Monday night's Premier League clash saw Manchester United host Arsenal - a game which traditionally produces nothing but pure entertainment.

Although we can certainly say that these two giants of the English game are not at the peak of their powers right now, we were all expecting a fairly competitive contest considering the importance of a win for both clubs, despite it being early in the season.

This is not what we got. At all.

Instead, it was a mistake-riddled game, with neither side willing to take control of the contest. As far as United are concerned, the draw once again highlighted a number of troublesome on-field issues at Old Trafford.

The season couldn't really have started any better, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men putting four past ​Chelsea on the opening weekend. There was hope. Maybe, just maybe, the winning formula had been found.

Since then, it's become clear for all to see that the win over the Blues was a flash in the pan and their results have since been mediocre at best, having already suffered defeats at home to ​Crystal Palace and away at ​West Ham.


A 4-0 scoreline at home to Frank Lampard's side gave the impression that it was a match dominated by Solskjaer's men - the reality was quite the opposite. Having taken the lead through a ​Marcus Rashford penalty, the away side were forced to take some risks and push forward in search of an equaliser. As a result, this played right into United's hands, picking off Chelsea on the counter time after time.

The quick, slick passing was a joy to watch for the Old Trafford crowd, but this only began to shine through after their visitors were forced to chase the game. This isn't to take away from a special opening day result, with the speed and intensity setting the tone for the performance. The problem is, however, that most matches don't play out this way. 

As has become abundantly clear, if a team sits with two banks of four with the intention of soaking up pressure, ​United seem to lose all creativity and purpose. This has been a recurring theme this term, with ​Wolves, Crystal Palace, ​Southampton and Rochdale all employing such strategies. Following the Chelsea game, United have not won a single game by more than one goal.

This inability to unlock a defence stems from a wider issue that the Red Devils appear incapable of playing on the front foot.

The age-old 'pass and move' phrase that was peppered into any youngster is perfectly applicable here. The speed and precision of the attack is key, and United clearly struggle in this department. Once more, this issue was ​put to the fore in the draw with ​Arsenal

Stagnant. Wayward. Lackadaisical. Uninspiring. These are just a few words that you could use to describe aspects of the Red Devils' performance on Monday. 

It was a fairly forgettable encounter in all honesty, but more worryingly for United fans, the performance just reiterated how far the club are from returning to their elite status. The hosts dominated possession in the early exchanges, with Unai Emery's men seemingly content to let them dictate the tempo of the game. 

Seeing as much as 73% of the ball in the early parts, the onus was on the hosts to increase the speed of play and kickstart the match. However, it was tame and slow, allowing Arsenal's shaky defence to shuffle across and watch them shift the ball from one side to the other. This was highlighted by the fact that Andreas Pereira's 29th minute effort was the first shot on goal in the entire match - the longest wait for an attempt on goal in the league this season. 

As half-time loomed, the game suddenly sprung into life as the Gunners burst forward on the counter and forced a wonderful double save out of ​David de Gea. In the blink of an eye, Daniel James was racing towards the Gunners' goal, which ultimately led to Scott McTominay's 20-yard strike opening the scoring. A lightning quick counter-attack - direct and piercing. 

It just so happened to be that this represented the first chance for the hosts to spring a counter attack of their own. This herein lies the problem.

In stark contrast, when Emery's men sat back, the Red Devils lost all of this pace, power and intimidation. Instead, it was sloppy sideways passing that gave the Gunners the chance to intercept and break forward. Of the home side's 439 attempted passes, only 353 were successful - that's an 80% completion rate. 

In broader terms, United side have successfully completed 82.1% of their passes this season, ranking seventh in the league in terms of passing accuracy - behind the 'top six' and newly-promoted Norwich City. To put this into perspective, arch rivals ​Manchester City have achieved a success rate of 89.3% this season.

Solskjaer enjoyed a phenomenal amount of success in his early weeks in charge of United, employing his counter-attacking style. This tactical setup led him to wins over Paris Saint-Germain and ​Tottenham among others, but it is becoming increasingly troubling that there is a distinct inability to metaphorically grab a game by the scruff of the neck and find a way through. Instead, it currently appears to be one dimensional and predictable. 

If this doesn't change soon, their hopes of breaking back into the Champions League are going to prove fruitless.