Report: United 3 Arsenal 2
Manchester United out-fought Arsenal to claim a 3-2 victory in a topsy-turvy match at Old Trafford.
The Reds had fallen behind to a bizarre goal as Emile Smith Rowe struck when David De Gea was down hurt, but ended the first half all square thanks to a Bruno Fernandes effort.
Cristiano Ronaldo put United ahead in the second half, only for Martin Odegaard to quickly level before the Norwegian fouled Fred in the box – setting up Ronaldo to net the winner from the penalty spot.
The victory moves the Reds just three points off the top four in the Premier League and means Michael Carrick concludes his spell as caretaker manager unbeaten, having won two and drawn one of his three matches as the helm.
FIRST HALF –CONTROVERSY REIGNS
Arsenal kicked off and worked themselves downfield early on, winning a flurry of corners, but all of these were dealt with by United, who eventually launched a counter-attack led by Fernandes. He fed the ball to Jadon Sancho, before receiving a return pass, but the Portuguese's cross into the area was cut out by Ben White.
Diogo Dalot carved out a first chance for the Reds, cutting inside and firing towards goal. His effort took a touch off a defender but Aaron Ramsdale got down well to save and hold, with Fernandes on the spot to capitalise had he spilled it.
Ronaldo then also had a crack from long range just after the 10-minute mark, but uncharacteristically he didn’t quite grab hold of it and snatched his effort wide to the right of goal.
At the other end, Arsenal would take the lead in freakish circumstances with De Gea down injured on the ground. The Spaniard was caught on his ankle by Fred as players jostled in the box ahead of a corner to the Gunners. The ball was cleared but, despite the United goalkeeper clearly being in distress, the referee Martin Atkinson didn’t halt play, allowing Smith Rowe to shoot into an unguarded net. VAR controversially awarded the goal despite Atkinson blowing after the ball had crossed the line.
Doing well to regroup, United largely dominated the rest of the half. Ronaldo shaped up for an acrobatic overhead kick at the back post, only for White to get a vital touch with his head to divert the flight of the ball.
Harry Maguire had a couple of chances too, firstly hitting a long-range shot that went over the bar and then later pressing high to win the ball, driving into the box and letting fly – this time his effort was saved.
One minute before the break, Fernandes restored parity. Fed the ball by Fred, who executed a deft touch in the box, the Portuguese’s shot was too powerful for Ramsdale to stop, despite the English goalkeeper getting something on it. After conceding a seemingly unjust opener, the Reds were hugely relieved to go in level at half-time.
SECOND HALF – RONALDO AT THE DOUBLE
The Gunners began the second period virtually identically to the first, fashioning a corner almost instantly. From the set-play, Gabriel headed one goal-bound, but De Gea was well positioned to claw it off the line.
Going forward, the Reds forced Ramsdale to make saves of his own. First, Ronaldo slipped his man on the by-line and was denied by the keeper’s body, before Marcus Rashford saw an effort saved too and all within the opening five minutes of the half.
The pair then combined to put United ahead in the game for the first time. Rashford played it to Ronaldo who was primed to stick the ball into the opposite corner of the net in front of a delighted Stretford End. But around 90 seconds later, the visitors had levelled via Odegaard, who stroked a low one out of the reach of De Gea.
Having been the hero for Arsenal at one end, Odegaard became the villain at the other, when he wiped out Fred in the box. Originally, referee Atkinson waved away the appeals from the Reds, but, on taking another look at the monitor, the evidence was damming and gave the official no choice but to award a spot-kick.
Stepping up, Ronaldo rifled the penalty right down the centre of the goal, bulging the net to bag his second of the night and United’s third with 20 minutes to go.
Five minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked to stride through but his shot was easily smothered by De Gea. In the closing stages, Bukayo Saka found himself free in the box but was denied by an excellent challenge by Fred, who closed the attacker down expertly. The Reds may have scored again with Arsenal having left themselves exposed on the break, but, in the end, the three goals were enough to earn the points.
United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Telles; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes (Van de Beek 90), Rashford (Lingard 79); Ronaldo (Martial 88).
Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Jones, Mata, Amad, Greenwood.
Goals: Fernandes 44, Ronaldo 52,70.
Arsenal: Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares; Martinelli, Partey, Elneny, Smith Rowe (Saka 70); Odegaard (Nketiah 79); Aubameyang (Lacazette 79).
Subs not used: Okonkwo, Holding, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Sambi-Lokonga, Pepe.
Goals: Smith Rowe 13, Odegaard 54.