Man Utd 2, Arsenal 1
After the scoring extravaganzas enjoyed by these teams in their midweek Capital One Cup adventures, this proved a drab Old Trafford affair by comparison.
The result put Manchester United top of the Premier League, but the scoreline flattered Arsenal as the Reds enjoyed almost total domination.
United were quicker to the ball, sharper in the tackle, more composed in defence and far more lethal in front of goal.
There was never going to be a repeat of the 8-2 thrashing United handed out to the Gunners in the corresponding fixture last season.
But, as with all United-Arsenal games, there was still plenty of incident.
United striker Robin van Persie scored against his former club after only three minutes.
Wayne Rooney missed a penalty – the fourth United player to do so this season.
Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 70th minute and there were seven bookings in a game which was sedate compared to previous meetings between these sides.
Van Persie put United ahead from the first chance of the game.
Antonio Valencia’s clever flick sent Rafael Da Silva away down the right.
The Brazilian’s poor cross should have been meat and drink for Arsenal skipper Thomas Vermaelen to clear.
But the Belgian centre-back botched the job, leaving van Persie to pick up the pieces and score with a right foot shot from just inside the box.
United’s players celebrated…… except for van Persie.
Vito Mannone parried a fierce shot from Rooney midway through the first half, while van Persie directed a free header at the Arsenal goalkeeper soon after.
United should have doubled their lead in the closing seconds of the first half.
Santi Cazorla used both hands to divert Ashley Young’s cross in the Arsenal box and referee Mike Dean had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Rooney stepped up and drove the resulting spot kick a foot wide of the right post.
United’s stranglehold on the game continued after the interval and Theo Walcott replaced the ineffective Aaron Ramsey in the 52nd minute for the Gunners.
Arsenal had their first real chance of the game two minutes later when Olivier Giroud collected Cazorla’s pass from the left at the near post, turned Jonny Evans and clipped the woodwork with his close range shot.
In the 66th minute, Young’s superb cross from the left found van Persie free in the middle of the Arsenal penalty area, but he rushed his shot which was pushed behind by Mannone.
But the short corner which followed proved lucrative for United when Rooney’s sweet cross from the left saw Patrice Evra forcing his way through a crowded box to head home from six yards at the near post.
Wilshere recieved his marching orders from Mr Dean soon after.
Booked for a 14th minute foul on Tom Cleverley, the England midfield man followed through on Evra and was sent off.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger failed to act on the warning signs issued by Mr Dean, unlike his United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, who withdrew Cleverley in favour of Anderson in the 61st minute.
Cleverley was shown a yellow card in the 37th minute for a foul on Cazorla and was lucky to escape a second booking for another late tackle – ironically on Wilshere.
Arsenal’s most dangerous period came in almost five minutes of injury time played by Mr Dean.
United goalkeeper David De Gea produced a fine pointblank save to deny Giroud, but was powerless to keep out Cazorla’s glorious curling shot from the edge of the box from the last kick of the game.
Van Perie said: “It was a special day for me against my former club and I am glad we won.
“I didn’t celebrate my goal because I had eight great years at Arsenal. I respect the club, the manager and the fans and that is why.
“I had an easier chance in the second half, but I hurried the shot because I thought Thomas Vermaelen was closer to me than he was.”
Ferguson said: “The chances we missed were unbelievable. There was a lack of urgency throughout and we were far too casual.
“It was far more subdued than the usual Arsenal-United game.
“I thought van Persie was fantastic today. There is the right movement between him and Rooney, although I don’t think we saw the best of them today. They are both mobile players with the desire to win.
“I took Cleverley off the protect him. I was not prepared to take the chance that he might be sent off.”
Wenger said: “We gave ourselves problems – most resulting from our own mistakes.
“By letting in the early goal, we put United in a position where they could counter attack.
“It was difficult when we went 2-0 behind and were down to 10 men..
“I don’t think Wilshere should have been sent off. He went for the ball.”