MAN UTD 3, ARSENAL 1
What an incredible turnabout in Manchester United’s fortunes as victory against Premier League leaders Arsenal at Old Trafford lifted them to fifth place.
The Reds are three points behind the Gunners after their fourth straight league victory, a stark contrast to their plight only three weeks earlier.
Then, after losses to Brighton and Brentford in their opening two league games, they were bottom of the table with new manager Erik ten Hag experiencing a baptism of fire.
The Dutchman, who was being questioned so soon into his tenure, kept his nerve, made brave decisions in dropping Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire and has been rewarded.
It was a vastly improved United who ended the Gunners’ 100 per cent league record with a debut goal from new Brazilian signing Antony and brace from a revitalised Marcus Rashford who now has three goals for the season.
They are only the third side in Premier League history to win four in a row after losing their opening two in a season, after Tottenham in 2011-12 and Arsenal in 2018-19.
Their four-match winning run is their longest in the Premier League since winning five in a row in March and April 2021 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Embed from Getty Images
Rashford, who scored his first goals against the Gunners for six years, said: “It is always a big game against Arsenal, especially as they have had such a good start to the season.
“It was a big test for us today. We showed up and stood up to the challenge. We can be proud of ourselves. It is good to get into a rhythm.
“It is tough. They are a good team and know their principles of play and are very good at it. A good possession-based team and offer lots of difficulties with players dropping into pockets and with attacking threats.
“It is what we expected. I thought it was an even game. There were big spaces in the first half we couldn’t exploit. We managed to do that in the second half.
“We have some excellent passers of the ball and as long as we make runs, we are going to get the ball. We have to keep going for 90 minutes. There are a couple of times today we got through the press.”
Ten Hag added: “We are happy and satisfied with the win, also the performance against a really good team – they played really well.
“We are at the start of the process. There is still a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction.
“The spirit from this team, they can deal with setbacks, so we did. It is really great and shows your mentality – we have really improved on that.
“We have the right characters and now it is about co-operation, deal with setbacks but also improve – we have to stay calm, stay composed and play our game.
“You can see that Arsenal are more together, more routines – but our team spirit brings us the win.”
On Antony and Rashford, ten Hag said: “They both played great, a continual threat, I know our offensive is really strong – they are creative and have speed.
“This is the first time they have played together, and this performance is great to see.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was unhappy to leave Old Trafford empty-handed.
He said: “We are disappointed we have not won the game which was there for the taking, but we lacked discipline.
“I said at half time the game was there for the taking if we showed courage. It is a big lesson and, if we want to win here, we have to do things right.
Ten Hag made one change to the side that beat Leicester 1-0 on Thursday.
New boy Antony stepped in for Anthony Elanga. The £82m signing made his United debut at Old Trafford while Casemiro and Cristiano Ronaldo were on the bench.
Arteta was hoping to continue the perfect start to Arsenal’s Premier League campaign at Old Trafford where he has also just made one change from the side that beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Wednesday.
Oleksander Zinchenko came in for Kieran Tierney after sitting out the Gunners’ last two games with a knee problem.
Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard both started after they were monitored for knocks after the Villa game.
There was great intensity in the play from both sides in the opening stages.
Christian Eriksen fired narrowly wide while Sancho forced a diving save from Ramsdale as the Reds began brightly.
Gabriel fired over for the Gunners who thought they had taken a 12th minute lead through Gabriel Martinelli only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul of Eriksen by Martin Odegaard in the build up.
Referee Paul Tierney was sent to the pitchside monitor and rightly disallowed the goal. On a weekend of VAR blunders in the Premier League, the match official got it right.
Arsenal had another great chance just after the half hour, a header from Martinelli from an Odegaard cross which was beaten to safety by goalkeeper David De Gea.
After weathering a spell of Arsenal pressure, United took a 35th minute lead through a debut goal from Antony.
Bruno Fernandes was fouled in the build up but Tierney allowed play to continue. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford carried the ball forward before releasing the Brazilian on the right of the box as he found the net with the sweetest of finishes.
It was a measure of Antony’s growing confidence that in stoppage time he attempted an audacious 35-yard lob which Ramsdale caught under the crossbar.
Arsenal started the second period well and had two chances in quick succession, Odegaard slicing his effort wide and Bukayo Saka firing low across the face of goal with nobody able to get on the end of it.
Saka then dribbled to the by-line and saw his cross hit the top of the crossbar as the Gunners continued their quest for an equaliser.
United made their first change just short of the hour as Antony made way for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Arsenal drew level in the 60th minute, and you could see it coming.
Odegaard and Jesus linked superbly to set up Saka who swept home a low shot from 10 yards.
United were behind barely six minutes before they regained the lead with a goal of supreme quality.
Fernandes threaded a pass through the eye of a needle to release Rashford who ran from halfway before powering an unstoppable drive past Ramsdale from the edge of the box.
Ten Hag immediately took off Sancho who was replaced by Fred.
United almost added a third when Ronaldo closed down Ramsdale forcing the keeper into a hurried clearance to Fred who set up Fernandes whose shot was blocked by the keeper close to the edge of the area.
A third goal arrived in the 75th minute, not long after Arteta had made a triple change.
Fernandes released Eriksen who sprinted clear before unselfishly squaring a pass for Rashford to sweep home his second of the game.
United made two further changes with 10 minutes left as Lisandro Martinez and Rashford appeared to pick up knocks as Harry Maguire and Casemiro were introduced.
And barely one minute after coming on, Maguire was shown a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Jesus.