Manchester United and Arsenal shared the spoils at Old Trafford on Sunday. Ander Herrera opened the scoring before an own goal from Tyler Blackett squared things up.
It’s a result that is likely to leave United having to qualify for the Champions League in a preliminary round in August, rather than automatic qualification, as they failed to hold onto their early lead against Arsene Wenger’s side.
It was an oddly tepid start with no real impressive or memorable play to note in the first quarter of the game as each side cancelled each other out as they got to grips with the game.
But United took a deserved lead, if only for the mediocrity of the defending, on the stroke of the half-hour mark as Ander Herrera peeled away from the back of Nacho Monreal – who strangely seemed drawn to Marouane Fellaini, despite Laurent Koscielny clearly marking him.
The Spaniard then volleyed an Ashley Young cross into the bottom right corner past a flailing David Ospina.
It was perhaps an example of the ‘worst’ of Arsenal at the back, with question marks over both the marking and goalkeeping.
It’s the second game in succession that Ospina could have arguably made a simple save but elected to do something far more complicated and conceded as a consequence, just as he did against Swansea six days ago.
Surely the Colombian could have saved with his feet rather than attempt to get down and block with his arms and hands?
Arsene Wenger told the Daily Star during the week that he didn’t need to sign a new keeper in the summer – despite the constant links to Chelsea’s Petr Cech. On this evidence, he does, particularly if Wojciech Szczesny is still untrusted.
The Red Devils went into the break one-up, with Arsenal showing a startling lack of adventure going forward, so much so that for the first time since 2004 they had failed to muster a shot of any kind in the opening half.
It looked like a case of same old, same old as the second half started with United continuing to press and hurry Arsenal, who always looked susceptible to a counter.
Van Gaal was the first to blink, bringing on Arsenal old boy Robin van Persie for Radamel Falcao to try to seal the points.
Is that the Colombian’s last appearance at Old Trafford? He seemed to think so, clapping and waving to the crowd as he trotted off.
As the half progressed, the Gunners found new life, but their desire to get an equaliser always left them open at the back and only a miraculous tackle from Hector Bellerin on Ashley Young – who was having a superb game – stopped what looked a definite chance.
Arsenal must have sensed an opportunity for an equaliser or perhaps even a win when David De Gea was replaced by Victor Valdes after appearing to pick up up a hip or rib injury – speaking of last appearances at Old Trafford, will that be his? It will if today’s reports in The Mirror are anything to go by.
Arsenal got an equaliser that was certainly a touch fortunate, after substitute Theo Walcott tried to trick his way past Tyler Blackett.
The United man stuck a leg out at the wrong time as a cross-come-shot – Walcott’s specialty – looped into the air over a sprawling Valdes and into the bottom right corner.
If this was indeed De Gea’s last run-out at Old Trafford, will United have to enter the market for another shot stopper?
Whilst it would be difficult to blame Valdes for what was an unpredictable deflection, it’s not hard to envisage De Gea making a save in that situation.
United pressed late on but were unable to find a winner – the result means Arsenal remain ahead of the Red Devils in the table in third place and will secure Champions League football, without a pesky qualifying tie in August if they can manage just two more points in their last two games.