Despite having fallen to a 2-1 defeat in their clash with Manchester United this evening, one of Arsenal’s young stars was handed the Man of the Match award for his performance at Old Trafford.
The two sides went head to head a short time ago , with hosts United having come into proceedings on the back of 6 straight wins across all competitions, the latest of which came last weekend in the semi-finals of the FA Cup versus Tottenham.
Arsenal, meanwhile, were no doubt still smarting after somehow failing to earn a victory over Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with the La Liga outfit at the Emirates on Thursday night, with the Gunners having eventually come away with a 1-1 draw.
And the European commitments of the North Londoners had a major effect on the team selection of Arsene Wenger this evening, with the Frenchman having opted for a weakened and inexperienced lineup.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 29, 2018
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 29, 2018
The main talking point in the buildup to this evening’s matchup was the fact that the clash would mark Arsene Wenger’s last at Old Trafford as Arsenal manager, after the legendary tactician announced his decision to depart North London at the end of the season last week.
And, after Wenger was given a rousing reception by the crowd at Old Trafford following his emergence from the tunnel, Manchester United showcased their class and appreciation for the Frenchman’s achievements over the last 22 years, via Sir Alex Ferguson.
WATCH: Rivals for 22 years, friends in the end 👊
Manchester United presented Arsene Wenger with a special award on his last trip to Old Trafford as Arsenal’s manager. pic.twitter.com/R5duKQk3O5
— Sky Sports PL (@SkySportsPL) April 29, 2018
The opening exchanges at Old Trafford this evening saw Arsenal’s inexperienced starting XI hold their own, with the young Gunners even looking dangerous on the break on occasion.
However, Manchester United took the lead with a quarter of an hour gone, after a sumptuous Romelu Lukaku cross to the back post was headed towards the bottom corner of his former club’s goal, before a brilliant intervention from Hector Bellerin saw the ball deflected onto the post.
Paul Pogba was on hand to volley home the rebound, though, continuing his recent resurgence.
Arsenal managed to hold on until half-time, before the second 45 started out in brutal fashion for Manchester United.
The first worrying moment came when Romelu Lukaku went to ground under a challenge from Gunners’ debutant Konstantinos Mavropanos, with the burly Belgian hitman subsequently forced off and replaced by Marcus Rashford.
And, adding to United’s woes just minutes later was an Arsenal equalizer, courtesy of an excellent strike from former Red Devil Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
In truth, Arsenal’s youngsters more than held their own from here on in, but, as has so often been the case for the Gunners of late, it wasn’t quite enough, as an injury-time header from Maroune Fellaini eventually saw hosts United emerge with all 3 points.
Despite Jose Mourinho’s men having picked up the win, though, it was in fact several of Arsenal’s stars who caught the headlines for their performances this evening, with 20-year-olds Konstantinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles having been singled out for special praise in the aftermath of the clash.
And the latter has since been rewarded for his stellar showing in the middle of the park at Old Trafford with Man of the Match honours by Sky Sports, with the statistics surrounding the English youngster’s brilliant outing below:
Man of the Match @Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Completed 36/39 passes, 1 chance created
2 tackles, 2 clearances
5 x possession gained
10.93km covered (2nd most for Arsenal) pic.twitter.com/4lbOSiVlHX
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 29, 2018