Mike Dean Arsene Wenger Arsenal
Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are still in the title raceReuters

The reason why Arsenal lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the English Premier League on Sunday was simple – they were plain awful. So awful that Arsene Wenger's insistence that his team gave it all and were derailed by niggly fouls by Manchester United is plain laughable.

From the moment the opening whistle went, Arsenal were the opposite of the team that absolutely smashed Manchester United at the Emirates earlier this season. If the Gunners were "Flash" in that first match, quick and direct, this performance was the "Snail", slow and lethargic.

When they needed to take the bull by the horns and put the Manchester United side – nowhere near as young or inexperienced as has been painted – under pressure from the off, all they did was pass the ball around rather boringly, almost as if they were standing-in for Louis Van Gaal's normal Manchester United team, who like to keep the ball, but with very little end product.

Scoring goals has been a problem for Arsenal all season, and it shows no signs of improving, with none of the forward-thinking players in anything resembling the word form.

Alexis Sanchez could not make the most of playing against a young fullback, who got an early yellow card, while Theo Walcott did a good rendition of the invisible man. Mesut Ozil could not find his range with his freekicks, while some of his passes were just not finished off by his teammates, chief of them being Nacho Monreal's missed effort early in the game, which might have changed the course of the match completely.

Only Danny Welbeck looked like he wanted to do something interesting in the final third, but the striker perhaps tried a little too hard to impress against his former team, even if he got a goal. The 3-2 loss to Manchester United means Arsenal are now five points behind Leicester City and three adrift of Tottenham, with just 11 games to go.

The way the top two teams are playing at the moment – and with players much less experienced, it must be said – that gap does look quite big.

"We have to show that we are at the level of this fight, Wenger told Arsenal Player. "Things can change quickly. We need to bounce back quickly on Wednesday night [against Swansea City].

"We put ourselves on a bad foot by giving two goals away on crosses. After that, it became difficult.

"But we gave a lot. We came back to 2-1 but then gave them the third goal. It was a difficult game for us but I cannot fault our commitment, our energy. Unfortunately, at the moment, in the final third we didn't create enough and they defended well.

"They defended well and made many fouls in the middle of the park that stopped our flow. I think that's a little problem in the modern game."

What Arsenal did not give in the 90 minutes was full commitment and energy; because if they had, they would have walked away with, not just a point, but all three on Sunday.