Manchester United’s season lurched into another disappointment as the Premier League’s top-four hopes were all but wiped out by defeat at Arsenal.
With the arrival of Erik Ten Hag in the summer announced earlier in the week, the Red Devils followed a sad defeat at Anfield with a 3-1 loss to a recently rejuvenated Gunners side.
In a thrilling match, both sides made many mistakes in defence, but a first Arsenal goal for Nuno Tavares, a Bukayo Saka penalty and a Granit Xhaka striker proved more than enough for the hosts, who were looking forward to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th goal. Premier League goal looked shaky had the guests back in the game.
Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty and Diogo Dalot hit the woodwork twice as United failed to cash in on their superiority on an afternoon that saw Ralf Rangnick drop United captain Harry Maguire.
The England defender has been heavily criticized for his performances this season, culminating in a bomb threat last week.
He was taken out of the limelight at the Emirates Stadium as one of five substitutions following Tuesday night’s bitter 4-0 defeat at Liverpool.
Rangick said Ten Hag will have a difficult job when he takes over the reins but the “open heart surgery” the German believes is needed to improve United’s fortunes will come too late to to revive their chances in the Champions League.
With Maguire watching from the bench, it quickly became clear that United’s defensive woes weren’t a single man’s fault.
It took Arsenal less than three minutes to break the block and United’s defense was in full swing when recalled pair Raphael Varane and Alex Telles waved their legs on failed attempts to clear a simple cross and Saka had a shot on target enabled.
David De Gea did well to save the effort but Tavares was there and reacted faster than Dalot to pocket the rebound.
United were keen to react immediately, Fernandes and Ronaldo teaming up to free Anthony Elanga, whose low shot was saved well by Aaron Ramsdale.
Ramsdale was then almost caught when he saw a pass intercepted by Scott McTominay, but Fernandes was unable to take the chance when Gabriel Magalhaes blocked his shot from behind.
United then created the better chances, Ronaldo firing over the goal from a tight angle before Dalot cracked the bar with a fine shot.
Arsenal still posed a threat as Mohamed Elneny and Martin Odegaard worked together to free Nketiah, who should have done better than shoot De Gea straight.
The lead was soon doubled as VAR took center stage, initially ruling out an offside goal from Nketiah before referee Craig Pawson caught the eye of a foul on Saka in advance.
Eventually a penalty was awarded and just like in Wednesday’s win at Chelsea, Saka stepped forward to score from 12 yards and double the lead.
United responded this time, Ronaldo popping up between Tavares and Gabriel to turn home a Nemanja Matic cross and half the deficit as he became the oldest player to score a century of Premier League goals.
They had the perfect chance to equalize early in the second half as Tavares conceded a penalty when the ball hit his outstretched arm.
However, Fernandes couldn’t match his lavish run-up to equalize when his shot hit the outside of Ramsdale’s post, United’s search for a second was also thwarted by an offside flag against Ronaldo when he struck shortly afterwards.
Dalot rattled the frame of the goal for the second time in the game when his shot ricocheted off the post and went back into play.
Those near misses haunted United again as Arsenal secured the three points that supported their own top four ambitions.
Calls for a second penalty fell on deaf ears, but Elneny met Xhaka to thunder past De Gea with a 25-yard effort.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/bruno-fernandes-penalty-miss-crucial-as-man-united-slump-to-defeat-at-arsenal-41580375.html Bruno Fernandes penalty misses crucially as Man United suffer defeat at Arsenal