Arsenal wrapped up their Premier Reserve League season with a 0-0 draw against Manchester United this evening. The point sees the Gunners’ extend their lead at the top of the table, but second place Chelsea now have two games in hand.
Neil Banfield was able to call upon the experience of Thomas Vermaelen at centre half – he replaced the suspended Ignasi Miquel in a defensive reshuffle. Chuks Aneke returned from injury, while Sead Hajrovic was dropped from the squad altogether after his poor showing at the Dallas Cup.
ARSENAL: Shea; Angha, Boateng, Vermaelen, Brislen-Hall; Ebecilio, Özyakup; Murphy, Aneke, Henderson, Aliadière.
MAN UTD: Amos, W Brown, Wootton, Gill, Dudgeon, R Brown, Bébé, Fletcher, Norwood, Obertan, Brady
Arsenal began brightly in front of a handful of fans at Old Trafford, but it was United who created the early threat. A series of long balls were all aimed at the visitors’ back four, but the returning Vermaelen headed everything away. It was a commanding start from the Belgian.
After showing off his defensive abilities, Thomas then sprayed a series of passes forward, but Arsenal struggled for end product. Then came a moment of contention, when Boateng headed the ball beyond the on rushing Shea, who appeared to foul Obertan outside the area. The United fans appealed for a red card, but it wasn’t given.
There was a card moment later, though, as Aliadière was booked for diving. It summed up a terrible first half for the Frenchman. Arsenal had struggled to make chances despite dominating the play, and United almost took advantage in the closing stages of the half, as two shots from Norwood threatened Shea’s goal. However, it was 0-0 at the break.
The second half saw first-teamers Fletcher and then Bébé replaced in quick succession, but United stepped up their attacking threat. Obertan and then Tunnicliffe both had chances in the wide areas, but confident defending from Vermaelen and Özyakup denied any end product.
Deacon was then introduced and after going to 4-4-2, Arsenal looked more balanced. Then came another moment of controversy, when Aliadière was chopped down by Amos, only for the referee to give Aliadière as offside, despite the fact he latched onto a back pass. Vermaelen ran over and began remonstrating, only for the hosts to break. A fine covering block from substitute Wynter prevented a dangerous chance for Keane.
It was end-to-end in the closing stages, but then three minutes from time, United should have scored. A short-corner found Gill from close range, and his powerful header looked goal bound before an unbelievable save from Shea tipped it onto the cross bar. It was a stunning stop to deny a certain goal.
It was the final meaningful action of a forgettable save. Banfield’s boys know they’re unlikely to feature in the Premier Reserve League title hunt, but the return of the excellent Vermaelen make it a fruitful evening.