From the Emirates Stadium - So there we have it. Manchester United's run of poor form against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League continues.

Manchester United's record of being consistently inconsistent continues.

Another season of frustration for Manchester United continues.

Defeat to Arsenal on New Year's Day at the Emirates was United's sixth such result of the campaign, leaving them sitting fifth in the ​Premier League - they have other results to thank for that - and five points back from fourth-placed Chelsea. But while their league position has improved with positive results over the last month, there are still no tangible signs of development in style just over a year into the managerial reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Losing an opener to Nicolas Pepe - who put in his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, typically - set the tone. Lax defending allowed the opportunity and the strike saw United's only known "game-plan" under the Norwegian undone within eight minutes.

Nicolas Pepe

All this United side are known for is being able to counter attack with pace. And handing Arsenal the lead so early meant any space between the lines that they need to succeed in matches against teams of similar or greater stature was immediately shut down.

Condense the space, stop United. Limit them to ponderous, slow possession which is easy to defend. United do not possess the craft to break down teams even as porous as Arsenal, who had before this fixture kept just three clean sheets in 20 Premier League outings this term. Even Scott McTominay's goal in September's reverse fixture came from an Arsenal corner.

​Arsenal of course deserve credit for rising to the occasion and implementing a game plan conceived by new head coach Mikel Arteta, who earned his first win, but United supporters will be unable to look past the shortcomings that are so obvious and recognisable rearing their heads yet again. 


A lack of ideas and a lack of ball players meant United never stood a chance after losing the first goal. United have a chance this month - the transfer window opened earlier today - to attempt to address some of their shortcomings in personnel and remedy problems like these, though every indication from their manager to date is that they won't panic or rush in the market. 

But there are plenty of players out there, and United must work faster than they have been in recent markets.

This lack of quality meant United were unable to dig themselves out of the hole they fell into after wilting under the famous Emirates atmosphere early on, and to a team of mentality giants who simply wanted it more.

It is missed opportunity after missed opportunity for United, with no signs of change. 

This is far from terminal for their hopes of reaching the top four come the end of the season, but they only remain in with a chance of doing so because of the shortcomings of rival teams. 

Wolves, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United - all teams currently in the mix for that fourth spot - dropped points on the first day of the decade. And while it's clear that the team who manage to be the most consistent over the next 17 games will end up earning the spot, there doesn't seem to be one willing or able to grab the opportunity with both hands.

United must do all they can in January to not let this opportunity continue to slip through their fingers. 

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