United moved powerfully towards retaining the title with this tremendous victory against old rivals Arsenal on an afternoon of high drama at Old Trafford.
Owen Hargreaves scored the winner with a fabulous free-kick after Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Emmanuel Adebayor's opener early in the second half. But every man in a red shirt, not just those on the scoresheet, played their part in this priceless triumph.
Hargreaves and Ji-sung Park had retained their places in midfield after impressing in midweek against Roma but Carlos Tevez had to settle for a berth on the bench, with Sir Alex Ferguson selecting Wayne Rooney as a lone striker.
Arsenal’s side showed two significant changes to the defence which conceded four goals at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final. German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made a surprise return, with Manuel Almunia presumably injured, while Alexandre Song made a rare start at centre-back after Senderos’ poor show against Liverpool.
The Gunners made a lively start and after Adebayor’s run was halted by Rio Ferdinand on the edge of the area, Cesc Fabregas rifled a venomous shot just over the bar. Wes Brown will not want to see a replay after gifting the ball to Fabregas, one of three men nominated for both the PFA’s senior and young player awards.
Another double nominee is United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, of course - his first crack at goal was a free-kick which struck the wall.
Ferdinand was again called upon to block an Adebayor effort and another attempt from Gilberto was stopped when the second of two Arsenal corners in quick succession was punched less than convincingly by Edwin van der Sar. The Dutchman did better on the deck when Adebayor next