After the much-awaited guard of honour before kick off, Manchester United appeared to have forgotten that they had also turned up to play football. They were behind within a few minutes, Theo Walcott putting the Gunners in the lead after escaping down the right wing, around the daydreaming Patrice Evra to squeeze the ball past David De Gea from a tight angle. Replays later showed Walcott to be offside, although the officials didn't spot the infringement and the home side had the lead.
It was the first sign of complacency in what proved to be an utterly shambolic display from the Red Devils that would last most of the first half, but Arsenal simply couldn't take advantage of the numerous opportunities they were being gifted. Santiago Cazorla was allowed plenty of space on the outside of the area, but after turning allowed Rafael to return and steal the ball.
Despite Manchester United giving the ball away at almost every opportunity, they almost had themselves level shortly afterwards, Nani's cross finding Robin van Persie unmarked in the Arsenal area, but the Dutchman's header was somehow kept out by Wojciech Szczesny's face.
Even though they had just gained a huge slice of luck, Arsenal were behind anyway not long after as Bakary Sagna made a mess of dealing with Robin van Persie's run, dragging down his former teammate in the area to give away a penalty. It was Van Persie himself who stepped up to take it, and duly powered the ball home to give United an ill-deserved equaliser.
As the second half kicked off, United appeared to recompose themselves and were the better side for the next twenty-five minutes, putting sustained pressure on the Arsenal goal. Robin van Persie's drilled cross somehow eluded both Wayne Rooney and Nani, before Rafael slipped as he fired in an effort on goal which whistled over the top corner. Rooney then had the best chance to level from Patrice Evra's cross, but his header didn't connect properly and allowed Szczesny to make the save.
Things could have gotten worse for Arsenal thereafter, as Bacary Sagna was lucky to stay on the pitch as the already-cautioned defender hacked down Evra, but no second yellow was forthcoming. As the second half wore on, however, Arsenal regrouped and began to exert some pressure themselves. The hosts demanded a penalty after the backtracking Antonio Valencia appeared to handle the ball as he robbed Lukas Podolski, but the incident was correctly judged to be outside the area, and Cazorla's resultant free-kick was well wide.
Arsenal continued to try and force a goal, but almost suffered a late sucker-punch when Ryan Giggs escaped from a breakaway after being substituted on, but he couldn't quite get into a shooting position as the Arsenal defence got back to cover, and his eventual effort was deflected behind. United introduced Javier Hernandez in a bid to find a winner, and Arsenal continued to press, but the game finished 1-1 - a fair reflection on the performances of both sides.