The historic game between two of English football’s finest played out as expected, with Jose Mourinho leaving big-money signings Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku out of his starting line-up.
For Arsenal, an expensive buy of their own started on the bench: Alexandre Lacazette. However, for the second game in a row, the French forward demonstrated his worth and prowess.
Lacazette’s second-half appearance against Tottenham on Sunday saw the Frenchman score a crucial goal to put Arsenal 3-2 up in the north London derby, although he wasn’t rewarded with a start in Manchester.
Instead, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started up front supported by Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey, the latter having been involved in two of Arsenal’s three second-half goals against Spurs.
Arsenal exploited space down United’s left-hand side, with Sead Kolasinac particularly impressive in the first half. Shkodran Mustafi’s powerful header went over the line after a mistake from David De Gea , but United hit back almost immediately, with Anthony Martial taking advantage of sloppy defending from Arsenal to equalise.
Five yellow cards in the opening 45 minutes gave the impression that things could boil over, while Arsenal were left ruing injuries to Rob Holding and Ramsey, who were both forced off with what looked like knee and ankle problems, respectively.
Lacazette was introduced and his scuffed finish, which appeared to deflect off Marcos Rojo, restored Arsenal’s lead, only for more slack defending to gift United another equaliser barely a minute later.
Despite leading twice in the match, Arsenal were pegged back by sloppy defensive mistakes. The Gunners were clearly missing Nacho Monreal, a player who has forged an impressive partnership with Aubameyang down the left-hand side, but it didn’t stop the former Borussia Dortmund striker from fashioning several key chances for himself – and he was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
De Gea denied him with a magnificent save towards the end of the game but it is worth noting that Arsenal did more than enough to win. Yet, there is still a change that could be made by Emery.
Since Aubameyang joined in January, the Gabonese and Lacazette have spent 1,050 minutes on the pitch together in all competitions and averaged a goal every 60 minutes. When the duo play together, there seems to be an immediate urgency in Arsenal’s play which brings the best out of both of them.
Under Emery’s 4-2-3-1 formation there are a number of top-class attacking players at the Spaniard’s disposal but Lacazette, who is effective at holding the ball up, and the versatile Aubameyang complement one another excellently.
Aubameyang, who is the Premier League’s top goalscorer with 10 goals in 14 games, will almost certainly start against Huddersfield on Saturday – but so should Lacazette.
As Arsenal go 20 games unbeaten, it's time for Emery to give the Premier League's deadliest strike-force a run together up front.