It was one of the clashes that could possibly determine the outcome of the Premier League season, as Arsenal hosted Manchester United. The Gunners were in search of three points to climb back into the top four and find passage back to Champions League football, while the visitors were hoping to keep chase of the league title. On a cold Saturday night at the Emirates Stadium, it was second placed United who would eventually run away with the 3-1 win to temporarily close the gap on leaders Manchester City.
The eventual scoreline however, didn’t truly reflect how the game panned out.
United did take advantage of two errors in the Arsenal defence, as Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard latched on to give the away side a 2-0 lead in as early as the 11th minute. Thereon, Arsenal took control and started dictating play.
As the Gunners began to see more of the ball, particularly through their assist-specialist Mesut Ozil, Jose Mourinho’s team steadily fell deeper into their own half. And it took a few stellar saves from David De Gea to ensure United took the lead into the break, especially after the Spaniard dove low to his left to parry a cross that deflected off the shin of his own striker Romelu Lukaku at the stroke of half time.
Arsenal began the second half in the same tempo, putting pressure on the United defence. They did find the breakthrough in the 49th minute. Alexis Sanchez’s cross found Aaron Ramsey inside the six-yard box, but the Welshman unselfishly cushioned the ball back to Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman was unmarked as the United defence froze, and strongly shot past De Gea.
Minutes later Lacazette could have levelled the game for his team, but his powerful shot from distance produced a brilliant save by De Gea, and the goalkeeper got up in time to put a foot to Sanchez’s rebound.
The visitors were well and truly on the back-foot, defending in numbers and with desperation, until Paul Pogba launched a telling counterattack in the 63rd minute. The powerful midfielder stormed down the right flank, got the better of Laurent Koscielny with some trick play, and squared the ball for Lingard who had the simple task of tapping home for his second of the night.
In the 74th minute, Pogba led another charge, but his studs-up challenge on Hector Bellerin had referee Andre Mariner produce the red card.
Arsenal continued to apply the pressure. In the last few minutes of regulation time though, the hosts had two good shouts for a penalty, when Matteo Darmian caught Danny Welbeck, and Chris Smalling tackled wildly to topple Lacazette. The referee however, was unmoved on both occasions.
At the end, United scrapped home for the three-points, but the red card to Pogba might prove costly for United at the Manchester Derby next week.