United believed they were on the cusp of a rare victory at the Emirates, but their careless planning cost them in the closing moments.
Alejandro Garnacho sprinted toward one corner, with Casemiro racing towards the Manchester United fans. Andre Onana charged into Arsenal’s half, urging his teammates to stay focused. United’s analysts erupted in cheers, pounding their desks. In the 88th minute, Arsenal fans began to trudge up the stands.
But there was no goal – at least not for United. The momentum shift was abrupt, and Arsenal fans celebrated as if they had scored a goal. Eleven minutes later, Declan Rice did.
United finished the match with Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans as their starting center-backs. The 35-year-old Evans seemed out of place for Rice’s 96th-minute winner, which he inadvertently deflected into the net. United vehemently protested, but there was no room for complaints.
The denial of their euphoria left United supporters disappointed, as they had celebrated what they thought was a victory when Garnacho went one-on-one. They also had to endure Arsenal’s cringe-worthy celebrations at full-time, set to Vanilla Ice. The Emirates has never been a hostile environment, but United treated it as such. Their game plan was too narrow, relying on counterattacks with an attack blunted by the wrong choice of striker for the fourth consecutive game.
United placed too much burden on Marcus Rashford, who attempted to replicate his first-half goal but became predictable in his decision-making. United improved with debutant Rasmus Hojlund replacing the anonymous Anthony Martial, and Hojlund’s clever flick accelerated the attack that Garnacho fruitlessly finished.
The game was not two minutes old when Bruno Fernandes admonished Martial for failing to make a specific run. Ten Hag’s response regarding Hojlund’s fitness to start was unconvincing, and so was Martial, who is now in his ninth year at United and will turn 28 in December.
Hojlund was introduced 12 minutes into the second half, and he made a positive impact, pressing diligently, engaging with Gabriel Magalhaes, and instructing Antony to slow down the tempo on a counterattack. Hojlund must start against Brighton when United resume their season.
Former United defender Jaap Stam, seated in the press box, expressed frustration with Antony’s frivolousness on multiple occasions. Ten Hag also scolded Antony, but the player continued to switch between attack and defense. Antony received another scolding from his manager in the 75th minute.
Had Garnacho’s goal counted, and had United held on, it would have been a classic smash-and-grab victory. United opted for an away-day game plan, but this was their second defeat on the road, having won just eight away matches last season.
United’s already troubled injury list grew longer, with Scott McTominay and Jadon Sancho absent at the Emirates, and Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof were the latest casualties.
Lindelof’s replacement, Harry Maguire, was cheered on by Arsenal fans, who then sang his name. Maguire at least avoided the ignominy of being substituted for the 35-year-old Evans.
However, the fact that Evans and Maguire lined up together in the dying minutes is concerning for United. Five years ago, they were both part of a mid-table Leicester team under Claude Puel. Entrusting them to hold on to a result is misguided, and the return of Evans is something Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have sanctioned.
For the second season in a row, United scored first at Arsenal but conceded three times. Victor Lindelof was the only United outfield player who did not celebrate, while Rashford was mobbed. Perhaps others should have refrained from celebrating as well. Arsenal’s equalizer came just 25 seconds after the restart, and although Martin Odegaard’s goal was well-executed, too many United players were guilty of ball-watching.
United were effective at moving the ball from their own third to the Arsenal half, with Onana supporting attacks. However, their attacks broke down as soon as they reached the final third. Ten Hag was furious after one miscue by Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the edge of Arsenal’s box.
Christian Eriksen had a rare opportunity to advance into open space, delivering a probing pass to Rashford. Ben White, a natural center-back, was deployed at right-back and struggled against Rashford, whose shot was too powerful for Ramsdale.
A week after Mike Dean admitted to overlooking an error by Anthony Taylor, the Video Assistant Referee, Jarred Gillett, was less forgiving. Taylor was instructed to consult the monitor after Kai Havertz induced a foul from Wan-Bissaka.
Arsenal stopped pressing Onana, recognizing his prowess with the ball at his feet. He made a crucial save when Bukayo Saka seemed destined to score at 1-1.