Man, I love that shrug emoticon. It fits so many situations, not least this one.
Given that I had predicted a 4-2 loss before the match started, I suppose there is some solace in the idea of only losing by 50% of that scoreline. Look, at the end of the day, if you're looking for a fiery condemnation of this match, you're not going to find it here. I'm so far past anger, I had to show my passport at customs on my way through to acceptance. At this point, I understand fully what we are - a mediocre team with a horrendous manager, one that is staring 6th or 7th place dead in the eyes.
Sure, it is galling that I have to feel this way when we're talking about unquestionably the worst Manchester United team in 20 years. There's almost an "achievement unlocked" aspect of finding a way to lose at home to a team that ended up with a defense including Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia at fullback, with Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett (fetuses both) in central defense. But, when it comes down to it, I at this point always expect an Arsene Wenger-managed team to find new and innovative ways to fail when the chips are down.
That said, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not bagging on the players at all. Right from the opening whistle, the Arsenal players pressed United's creaking backline like their lives depended on it, often forcing them into mistakes. David De Gea on several occasions gifted possession back to Arsenal with horrendous kicking errors, and Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular harried and hassled United players like demons.
Really, it could have been different were it not for De Gea's brilliance, and were it not for some suspect finishing from the Arsenal. Perhaps Roy Hodgson is onto something playing Wilshere at the base of a midfield diamond, especially given that he sure isn't a finisher. For whatever reason, all of our best moves ended up with Wilshere on the end of it, and De Gea repelled him each time. It has to be said, given that the guy had a dislocated finger from international duty, his goalkeeping was brave and determined. He caught and held so many shots, his positioning was so good...frankly, he got his team out of jail today.
As it was, he simply had to be good for the first half, when Arsenal were excellent for 90% of the way up the field. Once that petered itself out, we shot ourselves in the foot as we have so often before.
In the interim before the halftime break, Wilshere was hacked down in the penalty area by one of their lot, which you'll be stunned to know ended up with Mike Dean not giving the spot kick. Maybe this would have been different had the ref not been an inept shithead, but then again, scorpion and the frog and all that. However, fair's fair, he did display some sensible officiating when Wilshere got up in Marouane Fellaini's face for being a diving cheating bastard.
But, again we got rogered pretty bad by Dean when he failed to send McNair off (or even punish him at all) for a horrendous tackle on Wilshere that ended up causing him to be subbed off. It was studs up from behind, and any competent referee would have sent McNair packing.
Oh well...when things are going horseshit, they're going horseshit.
Of course, soon after, United took a lead they absolutely did not deserve. On one of their rare forays upfield, a cross came in that was Wojciech Szczesny's to deal with all day. I don't know if he called Kieran Gibbs off or not, but either way the defender should always have left that for him. Unfortunately, he clattered into the keeper like an absolute idiot, ended up on the ground, and somehow contrived to stick a leg out and deflect an otherwise-harmless ball from Valencia into his own net.
DEFENDERS, STOP DOING THIS. I swear, every time a defender tries this in desperation at any level, Premier League to Sunday League, they should be caned like they do in Singapore for spitting on the street.
Damian Martinez had to come on for the injured Szczesny, to go along with the dreadful Santi Cazorla (seriously, what's happened to him?) on for the previously-injured Wilshere. That limited the options of Tactically Inept Manager to some extent, but he did do well to throw on Olivier Giroud later on into proceedings. He almost scored with a header right away, and it looked like we might get back into it.
Unfortunately, Tactically Inept Manager struck again. It was the 83rd minute, and we knew that with all of the injuries and Manchester United time-wasting going on, there'd be between 6 and 10 minutes of injury time to go. By this point, United were parking a fleet of buses in their own penalty area. Anyone with half a brain knows that this is not panic-stations time yet. Needless to say, we had 9 men in the visitors' half, they broke on a two-on-one, and Wayne Rooney made no mistake.
How costly that would soon prove to be.
There was a hilarious miss from Angel Di Maria on a similar situation to Rooney's (Martinez did fantastically well to come out and cut off the angle, it has to be said), but soon after Giroud hammered home a thunderbastard to De Gea's near post. Despite getting a hand to it, the Spaniard was blameless on that one - it was hit at Mach 8 and his defense left him out to dry there.
But, that displays just how tactically inept that Tactically Inept Manager is. Had we not gone in overload mode so early, that just might have made it 1-1 instead of 1-2.
Anyway, United managed to see out the last few minutes, and that was that.
Still, how can you be mad at this point? As currently constituted, and much more importantly, as we're currently managed, this is what we are. We are SO the 6th or 7th best team in England, and that's about where we're going to finish.
As I was saying to some friends earlier tonight - when you already have a statue of yourself outside the ground while you're still in your current job, that is pretty much the dictionary definition of not accountable.
The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:
Szczesny 7 (Martinez 7), Gibbs 3, Monreal 8, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 8 (Cazorla 5), Sanchez 7, Ramsey 7 (Giroud 8), Oxlade-Chamberlain 8, Welbeck 7
Man of the Match: For me? David De Gea, all day. To do what he did, to catch and hold all of those shots with a dislocated finger? That was brave and determined goalkeeping. You have to tip your cap to him.