Bukayo Saka reward, Zinchenko vs Tierney: What we learned from Arsenal’s loss at Man United

·3-min read
Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the season against Manchester United  (Getty Images)
Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the season against Manchester United (Getty Images)

Arsenal have endured plenty of miserable afternoons at Old Trafford - and this was another in the end.

Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners to end the Gunners’ perfect start to the season, with new signing Antony marking his debut with a goal and Marcus Rashford bagging a brace.

But that barely tells half the story and Arsenal will leave Manchester wondering quite how they came away with nothing.

For large parts of this game they were the better team and when Bukayo Saka cancelled out Antony’s opener on the hour mark, you thought Mikel Arteta’s side would go on to complete a comeback.

As it was, Rashford punished them twice on the counter-attack and Arsenal were left to lick their wounds after another disappointing visit to these parts. Arsenal have now only won one of their last 16 Premier League games at Old Trafford.

They will be frustrated that they didn’t break that run here as they had more than enough chances to do so. In the end they finished the game with 61 per cent possession and 16 shots on goal, but nothing to show for it.

Arteta has spoken in the past about wanting the likes of Saka to become "killers" in front of goal and that should go for all of the attack here. They had chances to punish United, particularly Martin Odegaard at the start of the second half, but they didn’t take them.

There will be grievances too about the fact that Arsenal had a goal in the first half chalked off, with Gabriel Martinelli’s effort ruled out after VAR spotted a foul in the build-up. It capped off a day where it felt like things just weren’t going to fall Arsenal’s way.

Saka off the mark to end frustrating start

Bukayo Saka scored his first goal of the season for Arsenal against Manchester United (Getty Images)
Bukayo Saka scored his first goal of the season for Arsenal against Manchester United (Getty Images)

Arsenal’s forwards have been flying this season, but it has been Gabriel Jesus and Martinelli who have been grabbing the headlines. Saka, in contrast, has had to play a supporting role and it has been strange watching him without being Arsenal’s leading light.

He joined the party at Old Trafford, though, opening his account for the season with a gift of a goal. Saka has done just about everything but score this season, and particularly against Aston Villa he was incredibly unlucky not to find the back of the net.

How delighted he must have been then when, around the hour mark, the ball fell to him with the goal gaping. Jesus had been found by a great through-pass from Odegaard and, when he was tackled, the ball simply fell to Saka to score. Now he’s off and running, the winger will be hoping it’s the first of many.

Zinchenko’s instant return underlines competition

Oleksandr Zinchenko came straight back into the Arsenal lineup at Old Trafford after injury (REUTERS)
Oleksandr Zinchenko came straight back into the Arsenal lineup at Old Trafford after injury (REUTERS)

There was a time when Arsenal voluntarily leaving Kieran Tierney sat on the bench would be unthinkable. But since the arrival of Oleksandr Zinchenko this summer, it has become clear that the Scot faces a real fight for a starting place.

Zinchenko has been out injured recently with a knee strain but, after regaining his fitness, he was straight into the side to face United. That underlines how good the Ukraine international has been since he signed from Manchester City for £32million, but also how much competition there is for places now.

That is exactly what Arteta wants and the fact Tierney now has to fight for his place should spur him on to get better. As it was, Zinchenko had a difficult afternoon at Old Trafford, getting sucked in-field for Antony’s opener and allowing the Brazilian to cap off his debut with a goal.