Drab Old Trafford affair shows how the mighty have fallen

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Manchester United and Arsenal played out a dismal 1-1 draw on Monday, as two of the Premier League's greatest sides spiral into mediocrity.

Roy Keane's tunnel spat with Patrick Vieira, Ryan Giggs' stunning solo strike, Martin Keown going head-to-head with Ruud van Nistelrooy. For so long, Manchester United versus Arsenal was a highlight of the Premier League season.

It is fair to say those days are over, with Tuesday's (AEST) drab 1-1 draw adding further proof, as if it was needed, of just how far these once-mighty sides have fallen.

Scott McTominay's effort lit up a mediocre encounter in which, for long periods in the teeming Manchester rain, the quality on offer proved every bit as abysmal as the weather.

McTominay - helped by an ill-timed duck from Arsenal's newly elected captain Granit Xhaka - punctured the mundanity but United, who have made their worst start to a Premier League season, showed little ability to push on before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck back.

Indeed, Arsenal were no better, but in Aubameyang, who became the first Arsenal player to score seven goals in the first seven league games of a season since Dennis Bergkamp 22 years ago, they at least have the world-class finisher United lack. How is Romelu Lukaku getting on at Inter?

While Arsenal moved into the top four, a fact that reflects poorly on the other would-be Champions League contenders, United remain entrenched in mid-table - it is hard to argue they deserve any better.

Where has it all gone wrong, and did anything from Monday's meeting at least hint of a brighter future on the horizon?


THE MANAGERS

United earned a 3-1 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup in January, when it seemed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could do no wrong after replacing Jose Mourinho. 

But since Solskjaer took permanent charge, United have spiralled back down to the standard of play that cost Mourinho his job. The argument could be made they have been even worse than in the final days of the Portuguese's tenure. With two wins, two defeats and three draws, Solskjaer has managed even fewer points than David Moyes (10) did in his first seven games in charge.

Injuries to Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - though the latter two did feature on Monday - and the sales of Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, have left the United attack looking threadbare.

Arsenal, meanwhile, appear a side without an identity. Unai Emery wants his side playing out from the back, yet at no time did the Gunners threaten through this approach, relying on an Axel Tuanzebe error, the quick-thinking of Bukayo Saka and the expert finishing of Aubameyang to pull level.

THE TRANSFERS

United's three signings have arguably bought Solskjaer more time. The arrivals of Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka suggest a plan is in place, though the failures to add a creative midfielder to supplement Pogba and a striker to replace Lukaku are proving more costly by the game.

Nicolas Pepe was Arsenal's record signing, but is still in search of his first goal. The former Lille winger no doubt has quality, but is struggling to find his feet, while David Luiz has so far failed to offer any solidity to Emery's defence.

THE BRIGHT SPOTS

In a United team crying out for effort and intensity, McTominay has shown the attributes required to, at the very least, get the fans onside.

Arsenal can point to the introduction of Saka who, since capping off an impressive debut with a goal and two assists in the Europa League victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, has been rewarded with a starting berth in the Gunners' last two league matches. 

The 18-year-old made his mark, pouncing on Tuanzebe's error to feed the ever-clinical Aubameyang. Matteo Guendouzi showed the maturity Xhaka lacked in midfield, but more convincing collective performances will be required from both sides if they are to seriously challenge for a return to the Champions League.

Source Omnisport