Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck, Walcott
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Elneny, Iwobi, Giroud
Teenager Marcus Rashford bagged a brace as Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 at Old Trafford.
The 18-year-old, making his Premier League debut, scored twice inside three minutes to put the home side 2-0 ahead by the half-hour mark before Danny Welbeck reduced the deficit with a header just before the break.
Ander Herrera then restored United’s two-goal lead with an effort that deflected off Laurent Koscielny. Mesut Ozil gave the visitors hope of a draw with a goal on 68 minutes but Louis van Gaal’s side held on for the points as Wenger’s misfiring side struggled to create anything of note in the final third.
The result, coupled with wins for Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur, casts serious doubt on the Gunners chances.
Arsene Wenger sprung a surprise by dropping Olivier Giroud, without a goal in eight games, opting instead for an attacking trio of Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. The Frenchman was joined on the bench by Mertesacker who was replaced by the returning Gabriel. Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi, both absent against Barcelona, were also amongst the subs.
Over the years Arsenal have been dicked on by Manchester United from every angle. There have been thrashings, poundings, spankings and hidings, unjust goals, great goals, ridiculous goals and own goals. We’ve lost in every way imaginable…so being 2-0 down at Old Trafford after 30 minutes isn’t unusual.
The thing is, we’re supposed to be fighting for the title. And United are certainly not. Louis van Gaal’s side have been stupendously erratic this season and with an injury crisis of Gunners-esque proportions they had little choice but to field a team of reserves, including an 18-year-old striker, Marcus Rashford, making his league debut. Naturally Arsenal let that kid score twice.
The game started pretty quietly as both sides knocked the ball around tentatively without attempting to up the tempo. An early chance for Nacho Monreal was foiled by compatriot David de Gea, Memphis Depay had a free-kick that Petr Cech did well to grasp and Danny Blind cleared a Gabriel header.
Then, as is so often the case, Arsenal pressed the self-destruct button. Not for the first time this term, Theo Walcott was dispossessed trying to run the ball out of defence. Ander Herrera stole the ball and United worked it to the right wing where Guillermo Varela delivered a teasing cross into the centre of the box. Koscielny missed it, Gabriel couldn’t clear properly and as the ball bounced free Rashford tucked it into the top corner.
Not for the first time this term, Theo Walcott was dispossessed trying to run the ball out of defence. Ander Herrera stole the ball and United worked it to the right wing where Guillermo Varela delivered a teasing cross into the centre of the box. Koscielny missed it, Gabriel couldn’t clear properly and as the ball bounced free Rashford tucked it into the top corner. (1-0)
Within three minutes United doubled their lead. Another ball from the right deceived Gabriel and Rashford, four yards out, was on hand to head the ball past a stranded Cech. (2-0)
On the ropes Arsenal had to respond. Out of nothing they did just that. As was the case against Leicester, Ozil swung in a delicious free-kick – won by Alexis – and Welbeck glanced a header past De Gea. It was the German’s 18th assist of the season. (2-1)
As expected Manchester United were happy to concede possession to the Gunners in the second half. Sitting deep, their entire game was built on breaking quickly when Wenger’s men committed too many men forward. It worked for Barcelona and it worked for the Red Devils.
In the moments after Olivier Giroud replaced Theo Walcott, the ball was worked to Rashford in the right channel. The youngster held the ball up well, played the ball to the edge of the box for Herrera whose first-time shot took a wicked deflection off Koscielny’s chest and flew past Cech into the roof of the net. (3-1)
United looked comfortable enough so it was something of a surprise that Arsenal found a second goal. A fine De Gea stop denied Welbeck from point blank only for Mesut Ozil to bounce home the rebound with a clear mishit. (3-2)
Elneny came on for Coquelin and promptly got booked. That came just minutes after Ramsey had escaped with a caution after raising his hands to the face of Herrera. We needed to be disciplined and we were anything but.
Chances were few and far between for the Gunners as the game ticked towards full time. Giroud and Gabriel both had headers; one over, the other straight at De Gea. That aside the Spaniard had little to worry about as United saw out the game.