London, January 31
Manchester United lost vital ground in the title race after drawing 0-0 against Arsenal in the Premier League.
United had a string of clear chances throughout the match, but the visitors couldn’t convert and grab the three points on Saturday.
Instead, the Red Devils dropped two and remained in second place with 41 points, three behind rival Manchester City — which has a game in hand — at the top.
And to make matters worse, City on Saturday was able to do what United couldn’t on Wednesday — beat bottom side Sheffield United.
But United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wasn’t focused just yet on the fight to win the league.
“We don’t think about the title race or the title now,” he said.
“We’re in January.”
Arsenal extended its unbeaten run to seven matches and remained ninth with 31 points.
“I thought it was a fair result,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“I think both managers think we should have won it.”
Solskjaer made five changes after the Sheffield United defeat and his team had the bulk of chances in the first half, with Fred’s shot from the edge of the area drawing a fingertip save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in the 20th.
When central midfielder Scott McTominay came off with stomach cramps in the first half, the United manager made a positive substitution, bringing on forward Anthony Martial to try to bring the game to Arsenal.
“I felt we had the upper hand,” Solskjaer said.
“And we wanted to get on the ball more.”
There was one big positive for the United manager as his team set a club record 18 away games unbeaten in the top tier.
“It’s like an NBA season — travelling on the road again,” he said.
Midfielder Bruno Fernandes came close a few times, including a free kick just outside the area before halftime. The ball looked like it would narrowly clear the wall but Luiz headed the ball backward and over the crossbar. The Brazilian celebrated the clearance by pumping his fists in the air.
The visitors had other chances, but poor finishing and good defending by Arsenal stymied United, including a vital clearance by Gabriel Martinelli in the 29th to head the ball out before it reached Marcus Rashford in the area.
Arsenal also had chances, with Alexandre Lacazette unleashing a 25-yard swerving shot in the 17th, but it was right at goalkeeper David de Gea.
Willian came on for Martinelli at the start of the second half, and had a clear chance to score in the 49th when a cross from Hector Bellerin found him at the far post. But he hesitated before shooting and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was able to block his shot.
Moments later, Willian cut the ball back for Nicolas Pepe, who looked certain to score. But Wan-Bissaka again made a crucial block.
Edinson Cavani had chances to produce a winner and nearly scored in the 59th, but Arsenal left back Cedric Soares did enough to divert the ball away for a corner.
Lacazette hit the crossbar in the 65th from a free kick after the forward was brought down just outside the area by United captain Harry Maguire. A minute later, Emile Smith Rowe forced a low save from de Gea at the near post with a powerful shot.
Arsenal was missing three key players, including captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is dealing with family issues, winger Bukayo Saka (sore hip) and left back Kieran Tierney (right calf).
Aubameyang has reportedly been given time off to help care for his mother, who is ill, and it’s unclear when he will be available for selection again.
Arteta said Aubameyang is now in quarantine, but he declined to give further details, including when asked if Arsenal’s captain had traveled abroad. The manager said the club was working with the Premier League and the British government to try to resolve the situation. — AP