Robin van Persie scores on Arsenal return

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Robin van Persie's first-half penalty ensured an unconvincing Manchester United ended a week of celebration with a draw at Arsenal, who had opened the scoring through Theo Walcott. 

The Arsenal winger finished smartly after just three minutes, albeit from an offside position, as Arsenal dominated the opening exchanges at the Emirates Stadium. 

Arsene Wenger's side, however, were made to rue their lack of cutting edge as Van Persie converted following a Bacary Sagna foul, at the end of a first-half where United look nothing like this season's title winners. 

Van Persie, inevitably, had a part to play in the opener - albeit for Arsenal. The former Gunners captain was guilty of wasting possession in the middle of the park, which allowed Arsenal to counter. Tomas Rosicky received the ball after the Arsenal midfield had cleaned up Van Persie's mess, and sliced through Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra to find an offside Walcott. Play continued, however, and with David De Gea unsure whether to advance or stay static, Walcott side-footed through his defences to provide the Gunners with the early advantage. 

Walcott's strike gave Arsenal a collective vim and vigour and, perhaps to a plan, Rosicky and Santi Cazorla shot from range, with the latter forcing compatriot De Gea to parry wide. 

Manchester United were playing like a side hungover - quite literally - from Monday's title clinching victory, hardly able to complete a pass in the final third, as Arsenal retained the ball with relative ease. 

The Gunners could not, however, carve out a chance of significance, and Podolski's effort from a tight angle - easily dealt with by De Gea - was as close as they came to adding a second to Walcott's early effort. 

There is little point having the ball if you are unable to use it effectively, and Arsenal were so very nearly made to pay for their futile dominance when Phil Jones headed wide from a Van Persie cross. 

Arsenal continued to press forward through Cazorla and Ramsey, but the home side earned scant reward despite ownership of the ball and, United being United, stole in before the half-time period to make them pay for their failure to let their dominance affect the scoreline. 

Firstly, Van Persie was denied by Wojciech Szczesny in the six-yard box, before the Dutchman made the most of some generous defending from Sagna. 

Having received the ball from his former teammate, Van Persie was then chopped down by the Frenchman, before showing ice-cold temperament to convert from the spot amid a chorus of boos. 

There was no celebration from Van Persie, but just a knowing strut back to the centre circle as Arsenal pondered how they had enabled the champions into a game they were hardly involved in. 

It was far from a vintage half from Manchester United but, perhaps, an archetypal performance of champions, having restored parity when Arsenal would have deservingly entered into the break ahead. 

The signs for the Gunners appeared ominous after the break, as Manchester United popped the ball around with a zip unseen in the opening 45 minutes, breaking down the right and left in far more assured fashion. 

Rooney had a header saved from a Nani cross, while Rafael and Valencia should both have done better when in threatening positions behind Kieran Gibbs. 

Arsenal, though, were able to weather the early storm, and the introduction of Jack Wilshere - replacing Rosicky - gave them the impetus in the middle, much like in the opening quarter of the encounter. 

Sensing a potential onslaught, Sir Alex Ferguson added Anderson to his midfield, with Jones replacing Rafael at right-back, and the Brazilian was able to do a decent enough job screening Arsenal's talisman. 

With Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thrown on as Wenger opted to twist rather than stick, Arsenal were so very caught out after the ball broke down in the opposition box, but Ryan Giggs failed to make the most of a United counter. 

The veteran midfielder found himself baring down on goal after a sweet pick from Rooney, but lacked the legs of yesteryear to surge with any great menace into the Arsenal area.

He did, however, manage to get his shot away - only for the ball to be deflected wide - but he was not decisive enough to convert arguably the best chance of the second-half. 

Arsenal remain in the top four after this draw, two points above Tottenham in fifth, with Spurs scheduled to play third-placed Chelsea next month, in what is becoming an increasingly pivotal encounter.

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