Saturday’s draw with Arsenal was a far from perfect result for Manchester United. Arsene Wenger’s side were uncharacteristically subdued at Old Trafford, and scored from their only effort on target late on as Olivier Giroud grabbed an unlikely equaliser. It was particularly frustrating for Jose Mourinho given that his team had controlled proceedings particularly well until the Frenchman’s goal, and that feeling of frustration was echoed across the club’s fanbase; this, after all, was the third successive home game that United have drawn having been the better side, and the second time during that period that Mourinho’s men have conceded a late goal.
It didn’t exactly help United’s league position, either; Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-2 win against West Ham United means that the gap between the North London club and Mourinho’s side is now five points, meaning United stay rooted in sixth place in the Premier League.
There are some positives to take from the performance, at least. Juan Mata’s second half goal was expertly taken, with the Spaniard consistently showing the sort of form that has proven that Mourinho was right to keep the former Chelsea man at Old Trafford this summer. United were also, for the most part, strong defensively, despite an unfamiliar back four with three players that have rarely played so far this season.
The return from injury of Antonio Valencia, who speedily recovered from a broken arm, was particularly welcoming. The Ecuadorian was brilliant at times at right back, and a real threat to Arsenal’s defence.
Thankfully, United don’t appear to have any further injury worries to add to the pile, either. Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling remain sidelined, with the former’s return somewhat more pressing given how important the Ivorian has been to United’s defence this season and uncertainty surrounding the return of the latter after conflicting reports in the press. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return to the squad to face Fenerbahce on Thursday night in the Europa League having been suspended against Arsenal, which is a bonus given that the Swede’s presence was sorely missed against the Gunners this weekend. There’s no official word on whether Marouane Fellaini is fit and ready to make a return to United’s starting XI, but given the team’s options in midfield, there’s little cause for concern or need to rush the Belgian back. Beyond that, United have a fit squad to face the Dutch side in what is a crunch tie, should the club wish to escape Group A and qualify for the Europa League’s knock-out stages.