Wednesday's goalless draw between Arsenal and Manchester United was instantly forgettable as both teams played for a point following recent disappointments
By Greg Stobart
A fixture known down the years for tunnel bust-ups and flying pizza will be best remembered as the night Manchester United fans had no idea how to get home.
The most interesting moment of the evening came when the Arsenal public announcer informed the 3,000 travelling United supporters that horrendous weather conditions in the north west had forced the cancellation of all trains from Euston to Manchester.
They might as well have left the stadium immediately because there was nothing to see here.
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Who would have thought, out of Wednesday's game, that this would be the dud. Manchester United, although their performance was abject, will be happiest with this point away from home.
Arsenal attacked for most of the second half but just could not find a way through. They have now taken one point from their last two in the league – and must now welcome Liverpool to the Emirates in the FA Cup on Sunday. It really is crunch time for the Gunners.
Some of the fans will wish they hadn’t bothered.
Others who arrived late due to travel chaos and terrible weather can be rest assured they missed nothing of note.
In different circumstances, a point away at Arsenal might be considered a good result for United and David Moyes given the pressure on the Scot in the wake of Sunday’s home draw with Fulham.
But not when it leaves last year’s Premier League champions 11 points off the top four with 12 games to play this season.
It was a back-to-basics performance from United built on the same tactics Moyes used on his visits to top four sides when in charge of Everton.
United were happy to sit deep and ask Arsenal to break them down, hoping to poach a goal on a rare counter-attack.
They did the first part well enough, but Robin van Persie, on his return to north London, was twice denied by the excellent Wojciech Szczesny when the Dutchman should have scored.
The visitors were, first and foremost, terrified of a ninth defeat of the season and went to north London with the purpose of taking a point back to Old Trafford.
It could hardly have been further from the blood and thunder, up-and-at-’em games of yesteryear between these two clubs.
The significance of the result to Arsenal was vocalised by the boos of the home supporters at the final whistle.
The Gunners themselves looked scarred by Saturday’s humbling 5-1 defeat away at Liverpool - more fearful of back-to-back defeats than energised by the chance to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.
The closest they came to breaking the deadlock was a Laurent Koscielny header from a corner that Antonio Valencia managed to clear off the line.
Arsene Wenger’s side were timid and conservative, as if learning to walk again after being floored, mentally and physically, by blow of the Liverpool defeat.
Wenger described that Liverpool result as an ‘accident’ but you have to wonder whether Arsenal’s old mental fragility may again come to the fore in the final stages of the campaign.
Either way, a 0-0 bore draw was a huge missed opportunity and a result that suited neither side in their ambitions for the season, as Arsenal chase the title and United eye an increasingly unlikely top-four finish.
Arsenal applied a little more pressure late on, perhaps aware of United's poor record in the closing stages of matches.
United held on for a draw and Moyes seemed quite happy to have avoided yet another defeat. For everyone else, though, it was a thoroughly unsatisfactory evening.