Manchester United’s first outing as Barclays Premier League champions may have ended in a 1-1 draw against Arsenal – and with it the potential to set a new record points total – but this was undeniable entertainment to begin the Reds’ four-match victory parade.
Arsenal played their part in a clash that recalled at least some of the quality and commitment of old in this fixture. Theo Walcott scored after just two minutes in an opening half hour that the Gunners controlled, but after that United came back into the contest and Robin van Persie – who else? – won and converted a penalty kick before the break on his first return to the club he left in search of the silverware he has taken just eight months to acquire at Old Trafford.
Arsene Wenger's players commendably formed a guard of honour for United and, despite a smattering of boos for van Persie who emerged last out of the tunnel, this was no cauldron of hate. The home fans were allowed a moment of schadenfreude, however, when van Persie’s seemingly innocuous misplaced pass in the second minute allowed Arsenal to break and Tomas Rosicky’s threaded pass set Theo Walcott racing toward goal. The winger, who was offside as the ball was played, slotted his shot past David De Gea to give the Gunners the lead.
This was not unusual territory for United, who had already recovered 28 points from losing positions this term, this being the 15th occasion in which the Reds have conceded the first goal in a league game in 2012/13.
Perhaps it was the purpose of chasing a Champions League place or the motivation of van Persie’s return as a league winner, but Arsenal played with an aggression to accompany their agility on the ball. After a few strong early challenges from the home side it was surprising that, on 18