Arsenal v United: 12 trending topics

Sunday 23 July 2023 00:20

Manchester United's perfect start to pre-season continued in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as goals from Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho secured a convincing 2-0 win over Premier League rivals Arsenal.

The Reds were able to recall several of our internationals and as a consequence recorded the most impressive display of the summer so far, in front of the biggest crowd ever for a football game at the MetLife Stadum.

New signing Andre Onana didn't feature, but was in attendance, while there was an unusual end to the game involving penalties.

To find out more, why not take a look at a dozen trending topics from Saturday's fixture...


This fixture was indisputably the greatest in English football for a decade and, while it has become less fierce in recent years, the animosity between the two sides still stands. It was refreshing to see things from a different perspective, then, as the 82,262-strong audience in New Jersey marked the occasion in the traditional American way, taking to the vast parking lots surrounding the MetLife Stadium for assorted tailgate parties. Fans grabbed a beer and a bite from the barbecue and the resulting atmosphere was rather more relaxed and family-friendly than what we became accustomed to during the 1990s and 2000s.


Onana only joined the rest of the squad in training on Friday, before performing his first club-media duties, so he wasn’t quite ready to appear yet but our new no.24 was at the MetLife Stadium with the squad and he played his part in helping warm up the rest of the goalkeepers. The Reds' new man looked cool, calm and collected out on the pitch and he'll no doubt have enjoyed the watching brief as he builds towards making his first United appearance, hopefully later in this tour.


The Reds’ opening two friendlies – against Leeds and Lyon – featured a rich seam of youth but the bulk of United’s internationals were back for this one, with new club captain Fernandes foremost among them. Luke Shaw and Alejandro Garnacho were also given their first appearances of pre-season from the start, while the bench featured no fewer than eight players who had appeared for their countries towards the end of June. Again, Erik ten Hag opted to switch his line-ups at half-time, with the likes of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford entering the friendly fray.


Declan Rice and Mason Mount have been subjects of high-profile transfers this summer, with the former trading West Ham for Arsenal and the latter, of course, joining United from Chelsea earlier this month. The two England team-mates go way back, being childhood friends and fellow Chelsea Academy players, and they were pitted against each other for their new sides, with both occupying important roles in the midfield three. Mount had the best of the battle, as he saw his shot blocked by William Saliba following a fantastic team move, and then helped United dominate the middle of the park with Rice a little off the boil.


With Onana still easing his way in, Tom Heaton was given the nod for the second time in three games this pre-season. Heaton deployed himself high up the field when United were in possession – a trait we expect to see from Onana – but it was in the traditional field of goalkeeping where he excelled early on, as the veteran keeper pulled off a fantastic double stop from Gabriel Martinelli in the opening 15 minutes.

Arsenal 0 United 2


A bright first half earned United a third straight victory of pre-season, in front of a huge crowd in New Jersey.


Fernandes led the team out for the first time since being given his new role. He spoke earlier in the week about it being important that he set an example on the pitch and he certainly did that when firing in the opener on the half-hour mark. Yes, perhaps Aaron Ramsdale could have done better, as he did get a palm to Bruno’s effort, but the way in which Fernandes marched through midfield and let fly – with his weaker foot – evoked memories of some of the great United captains of old, including Bryan Robson, who was in attendance in New Jersey.


Sancho soon made it 2-0, with the goal coming from a William Saliba mistake in possession. To simply credit the goal to the Arsenal defender’s error would be harsh on our no.25 though, who showed superb strength, power and pace to remain clear of Saliba – no slouch at all – and run half the length of the pitch. His finish wasn’t bad either, as Ramsdale was this time left grasping thin air, with the ball nestling in the roof of the net.


Just before the break, there was a reminder of the rivalry of old as Lisandro Martinez went in for an industrial challenge on Martin Odegaard. The Argentinian will probably admit he got more of the man than the ball, but nevertheless it was good to see our no.6 stand his ground when Odegaard got to his feet in reaction, backed up by several team-mates. That aggressiveness of course endeared Licha to supporters in his first campaign and it’s reassuring to see nothing’s changed heading into 2023/24.

Training Highlights: Open session and Onana Video

Training Highlights: Open session and Onana

OPEN TRAINING LIVE | Our show from Friday's second session includes a tease of Andre Onana's first interview...


With Fernandes substituted at half-time as part of a wider rotation, Casemiro took the armband for the second half of this fixture. Erik ten Hag was asked about Bruno's 'deputies' in Friday's press conference, but refused to be drawn on specific players. The Brazil skipper oozes class and leadership, however, and has seen almost everything there is to see in the sport. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as Ten Hag’s on-pitch leader again over the coming season, should Bruno not be available.


The young Ivorian has been one of United’s stars of pre-season so far, putting in positive performances down the right-hand side of our attack. His afternoon was limited to a 10-minute cameo after half-time in New Jersey, before he picked up a leg injury and was unfortunately forced to hobble off. Another talented youngster in Facundo Pellistri was available to replace him, but we hope Amad’s issue isn’t too serious.

Onana speaks of family's pride


There's an exclusive tease from Andre's glowing first interview as a Manchester United player.


That’s the stand-out stat from the opening trio of pre-season fixtures as Heaton and Matej Kovar have now combined for 270 unbreached minutes in goal. In truth, Arsenal rarely looked like threatening after Martinelli’s early double chance, particularly in a second half which struggled to find its rhythm following a raft of changes, but Ten Hag’s men are looking secure and solid which must surely be an encouraging sign to the Dutchman, even if the goals aren’t quite yet flowing as freely at the other end.


Prior to the game, it had been decided that penalty-kicks would be taken regardless of result: both as practice and as an exhibition for the fans. So we were treated to the unusual spectacle of the teams stepping up from 12 yards, despite United's win. The first five efforts were all successfully converted, until Fabio Vieira placed his shot a good few yards over Heaton's crossbar. Specialists Rashford and Jorginho then traded successful pens, which left it to Eriksen to settle the shootout 5-3 and give the Reds a double victory.

Must-see clips:

  • Bruno's brilliant opener Video

    Bruno's brilliant opener

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | Bruno opens the scoring against Arsenal in sublime style...

  • Sancho doubles our lead Video

    Sancho doubles our lead

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | Jadon Sancho races clear and gives the goalkeeper no chance to make it 2-0 to the Reds...

  • Antony misses by an inch Video

    Antony misses by an inch

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | Antony was involved in much of our first-half attacks, curling wide on the stroke of the interval...

  • Antony goes close early on Video

    Antony goes close early on

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | United start well against Arsenal, with Antony going agonisingly close in the opening stages...

  • A super save from Heaton Video

    A super save from Heaton

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | Tom Heaton denies the Gunners twice in quick succession to keep the score level...

  • Pellistri fires over Video

    Pellistri fires over

    📽️ MATCH MOMENT | Facundo Pellistri breaks in behind the Arsenal defence, and goes close to making it 3-0...