Manchester - Tyler Blackett's late own goal compromised Manchester United's hopes
of automatic Champions League qualification as Arsenal drew 1-1 at Old
Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.
The hosts took the lead
when Ashley Young crossed for Ander Herrera to volley home, but Arsene
Wenger's side earned a point in the 82nd minute when Theo Walcott's shot
nicked off Blackett and looped over United substitute goalkeeper Victor
The result kept Arsenal two points above United in third
place in the table and the FA Cup finalists can secure a Champions
League group-stage berth by winning at home to Sunderland in their game
in hand on Wednesday.
Liverpool's 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace on
Saturday meant that United were already guaranteed at least a place in
the Champions League play-off round, which was the minimum requirement
when Louis van Gaal took up his post as manager last year.
more pressing concern is the future of goalkeeper David de Gea, heavily
linked with Real Madrid and who may have already made his final United
appearance after being forced off by injury in the second half.
were unchanged for the sixth game running - the first time that has
happened since January 1994 - and as has been their approach in recent
major showdowns, they were content to let their opponents attack them.
led to a number of half-chances for United, with Young, Radamel Falcao,
Chris Smalling - captain in Wayne Rooney's absence -- and Juan Mata
A slip at the other end by Phil Jones gave
Arsenal a sight of goal, but despite being flat on his front, the United
centre-back improvised brilliantly by swiping the ball away from
Olivier Giroud with his head.
It was United, though, who were making the running, and they took the lead on the half hour.
stood up a cross from the left flank and with two defenders drawn to
the giant Marouane Fellaini, Herrera met the ball flush on the volley at
the back post to claim his eighth goal of the season.
failed to muster a single shot on target in the first half and when
Giroud's knock-down fell kindly for Alexis Sanchez early in the second,
the Chilean shanked a shot high into the East Stand.
The game was a
last chance for Falcao to impress the United fans after a frustrating
loan spell from Monaco, but he spent much of the first half on his
backside, the victim of a slippery pitch, and gave way for former
Arsenal striker Robin van Persie on the hour.
The apologetic wave Falcao gave as he left the pitch suggested he will not be seen at Old Trafford again in a United shirt.
Van Persie's successor as Arsenal's attacking figurehead, belatedly got
in behind the United defence moments later, but after neatly beating
Marcos Rojo to Mesut Ozil's cross, he was thwarted by De Gea.
de Gea, we want you to stay!" chorused the Stretford End, betraying
their fear that the Spain international is destined for Madrid.
Arsenal did find a way past De Gea, Aaron Ramsey lobbing a shot over
him from Sanchez's pass, Rojo was on hand to hook clear.
had to depart the fray moments later after an awkward landing, enabling
the shaven-headed former Barcelona goalkeeper Valdes to come on for his
United debut, four months after joining the club.
Valdes had not
played a first-team game for over a year and his first task was to pick
the ball out of the net after Walcott's shot nicked off fellow
substitute Blackett and looped over him.
Both sides had chances to
win it, but Giroud could only shoot into the side-netting and Van
Persie then ballooned over from Fellaini's knock-down.