Manchester United and Arsenal played out a grim stalemate at Old Trafford that provided compelling evidence to illustrate just how far away from a Premier League challenge both clubs are.
In a disappointing encounter that was a pale shadow of their mighty clashes of years gone by, Scott McTominay gave Manchester United the lead at the end of an attritional first-half with a rising drive from the edge of the area.
Arsenal equalised just before the hour courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cool finish. It was originally ruled out for offside but the video assistant referee confirmed the striker had been played onside by Harry Maguire.
Goalkeeper Bernd Leno excelled for Arsenal with fine saves from Maguire and Marcus Rashford’s late free-kick, while Bukayo Saka’s goalbound shot crucially struck Victor Lindelof and flew over the top.
McTominay also headed a great chance well over from Ashley Young’s corner but neither side could force a winner.
The result takes Arsenal into the top four but Manchester United are now down in 10th after an outcome that means they have made their worst start after seven games in 30 years, failing to reach double figures for the first time since 1989-90, a season in which they finished 13th.
How times have changed
The current circumstances of both clubs was instantly demonstrated by the two captains who led out the sides.
Manchester United’s captain was 34-year-old Ashley Young, pressed into defensive service by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s absence through injury, and Arsenal were led by Granit Xhaka, newly appointed and a divisive figure among supporters.
Young led from the front in a fashion by regularly contesting decisions, showing a remarkable knack of getting to referee Kevin Friend in an instant on numerous occasions.
Xhaka’s night will be best remembered for his contribution to United’s goal – getting away with a foul in the build-up before appearing to take evasive action as McTominay’s drive made its way into the top corner.
There was no shortage of effort but this was a scrappy mess of a game, lacking any cohesion or quality.
United will feel they had the edge on chances, although they were grateful to David de Gea for a fine double save from Saka and Matteo Guendouzi in the first half.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery will be more satisfied than counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a point but this showed just how far away both are from leaders Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City – and just how much work they have to do to catch up.
Tough night for Pepe
It was no surprise when Arsenal’s club record £72m signing Nicholas Pepe failed to last the course, being substituted for Reiss Nelson after 72 minutes.
The 24-year-old signing from Lille had struggled desperately throughout and looks worryingly short of confidence so soon after his introduction into the Premier League.
Pepe had one clear shooting opportunity in the first half but skied his effort hopelessly into the Stretford End. He was on the periphery of the action in a laboured performance also littered with poor decision-making.
It was left to the lethal Aubameyang to provide the finishing touch for Arsenal, correctly assisted by VAR after technology showed he was clearly onside.
Solksjaer appeared to think the linesman’s raised flag made his players stop but it was clearly the correct decision as Maguire loitered yards behind his defensive colleagues.
‘It is a steep learning curve’
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “How many times have we have been 1-0 up and not got the second goal? This is a steep learning curve for us and we’ll keep working hard and, with more experience, we’ll make the right decisions.
“We didn’t get out of the blocks quick enough at the start of the second half. It felt like Arsenal were the more proactive until they scored their goal.
“I felt we could get a goal at the end and we sent men forward. I’ve been in that situation as a player when you come off and think you could’ve got more out of a game, but we’ll learn from this.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery: “I want more – more in the result and in the performance but we are progressing. We were competitive but we can do better. We can control moments with the ball better and take more chances in the box.
“We have young players who can take confidence. Bukayo [Saka] is progressing well but we need other players too. This is not the best in terms of points but one point can be good if we win next Sunday against Bournemouth.”
Man of the match – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
The best of the stats
- Manchester United’s haul of nine points after seven games is their worst tally at this stage of a top-flight season since 1989-90 (7 points).
- Arsenal are unbeaten in consecutive Premier League games at Old Trafford (D2) for the first time since January 2000.
- Arsenal (5) had more shots on target than Man Utd (4) in a Premier League game at Old Trafford for the first time since May 2009 (4-0).
- Manchester United have won 49 points from their 28 Premier League games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – two fewer than they won in their final 28 games under Jose Mourinho.
- McTominay’s goal was his first for Manchester United at Old Trafford, in his 25th home game for the club in all competitions.
- Since his Manchester United debut in February 2016, Rashford has been directly involved in 71 goals for the Red Devils in all competitions (48 goals, 23 assists), eight more than any other player.
- Saka has registered four goal involvements in just three starts for Arsenal in all competitions this season (1 goal, 3 assists).
Arsenal staged a stirring comeback to earn a point in a chaotic, thrilling north London derby against Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.
Spurs looked to be in complete control when Christian Eriksen pounced to put them ahead in the 10th minute after Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno pushed out Erik Lamela’s shot.
Leno then saved superbly from Son Heung-min before the South Korean was senselessly hacked down in the area by Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka to allow Harry Kane to score his 10th goal in 11 derby games.
Arsenal started the revival when Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back on the stroke of half-time before they laid siege to Spurs’ goal after the break.
Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris saved superbly from Matteo Guendozi’s low shot and from substitute Dani Ceballos before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed the poacher’s instinct to turn home the equaliser with 19 minutes remaining.
Kane struck the inside of the post and Sokratis had a goal ruled out for offside but neither side could make the decisive breakthrough and this entertaining encounter ended with honours even.
The result lifts Arsenal to fifth in the Premier League with seven points from four games, while Tottenham head into September’s international break four places behind their rivals in ninth on five points.
Arsenal show fighting spirit
Arsenal showed real character amid the mood swings of this north London derby to fight back from a precarious position to earn a point.
Unai Emery’s side found themselves in big trouble at two goals down but never felt sorry for themselves, fighting their way back to parity and pinning Spurs back for most of the second half.
The Gunners were guilty of poor defending and moments of carelessness but no-one could question their heart.
Lacazette’s goal with seconds left of the first half was vital, lifting the spirits of Arsenal’s players and supporters and setting the perfect platform for a second half that was low on moments of high class but full of fervour and entertainment.
The action swung from end-to-end but Arsenal looked stronger after the break with 20-year-old Guendouzi performing with great maturity in midfield.
Guendouzi certainly showed greater composure than his captain Xhaka, who was guilty of a moment of crass stupidity when diving into a sliding challenge on Son to concede a penalty.
The young Frenchman almost scored only for Lloris to make a brilliant save and it was his intelligent, probing ball into the box that was diverted in by Aubameyang.
It is already becoming clear the title is a two-horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City but Arsenal will feel they can make a serious top-four challenge – although once again questions must be asked about their defending.
Spurs still looking short
Spurs will be disappointed at only getting a draw after establishing such a position of strength at 2-0 but in the end there was almost a sense they should be grateful for a point.
It continues an indifferent start to the season as they have five points from their first four games, with just one win at home to Aston Villa.
Spurs, to give perspective, have also had tough away assignments at Manchester City and Arsenal and come away with points but they are not yet back to their best.
The experiment of using Davinson Sanchez at right-back was not an unqualified success and on several occasions manager Mauricio Pochettino could be seen showing his exasperation, both at moments of poor defending and also when Spurs were wasteful in attack.
Spurs were grateful for a superb display of shot-stopping by Lloris but Pochettino will be frustrated that his side looked to have Arsenal where they wanted them before the break, then ended hanging on for long periods in the second half.
‘A great job’ – what they said
Arsenal manager Unai Emery, speaking to BBC Sport: “It was an amazing match. We are proud of our work and our supporters. The result isn’t the best for us.
“The key was the first goal to give us confidence and give us more chances in the second half. We deserved it. We did a lot of good things. We made some mistakes in the first half and they have good players.
“Before their first goal we were playing well. Sometimes our heart is more strong than our head.”
Tottenham striker Harry Kane, speaking to BBC Sport: “I feel like were coming off disappointed. We expect to see the game out. The goal hurt us with momentum just before the break. It was an end-to-end game, especially last 10-15 minutes but the players left everything on the pitch.
On his late penalty shout: “As a striker, if it is on halfway it is a definite foul. In the box you don’t always get them. He’s come through the back of me but it is 50/50. VAR would probably have backed the ref in this.”
Man of the match – Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Spurs continue to stutter on the road – stats
- Tottenham have dropped 42 points from winning positions in the Premier League against Arsenal – 11 more than against any other side in the competition.
- Spurs are winless in their last eight away league games, drawing two and losing six. They last endured such a run on the road in their eight games between December 2011 and April 2012.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League home games against Tottenham, a 2-3 defeat in November 2010 after being two goals ahead.
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2016, no player has conceded more penalties in the competition than the five by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.
- Arsenal have recorded 13 errors leading to goals in the Premier League since the start of last season – the most of any club in the competition. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno is responsible for six of those errors.
- Spurs’ Christian Eriksen has now scored 50 Premier League goals – the first Danish player to reach this landmark – whilst also becoming the first Spurs player to register both 50-plus goals and assists for the club in the competition.
After the international break, Tottenham resume their Premier League season with a home match against Crystal Palace on Saturday, 14 September (15:00 BST).
A day later, Arsenal travel to Watford in the late Sunday kick-off (16:30 BST).