United and Arsenal, eighth and fifth in the Premier League table respectively, played out a frenetic draw in front of the BT Sport cameras at Old Trafford but the game will be remembered for endeavour rather than quality.
Arsenal, now unbeaten in their last 20 games in all competitions, their longest such run since November 2007, took the lead after David de Gea failed to deal with a Shkodran Mustafi header in the 26th minute.
United restored parity in fortunate circumstances after Anthony Martial fired home from close range despite replays showing that Ander Herrera was in an offside position when he crossed to the Frenchman.
Alexandre Lacazette restored Arsenal’s lead in the second-half, but Jesse Lingard fired back immediately – 13 seconds after the substitute bundled home for the Gunners.
Ferdinand, who praised Mourinho’s decision to make wholesale changes for the fixture after being held to a draw against Southampton, says the game demonstrated the gulf in class between City, Liverpool and the rest.
“There’s a big difference in class, we knew that coming into this game”, he said.
“Liverpool and Man City are a cut above the rest in this league. Everyone else is in the chasing pack.”
“Man United are in eighth at the moment and looking at the Premier League table is not a pretty sight at all as a Man United fan and the supporters won’t be happy with that.
“The players need to build on this. They started the game with some form of intensity, they got a decent result against a team that are in form [in] Arsenal.
“That’s something to build on. You have to take the positives from somewhere and that’s the job of the management, to say ‘listen there were certain things we can take positives from’ then build on it.”
Table-toppers Manchester City claimed their thirteenth Premier League victory of the season after they beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Tuesday night, while Liverpool came from behind to beat Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor.
Both are unbeaten in the domestic season and second placed Liverpool are already six points clear of closest challengers Tottenham.
Despite the distinct lack of quality, the Old Trafford faithful, which included Tyson Fury after his controversial draw with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles, were treated to an enthralling spectacle.
However, Jose Mourinho criticised Arsenal’s approach in his post-match interview for BT Sport.
“They scored a second goal, if not it was not” [an open game], he said.
“It was a second-half with a clear tendency of one team waiting to see if they can take a point and another team increasing the pace and the intensity.
“We shoot ourselves too many time in the season, that it’s really, really difficult. But big soul by the players, fantastic attitude from the first minute.”
The Manchester United boss has only lost one of his 16 games against Arsenal in the Premier League and remains unbeaten in home games in the competition against them, but he will be desperate to register his side’s first league win in five when they host Fulham on Saturday.
BT Sport is the home of 42 exclusively live Premier League games per season, as well as every game in the Champions League and Europa League. Not a subscriber? Choose your preferred option from our wide range of sign-up packages and we'll get you set up in just 15 minutes.