A stout, resilient defensive display from an under-scrutiny Manchester United side condemned Arsenal to an absorbing stalemate which saw the Gunners miss the opportunity to move to the top of the Premier League.
It was a commendable display from David Moyes's side, attempting to bounce back from the disappointing draw home to Fulham on Sunday. Their pressing, high at times, was excellent courtesy of the tireless shifts put in by the likes of Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney. The tracking back of Antonio Valencia and co epitomized what was a promising performance from the Red Devils to frustrate title-chasing Arsenal.
The Gunners enjoyed possession galore, but failed to take advantage of the stat. Arsene Wenger's side lacked the cutting edge in promising attacking scenarios as attack after attack broke down. Olivier Giroud was wasteful while Mesut Ozil did not posses the look of a world-class player who had cost the London club £42.5m. And in front of a restless supporting crowd, Arsenal were fortunate to come away with even a point, with Wojciech Szczesny heroically thwarting Robin van Persie, on the Dutchman's return, late on. In short, the hosts were only marginally better than their opponents and did not have the look of potential title champions.
On an evening in which two Premier League games were postponed and one was delayed due to the adverse weather conditions present, the most meaningful encounter went ahead at the Emirates. With both clubs in desperate need of the points, one chasing the title and the other Champions League football, but both attempting to bounce back from disheartening results,there was plenty at stake as both teams walked out onto the slick and beautiful Emirates turf.
Arsenal, who were hammered 5-1 by Liverpool on Saturday, desired to dispel any fears that their title challenge would crumble with a confidence-boosting victory while confidence is just about the last thing Man United could do without.
In a historic fixture which has a propensity for producing early goals, it could and in truth should have been 1-1 after only four minutes. The first opportunity, after a minute, fell for the visitors after Van Persie had dispossessed captain Mikel Arteta but only for his subsequent effort on goal to be easily saved by Szczesny. And two minutes later, Olivier Giroud should have headed the hosts into the driving seat having seen his header, from Cazorla's inviting corner delivery, fly wide of the United goal.
Following a frantic start to the match, Arsenal began to dominate the possession before Tomas Rosicky forced David De Gea into a superb reaction save, with the Czech midfielder's strike deflecting off Vidic's back to leave the Spanish keeper scrambling across his goalmouth.
Van Persie, a few minutes later, wasted a glowing opportunity for the visitors having been so wonderfully been played in by Juan Mata, with the former Arsenal striker skewing his effort well wide.After what was uninspiring first forty-five,Rio Ferdinand, who has started only once in United's last 14 matches, replaced the groggy Rafael, who was still feeling the effects of a clash of heads with Olivier Giroud. Smalling reverted to right-back as Ferdinand was reunited with Vidic, in what is one of the best centre-back partnerships the Premier League has seen.
Antonio Valencia, selected to exploit the lack of pace between Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly, cleared the latter's header from Cazorla's corner delivery off the line. That is the virtue of having men at either posts. Footballingly proven.
Juan Mata, who ran and attempted to impress, was once again wasted in the wide positions, with the Spaniard's strike from 20 yards out drifting wide of Szczesny's goal.
But Robin van Persie's diving header, created by Rooney's exquisite chipped pass, did not sway wide of Szczesny's goal, it in repudiation forced the Polish keeper into an outstanding save to thwart the former Arsenal favourite netting against his former side, a stop which, along with his save from Van Persie in the first minute, won him the Barclays Man Of The Match accolade.
De Gea, who many believed merited the accolade even more so than his opposite number, dived down to save Santi Cazorla's powerful strike, and did well to keep hold of the ball in consideration of the players in Arsenal red anticipating a rebound.
It was a 90 minutes which will not be in the memory closets of both sets of fans for a substantial amount of time. In a fixture which is world-renown for its excitement, drama and red cards, it is quite fair to say tonight was an extensive anti-climax.
Arsenal moved within the point of Chelsea while Manchester United surrendered ground in the race for the coveted Champions League positions. The Barclays Premier League is hotting up.