Manchester Utd secured a crucial away win against Arsenal in what was the game of the season so far.
It was a performance we wouldn’t associate with a Jose Mourinho team, rather it was the type of counter attacking display we saw from Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side in that memorable 2015/16 season. Utd came flying out of the blocks and capitalised on 2 huge defensive mistakes from the Arsenal back line. It was the type of naive start from Wenger’s men that has prevented them mounting a serious title challenge in recent years and they were rightly punished.
First, Laurent Koscielny’s lackadaisical cross-field pass was intercepted by Antonio Valencia who found Paul Pogba. Pogba then returned the ball to the overlapping Valencia who drilled a shot low and hard passed Petr Cech. 3 minutes in 1-0 Utd.
The second, although started by a mistake, was precise and clinical. Mustafi hesitated before passing straight to Romelu Lukaku who drove forward before picking out a delightful reverse pass to Anthony Martial whose exquisite flick sent Jesse Lingard through. Lingard then placed the ball in the corner, in off the post capping off a superb Utd counter. Mustafi incidentally left the pitch moments later due to injury, although embarrassment would have been as good a reason.
Arsenal created numerous chances throughout the first half. Lacazette hit the bar, Xhaka hit the post and David De Gea, who was easily the game’s best player, pulled off a number of outstanding saves. Arsenal eventually pulled one back early in the second half when Aaron Ramsey set it back to Lacazette to thump home. The game would have been level but for a phenomenal double save from De Gea, first stopping Lacazette’s driven shot with his right arm before using his right boot to block Sanchez’s effort from point blank range.
Arsenal’s wastefulness was punished and De Gea’s brilliance further rewarded when moments later it was 3-1. Arsenal were once again caught by a quick Utd counter attack, with Pogba leading the charge. He easily shrugging off the attention of Koscielny before squaring the ball to Lingard for his 2nd of the game.
Pogba showed his very best in this game, creating 2 goals and driving Utd forward at every opportunity but his horrific challenge on Hector Bellerin in the 75th minute means he will miss crucial games against Man City, Bournemouth and West Brom. A late stamp on the Arsenal full back meant the £89m frenchman saw red for the first time in his Utd career and rightly so.
Arsenal should have had 2 late penalties but were unable to find a route back into the game.
The result moves Utd 5 points behind City before their game against West Ham tomorrow but leaves Arsenal needing something of a miracle if they want to have a say in the title race.