By Rob Kelly at Old Trafford
A late Tyler Blackett own goal helped Arsenal grab a point at Manchester United after a fine second-half performance.
After a cagey opening to the game, the Gunners fell behind on the half-hour mark as Ander Herrera ghosted in to volley in at the far post.
It was a blow for Arsene Wenger’s side but they refused to panic, sticking to their gameplan and upping the tempo after the interval.
Alexis Sanchez soon crashed a shot over the bar, before Olivier Giroud tested David de Gea and Marcos Rojo slid in to deny Aaron Ramsey in the box.
After a sluggish first-half showing, this was much more like it from Arsenal and Ramsey again went close when he lifted the ball over De Gea and forced Rojo into a last-ditch clearance.
Finally the pressure told as Walcott controlled the ball in the area and drilled a ball that deflected off Blackett and past Manchester United substitute goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
It was no more than they deserved and they could have even gone on to win it as Giroud twice went close in the closing stages.
In the end the Gunners had to settle for a point, but the result means they can be confident of sealing third place and automatic entry to next season’s Champions League.
SETTING THE SCENE
With both teams having already sealed their Champions League berth for next season, the intensity usually associated with this fixture had been curiously lacking in the days leading up to it.
Instead the focus had been trained on the past and one the Premier League’s great rivalries, on stories of missed penalties, tunnel rows and title victories.
And while recent history did not favour the Gunners - they had lost nine of their previous 11 matches at Old Trafford - Danny Welbeck’s FA Cup quarter-final winner in March had begun to redress the balance.
The Gunners would have to do without the former United academy product this time around though, as he had not recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to take his place in the squad.
As such, Arsene Wenger named an unchanged side for the sixth time in succession - you would have to go back to January 1994, during the George Graham era, to find the last time an Arsenal manager had done the same.
Manchester United meanwhile, were without Wayne Rooney - so often the scourge of the Gunners - Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick, while Falcao was selected to lead the line.
Having had such success on their last visit to Old Trafford, the Gunners adopted a similar gameplan during the opening stages by ceding possession to the hosts.
With United on the front foot and threatening through Ashley Young on the left flank, the visitors had to stay switched on at the back to deal with the waves of pressure coming their way.
Alexis had a half chance on the counter early on but was bundled off the ball on the edge of the area, and chances remained at a premium for both sides throughout a cagey first half.
A couple of Phil Jones slips in quick succession presented Arsenal with sights of goal but they could not take advantage, and they were made to pay on the half hour as United took the lead.
It was a disappointing goal to concede as Young escaped down the left and dinked over a ball to the far post. Herrera was waiting in acres of space and had time to pick his spot and volley past David Ospina at his near post.
Wenger’s side stayed calm and continued to pass the ball around as they sought to find a way back into the game, but were frustrated by the hosts.
The game continued in much the same vein after the restart, with Louis van Gaal’s side on the front foot and putting the visitors under pressure.
Arsenal needed to step up the tempo and they started to move through the gears, with Alexis firing over the bar in the 51st minute after good work from Giroud.
The France international had the Gunners’ best opening of the game just after the hour mark when he rolled Rojo in the area but scuffed his shot with just De Gea to beat.
But Wenger’s side continued to build momentum and moments later Rojo was forced to throw himself in for a last-ditch tackle to deny Ramsey in the area.
Still the pressure built, and the Gunners again came close when Alexis picked out Ramsey with a fine through ball. The Welshman lifted the ball past De Gea but Rojo cleared the ball before the midfielder could fire it into the empty net.
Jack Wilshere and Walcott were introduced for the final push, and the latter made the difference as he played a key role as Arsenal pulled level in the 82nd minute.
It came as the England international was picked out by a glorious Ramsey pass, which he took down nicely in the area. With Blackett in close company, Walcott took a touch and drilled it across goal but it deflected off the United defender and into the far corner.
It was no more than they deserved and with United rocking, Giroud twice had openings as he firstly hit the sidenetting before miscontrolling in the area moments later.
Despite a frenetic end to the game, the Gunners could not snatch the win and left the north-west with a point that should be enough for third place.
Referee: Mike Dean
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