt of a controversial referee decision.
Not much goal mouth incidents till Mata had a shot that was palmed away by Cech for a corner. And a bit later Martial had a shot that also was parried well by Cech. Arsenal most of the ball but we missed the attacking force of Bellerin on our right flank and were too predictable because of this.
I don’t know what was in the half time tea in the Arsenal dressing room but I wouldn’t be surprised if it contained some sleeping pills. This was by far the sloppiest start I have seen from Arsenal this season. Apart maybe from the Liverpool match. Manchester United pressed more and it needed some brave defending from Jenkinson, Kos and Mustafi. Manchester United claiming a penalty when the ball bounced off the private parts of Mustafi against his hand. Some half hearted protests from some United players but I think even they knew it was not a penalty.
But Arsenal on the back foot and not being able to put some passes together. Alexis was nearly invisible and one can wonder if the Uruguay match and jetlag was talking its toll. Rooney came on for United and that brought a bit more pressure on the Arsenal defenders. You could feel a goal coming for United. And it came when a ball was cut back from the right flank and Mata was on hand to push the ball past Cech. 1-0 after 70 minutes.
On came Giroud for Elneny. (Live from the TV studio: Marcel (board member Arsenal Belgium) : Giroud will score in the last minute of the match) and a bit later Chaka came on for Coquelin. Ramsey dropping deeper in midfield. And a final substitution saw Jenkinson taken off and The Ox came on. Wenger va banque one could say. 3 defenders and the rest attacking players for the final 7 minutes + added on time.
In between Rojo headed wide after a cross from their left flank. Well wide in fact. Manchester United now retracted around their penalty area and wanted Arsenal to run in to the red wall. Arsenal attacked but seemed toothless as during most of the match. Mourinho already counting his chickens and looking gloating in the direction of the Arsenal bench.
The Ox on the right flank, a Sunderland movement (remember our opening goal over there), going past the Manchester left back (wasn’t it Rashford???) and then throwing the ball in front of the goal. Koscielny couldn’t reach it but there came Nananananaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Giroud. Jumping up as if he was going to break the world record long jump and high jump at the same time, rising above everyone else and as soon as his head reached the ball it was headed over the goal line in such force that De Gea could only move his arms around a bit with no chance of stopping that. GOAL !!!!!!!! 1-1 after 89 minutes. (Live from the TV studio: just as our treasurer predicted it would happen!!!!)
What followed was 4 minutes of extra time with lots of nerves, some yellow cards for dissent as Rooney seemed very unhappy with the way it went. Don’t worry Wayne, we have known this feeling a few times at Old Trafford when you maybe don’t get what you deserved.
The face of Mourinho was pure gold. I think he was crying, but maybe that was my crying from laughing too hard.
Yes, we played bad. Alexis apart from some turns was completely off the boil when it came to making passes to his teammates. But even when playing bad we never gave up and got away with a golden point at Old Trafford. One of our most difficult away grounds over the years. Grab a point at Southampton and I think we will be close to a winning title race.
I’m going to watch a few replays of the face of Mourinho at the end of the match. That made the draw very sweet.