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Five things we’ve learnt from United vs Arsenal

Manchester-United-v-ArsenalManchester United’s already slender hopes of finishing third are all but gone after Arsenal secured a late equaliser at Old Trafford on Sunday, meaning they’ll need one from their next two games to clinch third place.

United looked to have the game under control for an hour before allowing Arsenal back into the contest and will now have to settle for the Champions League playoffs.

Here’s five things we’ve learnt from Sunday.

1) Goodbye, Radamel

If ever there was a game summing up Radamel Falcao’s career at Manchester United, this was it. The Colombian cut a forlorn figure up-front, admittedly not helped by poor service, although he fought on every ball in a bid to get himself more involved.

There were few moments of real quality from the former Atletico Madrid man, who looked sharper than in previous outings but still remarkably short of the standards he had set in previous seasons, despite his determination to repeatedly win the ball back.

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Considering the form he has shown this season, Falcao is obviously not worth £45m – indeed Monaco would do well in finding a buyer for half of that price – and if his wave to the crowd was anything to go by, United will clearly not enter the race to sign him.

It is a shame that such a talented striker has failed so spectacularly to leave his mark at the club but it will be best for both if he moved on.

2) United run out of steam

After an excellent 45-50 minutes, during which United hurried Arsenal into making mistakes and were as composed with the ball as they were sharp without it, they sat back allowing Arsene Wenger’s too much time on the ball.

Against Arsenal in the FA Cup, United were overrun in midfield but, even without the injured Michael Carrick, they dominated proceedings in the first half, with the five behind Radamel Falcao pressing Arsenal’s ball carriers almost relentlessly.

 

In the second half, however, United gradually ran out of steam and were consistently second best on every 50-50 challenge, highlighting why Louis Van Gaal is desperate to add a word class midfielder to his side in the summer.

3) Phil Jones is a joke that’s no longer funny

Throughout the first seasons of his United career, Phil Jones’ mistakes were often overlooked because of the supposed potential the former Blackburn player was expected to live up to.

However, while Chris Smalling has showed slow signs of improving, Jones remains as error-prone as ever, with lapses in concentration all too frequent for a player who is an England international and a regular at club level.

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In the first 45 minutes Arsenal did not have a shot on goal, yet Jones somehow succeeded in almost letting Olivier Giroud through after a Gerrardesque slip before threatening to knock the ball past the on-rushing David De Gea a few minutes later.

He might have bags of potential but, at 23 years of age, his mistakes remain all too common and one wonders whether United might be a step too far for him.

4) A glimpse of the future?

After spending a week under the media spotlight as speculations over his future mounted, David De Gea enjoyed a relatively trouble-free first half before denying Olivier Giroud with a trademark save in the second half.

Many thought Sunday’s fixture could be the Spaniard’s final appearance at Old Trafford in a red shirt and if that proves to be the case United fans might have got a glimpse of the future, as the 24-year-old was replaced by Victor Valdes.

 

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It would be harsh to blame the former Barcelona stopper for Arsenal’s equaliser, particularly given Tyler Blackett’s unfortunate deflection, though it highlighted the task at Van Gaal’s hands without De Gea.

If United are to mount a title challenge next season they’ll need a world class goalkeeper, whether Valdes can be that man remains to be seen.

5) Young deserves a chance next season

It speaks volume for how far Ashley Young this season that it is no longer surprising to see the former Villa man among the best players on the pitch.

United’s number 18 won the man of the match award against Arsenal, the fitting finale to a season that has seen him develop from pantomime villain into a pivotal figure for Van Gaal’s side, thanks to an excellent work ethic.

Having created United’s goal, Young was a constant threat down the left flank and put in another remarkable shift, even after most of his teammates looked to have run out of steam.

With United set to spend big again in the summer, Young could face intense competition for a spot in the starting XI but his commitment and his versatility – he’s a better option at left-back than Tyler Blackett – should ensure he gets another chance to impress next season.

Dan