United got the better of Arsenal in a three goal thriller at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.
Team News – With Manchester City having won earlier in the day thanks to an injury-time penalty from Balotelli, Sir Alex knew he had to get a result at the Etihad Stadium. Scholes, out of retirement, was only awarded a place on the bench, Ferdinand, as predicted beforehand, wasn`t in the eighteen courtesy of injury and Lindegaard continued between the posts getting the nod over De Gea. All in all, Sir Alex made three changes from the side that started the last game with Giggs replacing Scholes and Evans and Smalling coming into the back four.
On the back of hearing the City result, Sir Alex quipped before the kick-off,
‘What we’ve got to do is to make sure we keep on City’s coat-tails. So many things happen in football and so we just have to make sure we do our job properly and keep on plugging away at them.’
United – Lindegaard, Evra, Jones, Evans, Smalling, Giggs, Carrick Nani, Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
Subs – De Gea, Fabio, Rafael, Park, Scholes, Berbatov, Hernandez
First Half – United got the action underway and the first fifteen minutes were to be very cagey, the only highlights being a weak shot from Ramsey that Lindegaard coped with easily and an injury picked up by Jones when he slipped over as the speedy Walcott skipped away.
Slowly though United started to dominate and midway through the half a spell of pressure forced a couple of corners with the attack coming to an end when Giggs, from an impossible angle, tried to beat the keeper at his near post.
Arsenal going forward, were offering little and only Oxlade-Chamberlain was causing any real threat, one dangerous ball in from the teenager resulting in Walcott shooting wide.
Welbeck, using his pace, looked to be through on goal but pressure from Koscielney saw the striker lift his effort high over the bar. A twisting run from Giggs earned a free kick but Evans header drifted wide for a goal-kick.
Much of our better attacks were coming down the left flank with Evra and Nani combining well, one move involving the two saw Nani’s shot saved, low down, at the base of the post by the keeper.
A sweeping move involving Valencia, Giggs and Rooney saw the striker tumble over in the box but a penalty would have been harsh. Nani`s pace down the wing, saw him out-run Djourou but his shot drifted across the face of the goal and went well wide.
As half time approached, Nani had a shot saved before, in stoppage time, United did go ahead. The goal came down the left flank but this time it was Giggs in space who delivered a cross, to the far post, that saw Valencia power home a header.
Arsenal 0 United 1 (Valencia – 45+1 minutes)
Half Time – Arsenal 0 United 1
Second Half – United, defending the1-0 lead, almost let it slip early in the half when a Smalling slip let in Rosicky but when he squared the ball to Van Persie the Dutchman saw his shot flash wide.
United responded with a mazy run from Evra that almost created a half chance for Welbeck before a cross form Nani just evaded the head of the same player.
Oxlade Chamberlain continued to look dangerous and a ball slipped to Rosicky saw a rising shot just clear the bar. Rosicky then saw a shot blocked moments after Oxlade Chamberlain saw his shot fizz narrowly wide.
With the game switching from end-to-end, Mertesacker was forced to clear an effort from Welbeck off the line after a long headed ball, from midfield, had opened up the Arsenal backline.
But, having looked as if they`d weathered the Arsenal storm, United conceded. Rafael had won possession and had broken out of defence at speed, Rooney found him with a return ball but a superb challenge from Koscielny saw Arsenal break and when Oxlade Chamberlain found Van Persie his shot went through Evan`s legs and just evaded the finger-tips of Lindegaard.
Arsenal 1 United 1 (Van Persie – 70 minutes)
Sir Alex made two further changes; Scholes came on for a limping Nani whilst Park replaced Rafael. With both sides looking for a winner, Lindegaard did well to claim a cross from Yenaris.
With eight minutes left though, United got the winner. Valencia burst into the box and at the second attempt his pass found Welbeck and the youngster made no mistake with his finish.
Arsenal 1 United 2 (Welbeck – 82 minutes)
United survived a hectic five minutes of stoppage time to ensure that the pressure, at the top of the table, was maintained on Manchester City.
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