A curious tale of two halves at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon ended with a 1-1 draw that suited Arsenal far more than the hosts.
The only two players who could have forced their way into the starting line up were Alex Oxlade-Chamberlan and Danny Welbeck and both players were ruled out through injury, so it meant us sticking with the same line up for the 6th game in a row. That was understandable, you want to keep your strongest team out in the big games.
What I found concerning was our first half display and the fact that it's the second game in a row where we've limped out of the blocks rather than the high energy, up tempo starts that has served us so well during our great run of form. Perhaps this is down to fatigue, maybe we are saving our legs for the second half of games, I don't know but I hope we can go back to taking the initiative from the start.
We looked to catch United on the break by transitioning quickly and using the quality we had in the final third to hurt them but we could not get it right. Alexis would give the ball away whenever he received it, Özil found it difficult to get into the game while Santi Cazorla's body was taken over by a fan in the stands. I don't know if Manchester United stopped him from playing or if it was just a bad day at the office for our magic Spaniard but it wasn't his day at all.
I wasn't too worried about our lack of shots in the first half, we are not a team that take speculative shots, instead preferring to carve out 1 or 2 high percentage chances instead of 8-10 shots straight down the middle into the keepers arms. As bad as we played in that first half we were very close to having a couple of those clear cut chances. Phil Jones producing one amazing bits of improvisation I've ever seen when he fell to the ground and instinctively headed the ball against Giroud's boot and into the grateful arms of David de Gea, without that intervention, Giroud was clean through against the keeper.
Jones also very nearly played the ball behind the advancing de Gea but for an outstretched boot from the keeper which prevented our striker having a tap in. Small margins. Unfortunately we couldn't get the likes of Alexis and Ramsey into scoring positions in that first 45.
The defending was good for the most part, all until four errors from Bellerin, Monreal, Alexis and possibly Ospina gifted Manchester United the opener at the back post.
The second half was much better as it was against Swansea and the response has to be commended. We've been behind at Old Trafford in the past and continued in the same vein. This time the players had upped their performance. Oliver Giroud had a few decent chances in which he could not convert, he was converting those a few weeks ago. Ramsey flicked over de Gea before the ball was cleared and Alexis had a chance before Arsene made offensive changes.
Substitute Theo Walcott had a few bad touches before producing the match saving one 7 minutes from time. Ramsey's long arcing pass was spectacular and Theo took the ball in his stride checked in and out before firing a cross off the boot of Blacket and past the sprawling Victor Valdes who had come on for the injured David de Gea. 1-1.
From that point onwards, it looked like if there was to be a winner it would come from Arsenal. Wilshere's driving runs, Ramsey taking control in the middle put us in charge of the game and if a few of our attacks did not break down we could have well snatched a winner.
I was hoping we'd do so after the smash and grab that Manchester United inflicted on us at the Emirates in November but it wasn't to be.
If it was down to me I would make a number of changes for Wednesday, the team are lacking the sharpness to produce for 90 minutes. A team of Wilshere, Walcott, Rosicky, Gibbs, Gabriel and Chambers should be able to get at least a draw at home to Sunderland. It's important that the team recharge it's batteries before the cup final, if not physically then at least mentally.
It wasn't the classic we all wanted but our second half was enough to earn us a point, plenty of improvements to ask for but also some positives to take heart from. Turning around a dire first half at Old Trafford to get a result is nothing to be sniffed at. Three trips to Manchester, two victories and one draw. I'll take that thank you very much.
Onto Wednesday, let's hope we can produce the type of football we witnessed in Hull not too long ago.