Welcome to the crazy house, Ralph. If the new interim manager of Manchester United was not fully aware of the scale of the challenge he faced, or how erratic his new team appeared, it was highlighted in front of him during a grappling performance between the absurd and the sublime.
Ralph Rangnick had slipped before kick-off into the managers box, his work pass arrived early in the day – although too late for him to play in the game – and he could be delighted with how United have found a way to win.
Inevitably, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who made the difference. He called up Michael Carrick to the starting line-up, scoring two goals to take him to 12 goals with United in 16 games this season, and the second from a penalty kick that proves he is the winner. But it tells only partly the story of a team show wracked by defensive insecurity and lack of cohesion.
When Ronaldo’s penalty kick came in, there were 20 minutes to go and it would have taken a brave or foolish United fan to predict an uncomfortable closing in on the score. There are no such certainties at present; The past two months or so has been a battle from one stage to the next and Arsenal had their chances. However they were unable to accept it – reinforcing another theme for the occasion.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was hesitant with one of them at the break and was fortunate to raise an offside flag against him after he failed to beat David de Gea shortly thereafter. The Arsenal captain’s touch has left him time and time again. And when the clock showed 87 minutes and broke the ball to substitute Bukayo Saka, there was Fred to throw himself into a vital mass.
If anyone captured the supernatural nature of it all, it was Fred, who seemed intent on finding different ways to put his team in limbo for most of the first half, with resistance piece Being his role in the opening goal.
The midfielder lost direction in Arsenal’s corner and stomped De Gea’s foot while the goalkeeper came with a punch. This caused De Gea to roll his ankle and go to the ground in apparent distress. Meanwhile, Arsenal sent the ball across the edge of the box for Emile Smith Rowe to net the net, with De Gea still injured.
United felt as if the whistle had to go. To them, it was almost surreal, and Martin Atkinson really did explode, with Fred leading the protests with glee. But the referee did that only after the ball entered and why? A mistake by Fred on one of his teammates? It soon became clear that the goal would hold.
Fred showed great courage to respond. He actually won the ball from Thomas Partey in 11 minutes to create an opportunity for Ronaldo, whose center forward pulled him far with Marcus Rashford into space on the right. At the end of the first half, Fred was going to make the equalizer for Bruno Fernandes and it was he who was fouled by Martin Odegaard for the decisive penalty kick.
For Arsenal, the frustration was intense. They arrived in good shape – with seven wins and two draws from 10 league games – and with the opening goal in place, they had a springboard. However, they found a way to get rid of it. Their defense is stained with naivety, and their final actions often lack the latest technology.
United started with five points from the previous eight games – their worst streak during such a period in Premier League history – and it’s hard to overstate how bad they were in the first 15 minutes. They were tense and full of errors, providing space for Arsenal between the lines, and although Smith Rowe’s goal was oddly tinted, it was tagged in.
Rashford had cut inches over the crossbar in the second minute after a poorly defended corner kick and before that, Jadon Sancho missed an easy pass to give Aubameyang his first shot opportunity. been banned.
United were there for possession and Arsenal let them off the hook, allowing them to work their way up to the front foot – if a little precariously. Gabriel Martinelli missed a good opportunity in the 39th minute after cutting off the right – Smith Roe had room to fall back – and United changed the game with a equalizer, defined by Fred’s ingenuity and vision.
Ben White had made a mistake, and when Sancho sent the ball inside to Fred, he did well to make a corner to cut and take it. The steady side foot of Fernandes was his first goal for United in 16 matches.
United started the second half at a faster pace, although they still needed De Gea to beat Gabriel’s header after a corner kick. Ronaldo almost scored after drifting inside Barty and Aaron Ramsdale worked from a tight corner and then he did.
Nuno Tavares lost the ball to Diogo Dalot and left a big gap behind, which Dalot exploited with a good pass to Rashford, who crossed. When White and Barty lost Ronaldo, everyone knew what would happen next.
It was to ask United to withdraw and leave space at left-back for Partey to choose Martinelli, with Odegaard unchallenged to channel the cross into the far corner. However, the Norwegian turns into a villain, rushing through Fred’s back giving Ronaldo his chance from the spot. The mystery was that Atkinson needed a flick on the shoulder from the VAR to award the kick. He wasn’t the only one.