Report: Arsenal 3 United 1
Manchester United fell to a 3-1 defeat to top-four rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Nuno Tavares opened the scoring early on, before Bukayo Saka doubled the Gunners' advantage, from the penalty spot, after 30 minutes.
United then responded, just minutes later, through Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th Premier League goal, but Bruno Fernandes hit a post with a penalty before Granit Xhaka's long-range effort in the second half ensured it was Mikel Arteta's men who were left the happier of the two sides.
The result leaves the Reds sixth in the Premier League table, and we return to action against Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea on Thursday evening at Old Trafford.
FIRST HALF - GUNNERS AHEAD AS REDS RESPOND
After just a mere two minutes of proceedings at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal took the lead through full-back Tavares. Xhaka’s cross found Saka inside the area, with David De Gea called into action to deny him initially. However, the Gunners' no.20 was the quickest to react and was subsequently on hand to tap home the game's opening goal.
Moments later, Fernandes and Ronaldo linked up cleverly, with our no.7 setting Anthony Elanga free via a swift counter-attack. The Sweden international raced through on goal, before Aaron Ramsdale was called into action to deny him.
Scott McTominay was found unmarked from the resulting corner, but unable to steer in his header, with United eager to restore parity as the game continued at a frantic pace in north London.
Ramsdale then was almost caught red-faced soon after, as his kick-out was short and fell kindly to McTominay after 11 minutes. Our no. 39 then played in Fernandes on the edge of the area, with Gabriel quickest to react as he managed to block the Portugal international’s lofted effort on goal.
Ralf Rangnick’s side were in the ascendancy as the game approached the 25-minute mark, with Jadon Sancho beginning to come alive. Defender Ben White appeared to handle the ball inside his own area but, as play continued, United neatly worked the ball from left to right, with Diogo Dalot’s resulting effort cannoning back off the woodwork.
The Gunners then thought they had doubled their advantage, as Saka played in Nketiah to fire home, before VAR intervened and ruled out the forward’s goal for offside. Referee Craig Pawson was then called to the pitchside monitor following discussions over a possible penalty, and Alex Telles was eventually adjudged to have fouled Saka. The England international brushed himself off to double his team’s advantage from the spot, leaving the Reds with work to be done.
However, within seconds of the restart, United had a foothold in the game, as Ronaldo notched his 22nd goal of the season from close range, his 100th Premier League goal.
Sancho again did superbly down the left, and Nemanja Matic crossed wonderfully for Ronaldo, lifting his effort over Ramsdale and thus reducing our deficit to just a singular goal before the break. There was still time for more chances at both ends, with the two sides attacking with real intent.
With eight minutes played in the second period, the Reds were awarded a penalty, as goalscorer Tavares handled inside the penalty area to give Rangnick’s men a golden opportunity to draw the game level at 2-2.
Midfielder Fernandes stepped up, not regular taker Ronaldo, but, unfortunately, hit his spot-kick against a post, as the Reds continued to chase the game at the Emirates.
Ronaldo then had the ball in the net on the hour mark for the second time, but VAR confirmed a marginal offside call to deny the Portugal captain a brace on his return to the side.
Dalot charged forward after being played in behind the Gunners' backline via Ronaldo on 63 minutes, with the defender's shot pushed by Ramsdale against the woodwork, also for a second time, as the visitors charged up their assault once more in search of a valuable equaliser.
Xhaka then picked up the ball on the edge of the United penalty area, and with Arsenal’s first real attack of any note of the half, the Switzerland international rifled home his side's third of the afternoon, with his drive flying past De Gea.
United attempts late on to spark a comeback were foiled by the hosts, as Arteta’s men hung on comfortably for a valuable three points in their own hunt for a top-four finish this season.
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Cedric (Tomiyasu 91), White, Gabriel, Tavares, Xhaka, Elneny, Saka (Holding 74), Odegaard (c), Smith Rowe (Martinelli 63), Nketiah.
Subs not used: Leno, Swanson, Lokonga, Azeez, Pepe, Lacazette.
Goals: Tavares 3, Saka 32, Xhaka 70.
Booked: Xhaka, Tavares, Elneny.
United: De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles, McTominay, Matic (Lingard 78), Elanga (Rashford 78), Fernandes (c) (Mata 83), Sancho, Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Jones, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Garnacho.
Goals: Ronaldo 34
Booked: Fernandes, Lindelof, Ronaldo.