Chris Smalling battles with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal 2 Manchester United 0

Sunday 10 March 2019 18:43

Manchester United’s unbeaten league run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to an end in the capital on Sunday afternoon, as a first-half Granit Xhaka strike and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty sealed all three points for Arsenal.

Before this defeat, Solskjaer boasted an incredible record of 14 wins from his first 17 matches, going unbeaten in the league. But with a number of players still out injured - including Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera, who both started in the 3-1 Emirates FA Cup victory in January - and a physically and emotionally draining performance against PSG still fresh in the memory if not in the legs, United initially struggled to get going on a cold and blustery day in north London.

The Gunners took the lead 12 minutes in, having dominated the early possession. Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang had opportunities to give the hosts the lead inside the opening ten minutes, the latter trying his luck from distance as well as attempting an overhead kick; both shots went high and wide. Sead Kolasinac was a constant threat on Arsenal’s left wing too, his first cross of the match after two minutes evading everyone and luckily also going just wide of De Gea’s post.

The breakthrough goal came from an unlikely source in Xhaka. The Swiss international, urged to shoot by the home fans, did just that. His low shot from outside the area wrong-footed De Gea who took a step to his left, the ball swerving wickedly to the right and past him.
Moments earlier, Romelu Lukaku had United’s first real chance of the game, getting on the end of Luke Shaw’s cross. His close-range effort hit the bar, Paul Pogba retrieved possession but couldn’t find anyone in the box with his cross and Diogo Dalot’s follow-up effort was blocked.

Dalot - in for Eric Bailly as one of three changes to the side that won in Paris on Wednesday night - took up an advanced role on the right as he did against Crystal Palace. He was involved just before half-time; a lightning counter-attack initiated by a signature Pogba long-ball taken down brilliantly by Lukaku just outside the area. Dalot, played in on the overlap, pulled a pass back in the direction of Marcus Rashford but goalscorer Xhaka got to it just before the striker.
Chances came and went shortly after the break, United coming at Arsenal as the hosts had at the Reds in the early exchanges in the first half. Shaw found in-form Lukaku in the box and though there were shouts for offside ringing around the ground, the replay showed the Belgian was just level. Perhaps himself thinking he was offside, our no. 9 took too long to decide what to do with the ball at his feet, allowing Leno to come out, make himself big and block his effort.

And Arsenal capitalised, scoring the all-important second goal of the game from the penalty spot. Referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the spot, adjudging Fred’s challenge on Lacazette to be a foul. Aubameyang, having missed from the spot in the dying minutes of north London derby last week, made no mistake this time, passing the ball down the middle and into the back of the net.
Lacazette could and perhaps should have made it 3-0 minutes later. Victor Lindelof misjudged a bouncing ball, allowing the former Lyon striker to run through on goal, but he dragged his effort wide.

Mason Greenwood came on to make his Premier League debut with ten minutes remaining, replacing Nemanja Matic, but his chances to make a dramatic impact were limited. 

The result means Arsenal leapfrog United back into fourth in the race for a Champions League spot, which looks likely to go down to the wire.

Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil (Iwobi 76), Aubameyang (Suarez 79), Lacazette (Nketiah 85).

Subs not used:
Cech, Mustafi, Elneny, Guendouzi.

Sokratis 38, Kolasinac 89.

Xhaka 12, Aubameyang 69 pen.

United: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Matic (Greenwood 79), Fred, Pogba; Dalot (Martial 70), Lukaku, Rashford.

Subs not used:
Romero, Bailly, Rojo, McTominay, Andreas.

Booked: Pogba 76.

Referee: Jonathan Moss.