Arsenal fail to go back above Chelsea after stalemate against Manchester United
21:39 12 February 2014
Premier League: Arsenal 0 Manchester Utd 0
Arsenal missed their chance to reclaim top spot in the Premier League as they were held to a frustrating draw by the defending champions.
Victory would have lifted the Gunners back above Chelsea at the summit, but they failed to make inroads against a United side who came closest to breaking the deadlock through ex-Arsenal captain Robin van Persie.
Both sides should have scored inside the first three minutes, with Van Persie seizing the ball from Mikel Arteta on the edge of the penalty area, only to fire straight at Wojciech Szczesny.
At the other end, Jack Wilshere won a corner and Olivier Giroud got clear of Nemanja Vidic to meet the cross, but completely miscued his header and the ball sailed wide of the far post.
It was the first of four chances that fell to the French striker in the first half – and he directed the next three off target as well as Arsenal probed but failed to penetrate the Red Devils’ defence.
United goalkeeper David de Gea had just one save to make, which involved a late scramble to his left after Tomas Rosicky’s drive had spun off Vidic and threatened to wrongfoot him.
The visitors looked solid and occasionally posed a danger on the counter-attack, but created nothing apart from a half-chance that Van Persie fired wide.
With the stalemate continuing in a scrappy start to the second period, the tension began to rise among the home crowd, although their side almost made the breakthrough just after the hour mark.
Santi Cazorla’s corner picked out Laurent Koscielny, but his looping header was cleared off the line by Antonio Valencia and United survived a penalty appeal in the aftermath when Vidic appeared to floor Giroud.
With 15 minutes remaining, Giroud teed up Rosicky for a pop at goal that floated wide – and that was the Czech midfielder’s last contribution as he made way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
But the best chance of a breakthrough fell to United as Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney combined to set up Van Persie for a far-post header that Szczesny did superbly to claw onto the crossbar.
The crafty Cazorla almost won it late on for the Gunners, forcing two diving stops from De Gea in the last five minutes, but it was not to be on a night that raised further questions about Arsenal’s title credentials.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Wilshere, Arteta; Rosicky(Oxlade-Chamberlain 74) , Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud.
Manchester Utd: De Gea; Rafael (Ferdinand 45), Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Valencia (Young 82), Cleverley, Carrick, Mata (Januzaj 75); Van Persie, Rooney.