Arsene Wenger still can’t get the better of Jose Mourinho.
The Frenchman, often the subject of veiled digs from his current Manchester United counterpart, has still never beaten Mourinho in 12 Premier League outings, but on Saturday was at least fortunate to steal a point at Old Trafford.
The result keeps both sides' title ambitions within reach, but it was the best-case scenario for their rivals at the top, which could stretch their leads over the Red Devils and Gunners in the later kick-offs.
Here are three takeaways from United’s missed opportunity against Arsenal:
Herrera dictates the middle
Ander Herrera was the standout player in the middle of the park, not only contributing an assist in picking out Mata's late, Frank Lampard-esque run into the area, but making more key passes (three) and interceptions (six) than anyone else on the Stretford turf.
Herrera was also second only to Shkodran Mustafi (by just one) in touches of the ball – a stat that's reflective of both Arsenal's tentativeness and the focus of United's play.
Herrera, 27, was the main outlet for United, twisting away from attention before spraying or nudging the correct pass with great regularity. When he's allowed to busy himself between two midfielders – one advanced, one withdrawn – simultaneously breaking up plays and quickly instigating attacks, Herrera's easily the one outstanding parting gift from Mourinho's predecessor, Louis van Gaal.
Arsenal steals more late points
With a trait that bears resemblance to the weekend's host when Sir Alex Ferguson oversaw the Red Devils, Wenger's ranks have found a knack of nicking late tallies.
Arsenal has scored seven goals in the final 15 minutes of normal time this season – a 28 percent proportion crammed into a mere sixth of the 90 minutes – showing a level of tenacity that's lacked in previous terms.
There was the occasion when Santi Cazorla showed his steely nerves in converting a last-gasp penalty to beat Southampton, another when Laurent Koscielny contentiously bundled in a winner with his hand at Burnley, and now when Giroud – an unfortunate victim of Wenger's decision to convert Alexis Sanchez into a No. 9 – rose to grab a point at Old Trafford.
Not only does Arsenal boast its greatest depth since romping to the title without losing in 2003-04, its now shown adeptness at earning an undeserved result – a common characteristic among Premier League champions. The Gunners were up against it for significant chunks of this tilt.
Mourinho makes positive tactical tweaks
Paul Pogba was awkward and restricted as the defence-minded two of Mourinho's 4-2-3-1, so the Portuguese finally shunted the world's most expensive footballer forward – into a position which saw Pogba enjoy freedom close to what he was given as part of Juventus' midfield trio.
It wasn't exactly a commanding performance from United's No. 6 – who, in fact, operated in something between a No. 8 and No. 10 role – but his colleagues were more liberated due to the presence of Michael Carrick, who can be relied upon for the simple, methodical work in front of the back four.
Things looked much safer with the Geordie in that area, rather than Marouane Fellaini's ungainly limbs threatening the concession of free-kicks. Against Arsenal, there would've been added concern that Fellaini's inclusion would afford Mesut Ozil the space to pick and probe at United's injury-depleted defensive quartet.
The aforementioned Herrera was the best player on the pitch and Carrick was quietly effective, but credit is also due to Mata, who should’ve been the match-winner.
The Spaniard was on the right flank on the team sheet, but stealthily floated around, winning three take-ons, putting in five crosses, and hitting the coveted 90 percent mark in his pass completion. Herrera ghosted into the top of the 18-yard box for his goal, and has dispelled any early-season suggestions that Mourinho would ditch him again, following their time together at Chelsea.
A display of supreme intelligence and creativity from Mata.
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