Bukayo Saka stole the show for the Gunners, setting up Nuno Tavares’ third-minute opener before doubling the advantage from the penalty spot in the first half, after Eddie Nketiah was denied a goal for offside. Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back for the Red Devils and also saw a strike ruled out for a narrow offside infringement in the second half.
That came shortly after Bruno Fernandes squandered a brilliant chance to equalise for United, only managing to hit the post with a lacklustre penalty conceded by goalscorer Tavares for handball. Arsenal made their visitors pay for this wasted opportunity as Granit Xhaka produced a breathtaking effort from range to claim all three points for the North Londoners.
Here are five talking points from a pulsating clash at the Emirates.
Rangnick’s warning unheeded
Manchester United via Getty Images)
Ahead of kick-off, Ralf Rangnick declared Manchester United “have to make sure it’s not too open” as they aimed to bounce back from their disastrous 4-0 loss to Liverpool.
To that end, the interim boss reverted to a four-man defence with Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane preferred to Harry Maguire at centre-half. However, his plea for United to shore up at the back fell on deaf ears and the visitors found themselves 1-0 down just three minutes into the action at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s goal was created by Bukayo Saka’s brilliance as the England international cut inside and fired a vicious shot towards David de Gea’s goal. The Spaniard produced a fine save to deny the initial effort but his parry feel into the path of Nuno Tavares, who had the simple task of tapping in to give the Gunners an early lead.
As chants of “1-0 to the Arsenal” rang around North London, incoming United manager Erik ten Hag was served another reminder of how much work he has awaiting him at Old Trafford this summer.
Steely Saka on target from spot
The 20-year-old faced a crushing disappointment last summer after missing a spot kick in the shootout of the Euro 2020 final against Italy but has responded emphatically this season, reaffirming his place among Arsenal’s most important players. Saka was again called on from 12 yards against Manchester United and made no mistake, sending David de Gea the wrong way to double Arsenal’s lead in the 32nd minute.
The penalty had been awarded after Eddie Nketiah was denied a goal for offside, but the VAR check soon turned to look for a potential penalty for Alex Telles’ push on Saka. The spot kick was duly awarded and the England international sent the Emirates into frenzy by putting Arsenal 2-0 up. The only blemish on Saka’s brilliant display was that he had to be withdrawn with a suspected muscle injury in the second half.
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Ronaldo reaches milestone
Manchester United could have easily capitulated upon going 2-0 down at the Emirates, just as they have on so many other occasions this season.
However, they pulled a goal back within seconds through none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who latched onto Nemanja Matic’s cross to poke home after shrugging off Gabriel with ease. It was an emotional moment for the Portuguese superstar, who has had to come to terms with the heartbreaking loss of his baby son on Monday.
Ronaldo returned to the starting line-up having missed the defeat at Liverpool in midweek and made it 16 top-flight goals for the season, joining the elite group of players to have scored 100 Premier League goals in the process. There was a poignant moment as he celebrated the goal by pointing to the sky in what appeared to be a clear tribute to his baby boy.
Fernandes spares Tavares blushes
While Nuno Tavares scored the opening goal for Arsenal, it looked for a moment as though he would go from hero to zero as he conceded a penalty just before the hour mark, with the scoreline 2-1 to the Gunners.
To the exasperation of the Emirates faithful, the defender was penalised after a delivery from a corner struck his outstretched arm, which was undoubtedly in an unnatural position. However, much to Tavares’ relief, Bruno Fernandes could only strike the post with his spot kick after a typically-jittery run-up.
Aaron Ramsdale rubbed salt in the Portuguese’s wounds by running out of his goalmouth to celebrate as the ball trickled out of play. As for the costly miss, Fernandes and Rangnick can expect a fresh wave of scrutiny about why Cristiano Ronaldo is not on penalty duties.
Xhaka confirms vital points in top-four race
They don’t often go in for Granit Xhaka, but the Switzerland international has always had a ferocious shot in his locker.
Manchester United were on the receiving end of one such thunderous effort in the 70th minute. As Arsenal players appealed for an alleged handball from a Red Devils defender moments earlier, Xhaka collected the ball and lashed beyond a helpless David de Gea to prompt raucous celebrations among the Gunners squad and fans.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of United, who have almost no chance of finishing in the Champions League spots as a result of their loss in North London. The Gunners sit six points ahead of United having played one game less, while their win means Tottenham must respond as they travel to Brentford on Saturday evening.