Arsenal beat Manchester United in a thriller at the Emirates Stadium as the Gunners momentarily moved into fourth place in the Premier League table.
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Nuno Tavares and Bukayo Saka put Arsenal 2-0 up in a topsy-turvy game but Manchester United were a threat throughout as Cristiano Ronaldo made it 2-1 in the first half and there was VAR and penalty kick drama galore.
Bruno Fernandes’ penalty miss in the second half was crucial as Granit Xhaka hammered home Arsenal’s third to secure their second win in four days.
Mikel Arteta’s side now have 60 points, while Manchester United remain on 54 points and their top four hopes are all but over.
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Arsenal vs Manchester United final score, stats
Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United
Goals scored: Tavares 3′, Saka 32′, Ronaldo 34′, Xhaka 70′
Shots: Arsenal 14, Manchester United
Shots on target: Arsenal 7, Manchester United 5
Possession: Arsenal 56, Manchester United 44
Three things we learned from Arsenal vs Manchester United
1. Ronaldo proves he can be key part of Erik ten Hag’s rebuild: Much of the talk has been about whether or not Ronaldo should be kept around next season as part of ETH’s rebuild. On this showing it is essential. He scored a classy goal, smashed home another which was marginally offside and played in clever passes to his teammates throughout. The 37-year-old has now scored 22 goals in this very poor United side this season and if he’s given proper service next season, he’s shown he can score 25-30 goals once again. He should have been on penalty kicks as Bruno Fernandes’ miss at 2-1 was crucial in the outcome of this game. Now the question is this: will Ronaldo want to stick around given that United won’t be in the Champions League next season? He’s not a Europa League player, is he?
2. Arsenal put themselves under unnecessary pressure: They were lively early on and could have scored four or five in the first half. They also could have conceded four or five. Mikel Arteta has taken the handbrake off in recent games as he realizes the current defenders he has (sans Partey, Tierney and Tomiyasu) aren’t capable of keeping shutouts and staying in a solid shape. Aaron Ramsdale and the defenders in front of him have been told to play out from the back and that created unnecessary pressure and a lot of nervy moments. Nuno Tavares’ silly handball gave United the chance to make it 2-2 from the penalty spot but they didn’t take it and that was a huge let-off. Arsenal are full of mistakes right now but if they can find just a bit more composure at the back they have the players in attack to hurt most teams. The best chance they have to finish in the top four is to go all-out for the win in each game between now and the end of the season.
3. Both teams have to improve defensively to cement top four status: This is the key factor for both. Arsenal were missing their star full backs and holding midfielder, while United were without Maguire and Shaw who are both likely to start next season despite their recent struggles. For most of this season Arsenal have improved defensively and that is why they are in a great position to finish in the top four. They have to keep solid defensively in the years ahead to cement that top four status and United have to improve defensively (which probably means buying two new center backs, a holding midfielder and a right back) if they’re going to get back into the top four annually. Improving defensively is easier said than done but it is essential for both of these team to progress and close the gap on Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea.
Man of the Match: Martin Odegaard – Silky display from the Norwegian midfielder who is showing his class on the ball.
Gunners fly out of the traps
Arsenal took the lead with the first effort of the game as a cross into the box was missed by both Varane and Telles and found Saka. His curler was pushed away by David de Gea but only to Nuno Tavares who tapped home his first Arsenal goal.
Man United responded well to going behind as Ronaldo set Anthony Elanga clear but his shot was saved well by Aaron Ramsdale, but the Arsenal goalkeeper gave the ball away cheaply just after that and Gabriel saved his blushes as he deflected Bruno Fernandes’ chip wide.
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Ronaldo played in Elanga but Tavares did just enough to put him off, then Ronaldo lashed an effort over and Dalot hit the crossbar as United continued to press for the equalizer.
Arsenal then went 2-0 up as Nketiah thought he had scored but he was offside after a VAR check, however referee Craig Pawson then checked the pitch-side monitor and awarded a penalty kick for Arsenal for a foul on Saka just before Nketiah scored his offside goal.
Arsenal double their lead but United fight back
Saka scored the spot kick to make it 2-0 and it looked like Arsenal would cruise to victory. But soon United were back in the game.
A cross into the box from Nemanja Matic found Ronaldo and he finished smartly to score his 100th Premier League goal and make it 2-1.
Man United then took control of the game as Arsenal look shaky at the back as Aaron Ramsdale saved a shot from Telles, then Cedric nervously hacked it clear. At the other end the excellent Martin Odegaard was denied by De Gea as things were poised perfectly for a massive second half.
After the interval Tavares wasted a great chance at one end and then gave a penalty away at the other as he inexplicably raised his arm in the box. However Bruno Fernandes hit the post with his penalty kick, as Arsenal were let off the hook.
Red Devils in control but couldn’t break through
Ronaldo then slammed home on the turn but he was just offside after a lengthy VAR check saw him ahead of Ben White by a smidgen. Diogo Dalot then had a shot tipped onto the post by Aaron Ramsdale as United pushed hard to equalize.
Just when it looked like Arsenal were struggling, Xhaka unleashed a superb shot from distance which flew in to the bottom corner to make it 3-1.
Even though it looked like Nketiah was stood in an offside position and impacted the view of David de Gea, the goal stood.
Game. Set. Match.
Arsenal vs Manchester United final score: Gunners win thriller originally appeared on NBCSports.com