Arsenal’s hat-trick hero from the incredible Capital One Cup comeback against Reading, Theo Walcott, entered the fray in place of Ramsey on 52 minutes. He slotted in on the right wing, but it was from the opposite side that the Gunners created their first opening of the second period two minutes later. Cazorla found space before sending a low centre towards Giroud who turned and fired just wide of De Gea’s right-hand post.
Sir Alex instructed a change in United’s midfield on the hour with Anderson replacing Cleverley, who was walking a disciplinary tightrope after being booked in the first period and escaping a second yellow after a poor challenge on Wilshere minutes earlier.
You wondered if a second United goal would ever come when van Persie found himself in acres of space, clean through and onside, but the Dutch international saw his shot tipped round the post by Mannone.
The Reds were not to be denied on 67 minutes though. Rooney played a short corner to Young before receiving the ball back and curling an inviting cross into the box where Patrice Evra, of all people, rose to head past Mannone.
It was no more than Sir Alex’s men deserved and indeed United were further boosted two minutes later when the visitors were reduced to ten men as Wilshere saw red after collecting his second yellow for treading on Evra’s foot.
Van Persie and Anderson had further goals ruled out for offside, but even though Cazorla scored for Arsenal with the last kick of the game, the Reds were worthy recipients of three priceless points and top place, if only temporarily, in the Barclays Premier League.