RED DEVILS RISE!

Two forever rivals, one epic clash. Old Trafford played hosts to a resurgent Arsenal who could go 4th with a win. Meanwhile, Manchester United really needed to arrest the slide after two losses on the trot.

It was a fast start as one would expect. Arsenal winning three corners within 90 seconds and looking threatening with more energy. United looked to be sitting a bit deep and waiting for the counter. A big talking point came a few minutes later after a corner from the Gunners ended up with Emile Smith-Rowe scoring with a strike from just outside the box.

 

The controversy was that David De Gea was on the ground then having been trod on by Fred as the replays showed. Though the goal was initially chalked off, given the fact that referee Martin Atkinson blew the whistle after the ball had gone in meant the goal stood, especially since it was two players from the same team. United tried to up the tempo but their play in the final third was disjointed at best.

 

Just when the Gunners thought they would take a lead at halftime, United struck back. Some neat interplay between Jadon Sancho and Fred ended with the Brazilian’s clever reverse pass finding Bruno Fernandes. The midfielder opened his body up to slot the ball past Aaron Ramsdale from near the six yard box. That was how it remained till the break with a winner very hard to call.

 

It restarted with a corner providing a good chance as the ball hit Gabriel before being punched away by De Gea. On the other side, Cristiano Ronaldo got a strike on target from a tight angle that deflected off an outstretched Ramsdale. But he would not be denied for long. A driving run and cutback cross by Marcus Rashford found Ronaldo who side-footed the ball home for his 800th career goal.

 

The lead lasted less than three minutes. A similar attack by Arsenal found Gabriel Martinelli on the right whose grounded cross was swung into the net by Martin Odegaard. The game was pretty even now as the fifth goal could prove crucial. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang had a shot saved from a very tight angle. However, the Gunner’s Norwegian hero soon went from hero to villain, fouling Fred from behind to concede a penalty.

 

Ronaldo stepped up and sent the ball blazing into the middle of the net for this 801st goal. Arsenal were having to chase once again in this topsy turvy encounter. Bukayo Saka came on and had a few good looks at goal but was either blocked or off target.

 

Here are the three key takeaways from the match:

LANDMARK NIGHT MARKED BY WIN

Goal in your 100th game and a brace to cross 800 career goals, it was a night of achievements for United’s two Portuguese maestros. Though they were put in a hole early on, the Red Devils never lost faith and kept prodding forward. Harry Maguire’s regular forays into midfield and Fred picking up his game after a while led to the first while the second was aided by poor Arsenal defending as well.

 

Ronaldo was at his trademark best: finding the back of the net when necessary to win the game. By no means a perfect game with Ralf Rangnick watching on but the three interim games had yielded a full haul of nine points and move up to 7th in the table.

 

THE GOOD AND BAD FOR ARSENAL

Mikel Arteta’s side made the perfect start, piling on the pressure in the early exchanges which led to the…unique opener. It seemed to be the perfect platform to push on from but they stagnated for a bit with a “holding” mentality. That led to the home side growing backing into the game which ultimately led to the equaliser being conceded just before halftime.

 

The second goal was again a lack of defensive nous, with Nuno Tavares being out of position and Gabriel failing to close down Rashford quickly enough. The Gunners are certainly young in experience and it showed in Odegaard’s clumsy foul on Fred which sealed the result. Nevertheless, there were positives to take for Arteta including the performances of Martinelli and Thomas Partey.

 

THAT WAS A GOAL, RIGHT?

Yes, but not without a certain stroke of luck and happenstance. The fact that the referee blew the whistle to stop play after the ball had already nestled into the net meant only a foul on De Gea would have overturned it. United were out of luck in this area as well because it was Fred who “fouled” De Gea that caused the goalkeeper to stay down. Maybe he felt it was from an Arsenal player but it was not to be. Smith Rowe was rewarded for finding the goal.

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