Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal: Fellaini scores late winner to ensure Wenger’s final Old Trafford trip ends in defeat

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Marouane Fellaini netted a 91st minute header to make sure that Arsene Wenger’s final trip to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager ended in defeat to Manchester United.

The match did not get off to the best possible start for the Gunners as Paul Pogba finished from close range with only 16 minutes on the clock. Former Manchester United man Henrikh Mkhitaryan however struck an excellent equaliser only minutes after the interval before substitute Fellaini stepped up in the closing stages to nod home and condemn Wenger to defeat at Old Trafford yet again.

Pogba pounces

In what begun as a somewhat quiet affair during Wenger’s swansong at Old Trafford, it was United who hit the front first through Pogba. A strong run through midfield enabled the Frenchman to find Romelu Lukaku on the right. The forward crossed to Alexis Sánchez, whose diving header was well deflected onto the post by Héctor Bellerín. It only served to fall to Pogba though who was waiting only a few yards out to tap home.

Arsenal did have a chance to equalise but former United man Henrikh Mkhitaryan who spurned the opportunity. A brilliant back-heel from Ainsley Maitland-Niles found the Armenian in space in the box but he fizzed his low shot just wide of the far post.

Ospina gets lucky as Young goes close

The visitors were made to breathe a sigh of relief just before the break as Ashley Young struck the post, albeit in bizarre circumstances. The 32-year-old manufactured space on the left and looked to cross into the Arsenal box, only for the ball to creep towards goal and deflect off of the outside of the woodwork.

Reiss Nelson was then unlucky to see his header fly just wide from Aubameyang’s powerful cross but United closed out the first-half marginally in front.

Mkhitaryan finds the net back at Old Trafford

Despite spurning his opportunity to find the net in the first-half, Mkhitaryan rectified that mistake just after the break. Afforded space in midfield, he trotted forwards and finished coolly with a low shot that rolled into the corner beyond the despairing grasp of David De Gea.

The Spaniard was comfortable though soon after as former ex-United forward, Danny Welbeck tried his luck from distance. Marouane Fellaini, who had also come off the bench, tried from distance but the ball sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

A clever corner-kick routine also saw Sánchez find Anthony Martial in space on the edge of the penalty area. The Frenchman failed to connect properly and sent his shot drifting wide of goal.

Fellaini nets late header

Jose Mourinho’s men did have the ball in the net within the closing minute of normal time through Marcus Rashford but the strike was ruled out for offside. Martial crossed to Fellaini with the Belgian heading against the post. The ball struck Rashford and bounced into the goal but the young forward was justifiably ruled offside.

The Red Devils were not to be denied as they confirmed their place in the top-four through the Belgian. Young crossed the ball and with a deft header, the former Everton man flicked the ball beyond Ospina.

As a result, they are now secure in the Champions League next season, whilst Arsenal are now all-but condemned to at best sixth-place in Wenger’s final season at the club.

Final Thoughts

Compared to the titanic clashes between these two, this one was slightly low-key. There was not really any tough-tackling battles, or indeed periods of spectacular football. Instead, the match almost possessed the feeling of a pre-season friendly, with both sides arguably having bigger fish to fry in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively.

Having said that, both teams did display some defensive discipline with stars such as Romelu Lukaku and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kept quiet. The goals however were down to individual moments, with Pogba showing good anticipation, Mkhitaryan scoring with an excellent guided finish, and Fellaini with an exquisite header to win the game.

Arsenal though can now turn their attentions to their upcoming Europa League semi-final second-leg with Atletico Madrid. Meanwhile, Manchester United play Brighton & Hove Albion away from home on Friday evening.

Match Report

Manchester United: De Gea (7); Valencia (7), Smalling (7), Lindelöf (7), Young (8); Pogba (7), Matić (7), Herrera (7) (Fellaini (7), 64′); Sánchez (6), Lingard (6) (Martial (6), 64′), Lukaku (6) (Rashford (6), 50′).

Arsenal: Ospina (6); Bellerín (6), Chambers (6), Mavropanos (7), Kolašinac (7) (Monreal (6), 64′); Maitland-Niles (7), Xhaka (6); Mkhitaryan (7) (Willock (N/A), 76′), Iwobi (6), Nelson (7) (Welbeck (6), 64′); Aubameyang (6).

Goals: Pogba (16′), Mkhitaryan (51′), Fellaini (90+1′)

Referee: Kevin Friend

Yellow Cards: Xhaka (24′)

Red Cards: N/A

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Orme


Daniel is currently a second-year football journalism student at the University of Derby. He has been freelance writing for approximately four years now and brings considerable experience. A season ticket holder at local club Leicester City, he witnessed the Foxes miraculously lifting the Premier League trophy in the 2015/16 campaign.

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