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.
The usual postering and expected high tempo led to a frenetic start. The Reds’ first real shot on goal was an effort from Rooney after nine minutes. Brilliantly bringing down a high ball forward, he turned and shot at Szczesny who, with some uncertainty, clutched the ball at the second attempt. Three minutes later Nani fired a 35-yard free kick at Szczesny, which he held. Ambitious maybe, but worth testing the inexperienced shot-stopper.
While Arsenal had a share of possession, United looked more threatening in attack. After 23 minutes Nani went closer still to breaking the deadlock. He flicked on a lofted pass and continued his run into the box, where Sebastien Squillaci’s headed clearance fell at his feet, but he struck his shot inches wide.
The Reds had to wait until four minutes before half time for the goal United’s play deserved. Park - developing a knack for scoring important goals - latched onto Nani’s deflected cross and the Korean’s header looped over Szczesny to make it 1-0.