Arsenal inspired by Emery’s intense passion

Unai Emery and his intense passion for winning football is single-handedly dragging Arsenal back into the forefront of the game.

This thrilling draw made it 20 games without defeat for Emery’s Arsenal and was crucial after thrashing Tottenham at the weekend.

Notably, some of the most recent fixtures in that run have featured him going toe-to-toe with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and then destroying Mauricio Pochettino’s much vaunted side in Sunday’s North London derby that was played with a ferocity rarely seen in recent years.

And then this blood and thunder battle at Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United rekindled memories of the great gory encounters his predecessor Arsene Wenger once fought here in his pomp against a fiery Alex Ferguson.

How Arsenal failed to deliver a knock-out blow and referee Andre Marriner did not issue a red card will remain a mystery.

Mourinho and Emery were all smiles with each other after the match, like bloodied boxers, so there is a key difference between the Fergie-Wenger era, but this has the making of a great new footballing rivalry — if the Portuguese still has a long-term future at Old Trafford.

The bad blood that used to make these games box-office has diminished in recent years as Arsenal became less of a threat to United, who also found themselves competing less for major silverware following Ferguson’s retirement.

At least Mourinho played his part in getting things sparked up again between the two clubs by engaging he United fans with far more attacking tactics than in recent weeks.

He was smart enough to spot the fragility of Arsenal’s defence and their distinct lack of pace at the back so went for the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in his attack.

He also showed his authority by leaving Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku on the bench and handing a debut to defender Diogo Dalot.

Tactically astute Emery decided to attack the debutant and an error by the new boy led to the corner from which Shkodran Mustafi put Arsenal in front after 25 minutes.

Did the reinstalled big match nerves of this encounter get the better of keeper David de Gea, who fumbled the ball over the line?

They seemed to get the better of Mateo Guendouzi who conceded an unnecessary free-kick from which United equalised through birthday boy Martial as they enjoyed the benefit of a close offside decision and Arsenal’s defence were slow to clear the danger.

Then the kicking match accelerated into what could have ended up a really nasty night.

First off was Arsenal’s Rob Holding with what appeared to be a serious injury after taking a whack from Rashford. The young defender departed strapped on to a stretcher to be replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Mustafi was then booked for clattering into Rashford on a revenge mission. Marcus Rojo was then fortunate to escape a red card when he was a only cautioned for a flying scissor challenge on Guendouzi.

After Sunday’s incredible North London derby with Spurs this was like an old school bad-mannered encounter akin to the clashes of old here.

Marriner had issued five bookings by half-time and the casualty list looking like it would double for Arsenal as Aaron Ramsey hobbled about to the extent he seemed certain to join Holding in the sick bay.

The Welsh midfielder, who was only starting due to Granit Xhaka’s suspension, was duly replaced by former United man Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the start of the second half.

After the interval, the juices quickly started flowing again as the game reached fever pitch again on the hour mark and the challenges started flying in once more.

Martial was so determined to track back and get a kick at Sokratis he ended up injuring himself and played no further part in the game.

And that all took place while Sead Kolasinac was receiving treatment for what looked a nasty knock.

But after Alex Lacazette came on for Alex Iwobi it meant walking wounded had to carry on and that included Mustafi, who was playing on in clear discomfort.

And it was attempting to take out Alexandre Lacazette that Rojo looked like he scored an own goal to give Arsenal the lead with just over 20 minutes to go.

Another defensive mistake from the restart gifted United a second equaliser as the competitive nature of this brutal contest forced a mistake from Kolasinac.

Somehow Arsenal failed to regain the lead as they missed two golden chances in the very next two attacks of the game and remained the better team until the final whistle.


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