In a fixture that usually promises fireworks and non-stop action, Manchester United’s draw to Arsenal at Old Trafford provided a morbid reality to both sets of fans about where both clubs are and, quite frankly, how far they have fallen.

The nature of the game was stagnant, with a lot of possession in the middle of the pitch with no one able to deliver a defence-splitting pass or even allow their team to be on the front foot with the energy they brought. Even big hitters such as Paul Pogba and Granit Xhaka fell to the wayside and allowed the game to bypass them.

Both teams desperately needed a win to show some intent and to not confirm the impression that both sides were living on borrowed time this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjær continues to mention that it is a long-term building job to get the Red Devils back on top of their perch, while Arsenal have been chasing others for the best part of a decade now.

Perhaps what defined this game more than anything was that, in the final embers of the game, with Manchester United chasing the win, Victor Lindelof magnificently misplaces a pass and drills a 60-yard ball straight into touch from one side of the pitch to the other. Instead of going forward, his first instinct was to play sideways at a leisurely pace.

In truth, both of these teams are so far off it and where they both aspire to be. Arsenal’s problems stem from poor recruitment over the past 10 years and not building a spine throughout their team, which resonates as they have failed to win away from home against the ‘top six’ since January 2015.

The Red Devils have joined the Gunners in shoddy and rushed recruitment off the pitch, but even with some clever additions this summer, look disorganised, mismanaged and incompetent at times. On the pitch, there is no clear direction in which they want to play, nor the ability to dominate teams as seen in the past. The quality is simply not there.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham are streets ahead of both clubs both on and off the pitch – even with Mauricio Pochettino’s problems at Spurs – while West Ham and Leicester will feel confident, based upon seeing the evidence so far this season, that they can finally break into the top six and disrupt normality.

Both clubs have a rich and treasured history, but football is a fickle game in which trophies won 10 years ago are not at the forefront of a fan’s mind. The longer Manchester United fail to implement a clear management structure and bring in able-minded recruitment chiefs, the harder it will be to close the gap on their rivals and truly challenge for a Premier League title or for the Champions League.

It truly is a sorry sight watching two juggernauts and pioneers of English football fall to the depths they are now at – especially when there is not even a shining light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Fortunes can change in just one or two seasons, but structural alterations must be made in order for that to come to fruition.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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