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HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN; manchester utd 1 arsenal 1 Herrera 30 Blackett og 82 FROM OLD TRAFFORD Last-day title celebrations seem a long time ago as two former heavyweights battle to grab third place.

Byline: dave kidd Chief Sports Writer

THEY used to parade trophies here in the month of May.

Yesterday, Manchester United's players shuffled almost embarrassedly around a half-empty Old Trafford on what they call a "lap of appreciation".

THEY use Y here in th Yesterda playe emb ha h lfwh wappT he fou ab Blcp There was a halfhearted celebration of fourth place and songs about the good old days. But there was precious little confidence United can keep their best player, David De Gea, out of Real Madrid's clutches.

Louis Van Gaal (left) will be hoping to tempt Gareth Bale here in a swap deal because G s United are in desperate need of a world-class matchwinner.

The Dutchman's debut season has been a strange old upsidedown sort of a campaign - as this final home match proved.

Back in August, they were talking of "Gaalacticos". How an attacking force featuring Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Angel Di Maria might blow Premier League rivals out of the water. Yet they could end up scoring fewer league goals than under David Moyes last term.

Yesterday they were a side captained by Chris Smalling, inspired by Ashley Young and with Di Maria, the most expensive footballer in British history, stuck firmly on the bench.

Champions League football may have been restored but the surge of optimism from last month's Manchester derby triumph has dissipated with just one win in five and local supremacy surrendered to City.

This was no classic United-Arsenal ding-dong. They sing about Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, of 49-match unbeaten league runs for Arsenal and 20 titles for United - all former glories from the golden era before Chelsea and City struck oil.

Arsenal's late equaliser, a Tyler Blackett deflection from a Theo Walcott crossshot, almost ensured the Gunners will win the battle for bronze and avoid a far-flung Champions League qualifier in August.

For an hour, though, Arsene Wenger's men were in a stupor. A throwback to the time when an FA Cup final team would coast through their final league fixtures.

They were only roused once their former skipper Van Persie emerged from the United bench - replacing the sluggish Falcao.

Arsenal subs Walcott and Jack Wilshere perked up the visitors further and they ended up meriting a point, which had looked unlikely after Ander Herrera's early opener laid on by the magnificent Young.

A year ago he was derided as a diving embarrassment, a waste of money and a one-trick pony. Here Young was teasing defenders, delivering killer crosses and tracking back to tackle.

His has been the great surprise story of Van Gaal's first season, even more so than Marouane Fellaini's resuscitation.

It was his gorgeous cross from the left which fell invitingly for Herrera to score with a cushioned volley after Fellaini had drawn in two Gunners defenders to create the space.

It took 54 minutes for Arsenal to muster a shot on goal, when Alexis Sanchez blazed over. And only when their folk devil Van Persie came on soon after did the Arsenal fans really find their voices and their players responded.

De Gea was forced to save with his feet from Olivier Giroud after Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil had carved the chance. Then a lofted pass from Sanchez freed Ramsey, who was robbed by Marcus Rojo's fine interception.

By the time Walcott's effort deflected off fellow sub Blackett for the equaliser, Victor Valdes had replaced De Gea in goal.

The keeper made a low-key exit, on his likely final home appearance as a United player, slipping off after being injured while leaping for a cross.

Van Gaal admitted the keeper's pop-star girlfriend Edurne Garcia, who is representing Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest, is keen to get him back to Madrid.

"How shall it be when we are champions?" Van Gaal wondered out loud.

They have a long way to go before that.

david.kidd@trinitymirror.com

Champions League football has been restored but optimism after derby triumph has dissipated..

CAPTION(S):

HEADING FOR A DRAW Phil Jones goes down low to stop Giroud but United were still stunned by late equaliser (left)

Herrera volleyed home from an Ashley Young cross 1-0

Walcott's late shot delected in off Blackett for leveller 1-1
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 18, 2015
Words:709
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