Arsenal scored twice in stoppage time to secure a thrilling 3-1 win over bitter rivals Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. In a game that was full of twists and turns, it was the home side that had the final say right at the end.
Mikel Arteta reverted to a more traditional back four, with Thomas Partey dropping the bench, Ben White moving to right-back and Gabriel coming in to partner William Saliba in the middle.
United set up with Casemiro and Christian Eriksen in midfield, with an intent right from the off to win the ball in the middle of the pitch and hit Arsenal on the counter. The plan worked to perfection in the 27th minute, when Eriksen found Rashford with an inch-perfect through ball on the left, and the Englishman cut inside Ben White and beat Aaron Ramsdale to make it 1-0.
The Red Devils, however, lost their concentration just seconds later, when Gabriel Martinelli was able to pick out an unmarked Martin Odegaard on the edge of the box. The Norwegian’s precise finishing saw him blast the ball into the bottom corner to equalise immediately.
The second half was devoid of too many clear-cut chances, but there was a lot of drama nevertheless. Kai Havertz thought he had won a penalty close to the hour mark when he appeared to have been brought down in the box by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However, replays showed that there was almost no contact between the two players, and referee Anthony Taylor overturned his original decision after a VAR review.
United had problems at the back, with Lisandro Martinez picking up an injury. With Varane already out, Harry Maguire replaced the Argentine for his first appearance of the season. Erik Ten Haag also gave a debut to summer signing Rasmus Hojlund, to give his team a target man to hit up front.
Maguire’s slowness almost made United pay, as a ball across the box found its way to Bukayo Saka, but the Arsenal man directed his shot straight at Andre Onana.
Ten Haag’s defensive problems only got worse, with Victor Lindelof coming off with 5 minutes to go. He was replaced by Jonny Evans, who re-joined the club only this summer. Finishing the game with a centre-back pairing of Evans and Maguire is not something anyone would have expected, and Arsenal looked to exploit this possible weakness.
With just a minute of normal time to go, the away side thought they had won it. They won the ball back in midfield, and some quick interplay put substitute Alejandro Garnacho through. The youngster maintained his composure to finish past Ramsdale, and the offside flag initially stayed down. The celebrations were cut short, however, as VAR intervened to adjudge Garnacho to be offside by the smallest of margins.
From almost having lost it, Arsenal conjured the seminal moment in the sixth minute of added time. Saka’s corner was allowed to travel all the way to the back post, where Declan Rice chested the ball down before volleying a deflected effort past Onana’s near post. This was the Englishman’s first goal for the club, following a record transfer from West Ham in the summer.
With United committing men forward in search of an equaliser, they were always prone to leave spaces at the back. This is exactly what happened in the eleventh minute of stoppage time, as a beautiful first-time through-ball by Fabio Vieira found Gabriel Jesus. The striker was one-on-one with Evans, and he beat his opponent by faking a shot with his left foot, before easily finishing past Onana with his right.
For Arsenal, it wasn’t their best performance by any means, but the manner of this win will make it a day to remember for the fans. They have 10 points from a possible 12 in their opening four games and are tied in second with Spurs, Liverpool and West Ham United.
For Manchester United, there were definite improvements which would please Ten Haag. The introduction of Hojlund in the second half was encouraging, and the Dane should be fit to start the next game after the upcoming international break. Losing to the Gunners thanks to the extended extra time, though, will be a real kick in the gut in terms of morale.
Aaron Ramsdale – 6
Ben White – 6
William Saliba – 7
Gabriel – 7
Oleksander Zinchenko – 6
Declan Rice – 8*
Martin Odegaard – 7
Kai Havertz – 6
Gabriel Martinelli – 7
Bukayo Saka – 7
Eddie Nketiah – 6
Gabriel Jesus – 7
Fabio Vieira – 7
Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6
Andre Onana – 5
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 7
Victor Lindelof – 6
Lisandro Martinez – 6
Diogo Dalot – 7
Casemiro – 6
Christian Eriksen – 7
Antony – 6
Bruno Fernandes – 7
Marcus Rashford – 7
Anthony Martial – 6
Rasmus Hojlund – 6
Harry Maguire – 5
Alejandro Garnacho – 6
Jonny Evans – 6
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