United leapfrogged Arsenal to go two points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League with a game in hand in a match that entertained without a raft of goalscoring chances.
Ji-sung Park struck the game’s only goal in a first half that the Reds dominated, while Sir Alex Ferguson's men could even afford a missed Wayne Rooney penalty in the second half after a sustained period of Arsenal pressure.
While the visitors boasted their fair share of time on the ball in the second half, United always looked the more capable of doing something with it.
Sir Alex couldn’t have been much happier with the players at his disposal. Paul Scholes failed to overcome a groin strain in time to make the game, but Michael Carrick and Anderson are arguably United’s form midfield pairing, while Darren Fletcher provides energy and purpose. While Scholes’ ball retention would be missed, the speed this game was played at perhaps demanded young lungs.
Conversely, Arsene Wenger was left plugging holes with Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas only able to make the bench, and the Arsenal boss was forced to hand a Premier League debut to 20-year-old Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The Gunners’ back four resembled more an attempt at a high-score in a game of scrabble than a defensive line for a top-of-the-table clash.
There was no doubting the sense of occasion as the roar of the home support greeted the teams onto the field. Arsenal may top the table, but United have shown intent and determination - if not always the team’s best football - to regain this title. But the first task was to reclaim top spot United took for the first time this season with that rampant 7-1 win over Blackburn Rovers last time out in the league at Old Trafford.