Arsenal 3, Manchester United 1
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th Premier League goal but could not prevent Arsenal from beating Manchester United in a further blow to their Champions League hopes.
Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka, and Granit Xhaka scored the goals for Arsenal while Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty that might have earned the Reds a point and escaped a red card later as his frustration boiled over.
Defeat has left the Reds six points behind Arsenal who have a game in hand in the crucial fourth place – and United have just four games of a forgettable season left to salvage at least a place in Europe for incoming United manager Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag – who was announced by the club this week and will start in the summer – has a big job to get the Reds back into the Champions League next season after the latest setback for United underlined their organisational weakness.
Ralf Rangnick was pleased with the application of hs United team even though VAR checks went against them against a side who had their own defensive issues.
He said: “It was an improved performance but a disappointing result.
“Three VAR decisions went against us in the game and there was a handball that was inside the box
“Cristiano’s goal was not offside but we have to deal with it.”Embed from Getty Images
United Captain Harry Maguire was dropped by Rangnick along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, and Marcus Rashford, while Paul Pogba may have played his last game for United after sustaining a calf injury early in the defeat at Anfield.
They were replaced by Raphael Varane, Alex Telles, Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo – who had missed the game at Liverpool after the death of his baby son.
And in a game where both sides attacked well it was came down to who was better organised in defence – and lucky – in the end.
Nuno Tavares opened the scoring for the Gunners, taking full advantage of the sort of calamitous defending that has blighted United this year.
Both Raphael Varane and Alex Telles both missed chances to cut out a ball into Bukayo Saka whose resulting shot was clawed away by David De Gea.
The Spanish goalkeeper could only drop the ball into the path of the Portuguese left back who had a tap in to open his Gunners account after just three minutes with little resistance from Diogo Dalot.
Manchester United were stunned, the Gunners crowd applauded Reds centre forward Cristiano Ronaldo in the 7th minute just as the Anfield crowd had done in midweek.
Anthony Elanga and Jadon Sancho had penalty claims turned down while Dalot hit the crossbar with a 25 yard shot as United tried to get back into the game.
Sancho in particular was mystified after Cedric Soares appeared to handle the ball while getting it away from the United midfielder but there was no action taken.
But with both defences likely to leak goals, Eddie Nketia had a fierce strike palmed away by De Gea.
And Arsenal struck again after more calamity in the United defence, a Martin Odegaard ball up to Saka saw the liveware Gunner brought down by Telles – the ball rebounded to Nketia who tucked it away before the referee disallowed the goal for offside.
However, VAR re-examined the foul on Saka in the build-up and ruled that he was fouled – deciding on a penalty on Saka and the England man picked himself up and sent De Gea the wrong way.
At 2-0 up with 32 minutes gone things once again looked bleak for the Reds but Ronaldo popped up with a goal back from 6 yards out after a cross into the box by Nemanja Matic who was given plenty of time to curl the ball to his team mate.
It was Ronaldo’s 100th goal in the Premier League, 18 years and 173 days after his first league goal for United, as he became only the fourth United player to reach that milestone behind Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Wayne Rooney.
Tavares then gave away the chance for Bruno Fernandes to level the game with a handball but the Portuguese midfielder drove his spot kick into the left upright and out of play after his trademark hop, skip, and jump run-up.
Ronaldo thought he had equalised but was marginally offside but went on to set up Dalot for another shot which was tipped onto the post by Aaron Ramsdale.
But the Gunners put clear daylight between them and United when Xhaka smashed in a low drive from 28 yards out with 20 minutes to go to give them a 3-1 a lead which the Gunners did not relinquish.
Fernandes’ afternoon of moaning, whinging, and missing a penalty might have ended early with a red card after his late challenge on Tavares was checked by VAR to see if a yellow card was sufficient – the Portuguese somehow escaped the harsher punishment but United couldn’t muster enough to win a point at the Emirates.