Arsenal appeared second-best for much of the first half, but a late goal off the foot of Theo Walcott past substitute goalkeeper Victor Valdes gave the Gunners a strong road draw to keep them in third place.
The match started sluggishly, although Manchester United began with most of the early half-chances with Falcao and Marouane Fellaini proving a handful, despite poor with the final ball. Arsenal looked to play on the break, and had an opportunity with 20 minutes gone as Per Mertesacker launched a long-ball for Olivier Giroud up top.
The first half-hour was a tactical chess match, but it came to life on the 30-minute mark as Manchester United took the lead at home. Ashley Young chipped a cross to the far post, and Ander Herrera was there to rip it home past David Ospina who was late to track.
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That was all Old Trafford would see in the first half, as the game settled back into where it had been before the goal. The home side finished with 62% possession in the opening 45 minutes and it felt like more. However, Arsenal’s defense held strong and frustrated the Red Devils attackers.
With Wayne Rooney injured and watching from the stands, Manchester United crosses repeatedly fell to defenders in the box. After a promising first half, Falcao was relatively invisible early in the second, and he came off for Robin van Persie. Just past the hour mark, Arsenal looked for another counter-attack and Alexis Sanchez found Giroud but the Frenchman was smothered well by United goalkeeper David de Gea while free on goal.
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The game then burst open for a moment Santi Cazorla mistake ruined another great Arsenal chance before De Gea distributed the ball to start a United break, but Hector Bellerin was there to save the Gunners with a tackle after a heavy touch from Young.
A host of substitutions came on with 17 minutes to go, and confusion reigned for a moment as David de Gea went off the field with no warning, and he would eventually head to the tunnel with an apparent injury. Former Barcelona star Victor Valdes would come on to make his Manchester United debut.
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That would come into play just seven minutes later as substitute Theo Walcott took a long ball on the right flank and worked Tyler Blackett to the touchline before hitting a tight-angle shot past a falling Valdes to equalize. The goal was ruled an own-goal as it took a slight deflection off Blacket to direct it on net. Arsenal took control and nearly struck again a minute later but Giroud missed his one-timer wide from close range. Van Persie had a late opportunity of his own on the other end minutes later, but powered his shot high off the bounce.
Without the full three points, the Gunners are eliminated from contention for second place, but the draw is still important as they maintain a two-point lead over Manchester United for third place in the table. Third place earns a spot in the Champions League group stage, while fourth must play a play-off matchup, which now features a team from a stronger league thanks to the new rules.
Manchester United: De Gea (Valdes 74′), Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Rojo (Blackett 73′), Mata, Blind, Herrera, Young, Fellaini, Falcao (Van Persie 61′).
Goals: Herrera 30′
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin (Walcott 72′), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla (Wilshere 73′), Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis (Flamini 90′), Giroud.
Goals: Blackett (og) 81′