MAN UNITED 3, ARSENAL 2
New interim manager Ralph Rangnick must have been impressed as he watched from the directors’ box as Manchester United produced a spirited display to beat Arsenal and climb to seventh place in the Premier League.
It was a display full of energy, character and resilience as the Reds bid farewell to caretaker manager Michael Carrick as at the end of this rousing match it was announced the playing legend was leaving the club with immediate effect.
Carrick bows out with two wins and a draw from his three matches in charge since taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he succeeded in reversing the slide.
It was a match which had everything and, yes, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who again stole the show as he scored twice and became the first player at the top level to reach 800 career goals.
Ronaldo, reported not to be Rangnick’s type of player, gave the new manager plenty to ponder as he made it 12 goals in 14 starts and two substitute appearances since his return to Old Trafford, and showed at 36 years of age he can play the pressing game the new manager advocates.
Bruno Fernandes marked his 100th appearance for the Reds with a goal and remarkable stats of 45 goals and 34 assists impressive.
The goals of Ronaldo and Fernandes gave United their first home league win since Newcastle United were vanquished on September 11.
But when Arsenal took the lead early in the game with one of the most bizarre goals ever seen, it looked as though it might be another night to forget for the Reds.
Goalkeeper David De Gea was lying on the ground injured when Emile Smith-Rowe found the net with referee Martin Atkinson at the centre of controversy for allowing play to continue.
VAR showed De Gea was caught by team-mate Fred so there was no legitimate reason to disallow the goal to the fury of the Reds’ players.Embed from Getty Images
Carrick, in a statement issued at the end of the game, said: “My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career. When I first signed over 15 years ago, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined winning so many trophies and I will certainly never forget the fantastic memories both as a player and as a member of the coaching team.
“However, after a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave the club.
“I want to place on record my thanks to all of the players and a special mention goes to the backroom staff, working long hours with such a great group of people has been a real pleasure and I have made some long-lasting friendships.
“I am, and will always be, a Manchester United fan and will come to as many matches as possible. I would like to wish Ralf, the staff, the players and the fans all the best for the future and I look forward to being in the stands and supporting the boys as a fan.”
Carrick expanded further when interviewed on Amazon Prime, adding: “It’s not been an easy decision to make but I feel it’s the right one. I was going to take time off after I finished playing and it never happened. It feels like the right time to step away and what a way to finish.
“It’s 100 per cent my decision. Over the last week I was conscious I respected the club and the manager coming in. I thought it was the right thing to do for the club and for Ralf [Rangnick] and I’m quite happy with that.
“We were in a situation where there was a responsibility to see these games through. The loyalty to Ole is a little bit of a factor but there were a lot of things that came into my decision.
“I’ve had great times, great memories and I’m proud of the players over the past three games.
“I just told them, and they were a bit shocked and surprised, a bit emotional in the changing room. I held it together just about. It’s not been easy to keep it away from people, but I had a job to do.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said: “I’m disappointed we didn’t get something out of the game. When you concede three at Old Trafford, it’s unlikely you’ll get something out of the game.
“I saw a lot of positives. It wasn’t enough to get something out of the game.”
On their opening goal, Arteta explained: “We didn’t know what to expect but the referee and VAR checked and it’s a goal.
“We started the game really good but then we gave them some momentum. We lost very simple balls. We couldn’t get out of the press because we were defending deeper.
“In the second half we had total control and dominance, but we made an error which cost us the game.
“We are here to win football matches. That’s a lesson that doing that [playing like tonight] is not enough. We have to do things better.”
Carrick made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Chelsea. Cristiano Ronaldo returned in an attacking move that saw Nemanja Matic drop out of the matchday squad.
Harry Maguire returned after suspension and took the place of Eric Bailly in the centre of defence. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was absent, so Diogo Dalot started at right-back.
Arsenal made two changes from the side that beat Newcastle. Gabriel Martinelli started in place of Bukayo Saka in attack, while Mohamed Elneny came into midfield for Albert Sambi Lokonga.
The Gunners, unbeaten in their last three league visits to Old Trafford, were quick out of the blocks forcing three corners in the opening two minutes, one of which was scrambled to safety by Marcus Rashford.
Dalot and Ronaldo had early chances for the Reds without seriously threatening while Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forced a diving save from David De Gea who also had a tip over the bar a looping header from Gabriel Martinelli.
The controversial goal came in the 17th minute from Smith-Rowe, a player who had a loan spell with Rangnick at RB Leipzig.
Maguire seemed to be on a one-man mission to drag the Reds back into the match, firing over and then bringing goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale to his knees with a save.
United equalised in the 44th minute with a goal of quality.
Jadon Sancho worked his way in from the left and Fred fed the Fernandes who slotted a shot low to the left of Ramsdale, ending a run of 15 games without a goal. It was only his fifth of the season, the leanest spell of his near two years at the club.
De Gea prevented Arsenal from regaining the lead within one minute of the restart when he made a fabulous reflex save to keep out Gabriel’s flicked header from Martin Odengaard’s corner.
Ronaldo, who had been out of sorts in the opening half, played like a man possessed from the restart.
He had an angled effort saved by Ramsdale before putting United ahead for the first time in the 52nd minute.
Rashford burst forward on the right and his low cross was swept home by Ronaldo from 12 yards as Old Trafford erupted with joyous celebrations.
They were short-lived, however, as Arsenal equalised within two minutes when Gabriel Martinelli cut the ball back from the right and Odegaard fired low past De Gea.
It was hard to believe the Gunners had only scored three away goals in the league before their visit to Old Trafford as they were a threat throughout offensively.
There was further drama with 21 minutes left when Atkinson denied the Reds a penalty for Odegaard’s challenge on Fred.
But VAR official Andre Marriner sent Atkinson to the pitchside monitor and, after reviewing the challenge, he pointed to the spot.
Ronaldo stepped up to smash home his 801st career goal as the Reds regained the lead.
United’s defensive frailties again surfaced as they were caught on the break, but Aubameyang’s effort brought a straightforward save from De Gea.
Jesse Lingard replaced Rashford with 11 minutes left, United’s first change.
United were caught again as substitute Bukayo Saka was through on goal, but the excellent Fred made a vital block.
Ronaldo, whose second half display had been a revelation, was replaced by Anthony Martial with two minutes left quickly followed by Fernandes making way for Donny van de Beek.