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Goal's Brendon Netto looks back at the 0-0 result as Arsenal failed to break down an average looking United side at the Emirates Stadium..

 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | Premier League
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It would appear that David Moyes had been flipping through Sir Alex Ferguson’s playbook on evidence of Manchester United’s performance away to Arsenal on Wednesday night. The strategy employed was identical to the template the former United boss consistently benefited from against the Londoners in recent years. Crucially though, it was a rather unpolished version of the same which is why the result at full time was a rare 0-0 draw.

A point hardly does either side much good but allows them to steady themselves after their respective disappointments last weekend. Arsenal keep up with Chelsea and Manchester City while United simply avoided sinking any lower.

Moyes followed Sir Alex's Arsenal template

Robin van Persie had scored in all of his three previous meetings with his former side and was the closest to breaking the deadlock on the night. In the first few minutes, he dispossessed Mikel Arteta and had a clear sight at goal but scuffed his effort straight at Wojciech Szczesny. Olivier Giroud then came close when he was afforded a free header from a corner kick but directed his effort wide.

United’s game plan wasn’t hard decipher, particularly because it was a familiar one. They allowed Arsenal to have possession and pressed them only once they approached the final third. They remained compact, offering little space between the lines, forcing the hosts to go wide, who were in turn reluctant to whip crosses in. A lot of credit must go to United's much criticized midfield with Tom Cleverley in particular putting in a good shift, off the ball at least.

United's midfield stood firm

The visitor’s pulled off the first part of their strategy excellently but struggled with what came next. Even though they looked to hit Arsenal on the break, they lacked that trademark zip, dynamism and punch that graced United sides on the counter-attack in the past. They desperately lacked pace, not just in personnel but in their passing. They didn’t move the ball quickly enough and Arsenal were able to get back into shape.

Juan Mata was barely a feature in the game and there were only glimpses of the link-up play between Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, the best of which produced the closest thing to a goal on the night and a spectacular save from Szczesny.

Deep into the second half, Van Persie drove towards the final third before playing in Rooney. The Englishman floated a lofted pass back towards the far post for his strike partner who had continued his run. The Dutchman headed strongly towards goal but the Arsenal number one reacted quickly to tip his effort onto the crossbar.

United were largely toothless in attack

David de Gea was also called into action when Santi Cazorla nearly sneaked his shot in at the near post. Arsenal perhaps should have crossed the ball more as their best chances seemed to come from doing just that. With United congesting the central area, there was plenty of space out wide and Giroud was a handful for Nemanja Vidic.

On a couple of occasions, the Frenchman was inches away from getting on the end of the few crosses he was presented with. Arsenal were clearly the better team, they were more in sync and they looked the more threatening but perhaps they didn’t quite do as much as they could to get the win. At the end of the day, both sides accepted that a point wasn’t the worst result under the circumstances.

The home team were also uncharacteristically sloppy at times with their passing and were fortunate that they were up against a side perhaps equally inept at taking advantage and capitalizing on their mistakes. United are now a massive 11 points behind fourth placed Liverpool but this result isn’t to blame for that, it’s the 5 points dropped in their previous two fixtures against Stoke City and Fulham that has hurt them.

Missed opportunity for Arsenal?

United were far from convincing but a clean sheet is at least satisfying if not encouraging. For once, they didn’t concede late on and let’s face it, that’s progress albeit in its least impressive form. The worrying aspect for Arsenal is that they missed a great opportunity to put one over a lacklustre United side.

They lacked a killer instinct and at the end of the season, they may just look back at this result as two points dropped. With the fixtures they have coming up, they really should have beaten a seventh placed team at the Emirates Stadium in order to further their title ambitions. As things stand, the game did little to answer the multitude of question marks hovering over both clubs.


Was the draw a fair result? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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