Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a goal that required VAR overturning a poor on-field offside decision to earn a 1-1 draw at Manchester United in the Premier League on Monday.
There was a touch of controversy about the goal, with the assistant referee’s flag already raised when Aubameyang chipped United goalkeeper David De Gea for the 58th-minute equalizer at Old Trafford.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer complained to the fourth official that the referee had already blown his whistle before Aubameyang took his shot.
When the goal was reviewed, Aubameyang was clearly being played onside by United defender Harry Maguire, directly in front of the assistant referee
“I was sure I was not offside. I was surprised the referee whistled,” said Aubameyang, who became the first Arsenal player to score seven goals in the first seven games of a Premier League campaign since Dennis Bergkamp in the 1997-98 season. “I always try to score even if there is a whistle from the referee.”
United went in front through Scott McTominay in first-half stoppage time, the midfielder’s shot from the edge of the area taking a slight deflection off the shoulder of Arsenal defender Sokratis and flying into the roof of the net.
The result lifted Arsenal into fourth place, on goal difference, after seven games and left United in 10th place on nine points, its lowest return at this stage of the season since 1989.
United has not scored more than one goal in any of its last seven matches in all competitions.
“This is Manchester United so we have to win these games,” De Gea said. “The lads have to react and play better than they are doing.”
Traditionally one of the biggest matches in English soccer, this Man United-Arsenal fixture pitted the teams in 11th and eighth places, respectively, at kickoff. Indeed, United had never been as low down the standings heading into a match against Arsenal in the history of the Premier League.
The poor quality on show highlighted how far the teams had fallen, with a slippery surface on a wet night in Manchester hardly helping.
“Thoughts on the game so far without using a bad word?” former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas tweeted during the first half. “Try to be creative.”
Even United’s goal in first-half stoppage time had a touch of the farcical about it, with Granit Xhaka - Arsenal’s recently confirmed full-time captain - ducking his head as McTominay took aim and the ball flying past him and high into the net.
It meant the game opened up in the second half, with Arsenal committing more players forward and showing more intensity with their pressing.
And the equalizer came when Axel Tuanzebe, filling in out of position at left back in his first league start for United since May 2017, gave the ball away under pressure in front of his own area. Bukayo Saka played in Aubameyang, who cut inside and applied a deft chipped finish.
Saka, who at 18 years and 25 days was the youngest player to start a Premier League game between United and Arsenal, had a close-range shot deflected over the bar soon after the goal, but United finished the stronger.
Paul Pogba curled just wide before McTominay blazed a header over from a corner when unmarked in front of goal.
“We need to be more cynical, clinical, at both ends of the pitch. We’ll learn,” Solskjaer said. “I thought today we are going somewhere.”