ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Manchester United 1 Arsenal 1
LONDON • Perhaps it is true, as the Arsenal fans volubly made clear with cries of "you're not special any more," that Jose Mourinho's powers are diminishing.
Or maybe, to give him the benefit of the doubt, Arsenal might finally be showing the kind of durability that all potential Premier League champions need to have for authentic title aspirations.
For a long time at Old Trafford yesterday, it felt as though this was shaping up to be the most satisfying result for Mourinho in his new job.
But, ultimately, it ended with more frustration for Manchester United and their glowering manager and another reminder why Arsenal have become so difficult to see off, with only one league defeat on their travels since the start of the year.
Olivier Giroud's 89th-minute equaliser was certainly a major setback for Mourinho when, until that point, Arsenal had been strangely subdued and it had been tempting to wonder whether Arsene Wenger will ever get the better of his Portuguese nemesis in a league assignment.
THE REF KNOWS BEST
I know if it was a penalty or not but I don't want to speak about it because the referee is good. He always give you a positive feeling. He doesn't want to be the man of the match. He tries to do his best.
JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United coach, waxing lyrical about Andre Marriner.
This was the Frenchman's 12th attempt and Juan Mata's expertly taken goal, midway through the second half, had given United a lead they deserved on the balance of play.
United looked the more dangerous team and, until the late drama, the best it really got for Wenger's team was Mesut Ozil's first-half nutmeg on Michael Carrick.
Otherwise, there was not a great deal of creativity from Arsenal in and around the opposition box.
Theo Walcott flickered sporadically. Aaron Ramsey is not a natural left-winger and, though Alexis Sanchez worked hard, it was perplexing to see a team look so meek against a side missing three-quarters of their usual defence.
Yet, it is not such a bad thing for a team to avoid defeat on the days when they struggle to be at their most cohesive and Arsenal's durability can be gauged by the fact that Giroud's header, teed up by another substitute, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, means they have now lost only one of their last 22 league fixtures.
It is the first time United have drawn three successive home games in the league since 1992, but they will also argue they should have been given a first-half penalty.
And Mourinho seemed on the point of spontaneous combustion when the referee, Andre Marriner, decided to give Nacho Monreal the benefit of the doubt in the 35th minute for appearing to haul down Antonio Valencia in the box.
"I know if it was a penalty or not but I don't want to speak about it because the referee is good," said the United manager. "He always give you a positive feeling. He doesn't want to be the man of the match. He tries to do his best."
Mourinho was "proud of the (team's) performance" but felt the result was like "another defeat".
"If you have a bad game, or an equal game against a very good team like Arsenal, you draw, it is not a bad result," he said.
"But when (United goalkeeper David) de Gea was on holiday, when (Arsenal goalkeeper Petr) Cech made two or three very good saves or when you miss two or three very good chances and you are in total control and then concede late, then the feeling is like a defeat.
"Of course it is two points dropped. We were the best team by far. They are the lucky ones and we are the unlucky ones."
The great escape for the Gunners meant that, even though they were unable to take their chance to go top of the table, they retained their six-point advantage over United.
"We did not create many chances, it was an intense game," said Wenger.
"In the first half we did all right without creating much but in the second half they were on top of us and deservedly led.
"After that they dropped back and we are happy to come back for a point. We have shown steel, we want style as well but we had more steel than style today."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS