Fernandes penalty miss and shambolic defending sum up Man Utd season as Arsenal all but end top-four hopes

Bruno Fernandes, Arsenal vs Man Utd 2021-22Getty

In the end, it was a game that was befitting of Manchester United’s season: chaotic and calamitous while still giving their supporters a glimmer of hope they were still in the fight. 

Granit Xhaka’s 70th-minute strike from the edge of the area ended any hopes that Ralf Rangnick’s side would leave the Emirates with anything and ensured the Gunners go into the final few games of the season with Champions League hopes still intact. 

For United, the only positive is that they are one game closer to this dreadful season reaching a conclusion. 

The poster boy for the latest United shambles was Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese saviour, who almost single-handedly got them back into the Champions League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his first season, missed a penalty at 2-1 and was culpable for Arsenal’s third with a loose pass which Xhaka pounced on. 

He was recently rewarded for his importance in the team with a new improved contract making him one of the highest-paid players in the club, yet his performances have nosedived this season along with the displays of the team. 

If Ralf Rangnick had hoped that his scathing comments about United’s defence in his press conference would prompt a positive reaction then he was rudely mistaken. It took less than two minutes for the latest shambles to unfold with Raphael Varane and Alex Telles gifting Mikel Arteta’s side the opener. 

In the not too distant past, Arsenal against Manchester United at this stage of the season could have been a title decider. But with the quality on display at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon, it was clear this was a battle of two fallen giants. 

There were four goals, 28 shots, dubious VAR decisions, a missed penalty, chances off the woodwork and the weekly instalment of lessons in how not to defend in the Premier League. It was entertaining but it was not high quality.

Both teams looked fragile at the back but the difference was Arsenal were able to take their chances while United floundered. With every missed chance came the realisation that their Champions League hopes for next season are well and truly over. 

In comparison to some of their performances of late, this was brighter. Cristiano Ronaldo, back playing for the first time since the tragic death of his son earlier this week, was sharp on and off the ball. Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga also brought some flair and pace to a front line that failed to do anything at Anfield earlier in the week. 

But there was to be no Ronaldo rescue mission this week. 

By the time Arsenal’s third had gone in Rangnick had taken his seat on the bench. He had given up urging his side to push forward. What was the point?

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He won’t be here next season to clear up the mess, that job lies with Erik ten Hag. And what a mess it is to clear up.

Even in one of their better performances of 2022, they were beaten by a team who themselves have looked unconvincing this season. Their fourth consecutive away league defeat of the season, their worst record for 41 years, just about sums up where this team are at the moment. 

At least ten Hag won’t have the distraction of Champions League football to concern himself with next season. And if they carry on the way they have been playing in the last few weeks he may not have any European football to worry about at all.