EDDIE NKETIAH’S 90th-minute winner settled a classic clash between the Premier League’s ‘Old Firm’ and kept Arsenal five points clear at the top.
These two clubs, in the doldrums for so long after the exits of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, served up a belting contest brimming with quality, passion and drama.
Eddie Nketiah was Arsenal’s hero with a 90th-minute winner against Manchester UnitedRichard Pelham / The Sun
ReutersThe striker flicked home brilliantly and VAR confirmed he was onside[/caption]
And it was England Under-21 striker Nketiah, an understudy for the injured Gabriel Jesus, who nicked it with this second goal of the match.
After Nketiah cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s brilliant opener, Bukayo Saka netted a beauty only for United’s World Cup-winning centre-half Lisandro Martinez to nod an equaliser.
But Arsenal, who played at a rattling attacking tempo, dominated the shot count and thoroughly deserved their late clincher.
For the first time since the Ferguson-Wenger era this felt like a truly elite fixture – even with Wout Weghorst and Eddie Nketiah as the centre forwards and Scott McTominay and Granit Xhaka taking the Keane and Vieira roles.
The relative lack of world-class names on the teamsheets were testament to the outstanding jobs being done by Arteta and Ten Hag.
There was a buzz about this one, even if there might not have been vintage levels of tunnel-rucking, pizza-chucking, death-or-glory spite.
United skipper Bruno Fernandes may not be built like Keane but he was doing his best to up the aggro levels – diving in an attempt to win an early penalty and getting involved in a couple of square-ups.
Arsenal were playing most of the football – there was a zip in their passing, a nip in their movement and a manic intent about their attacks.
Martin Odegaard was nicking the ball off Fernandes, Bukayo Saka was nutmegging McTominay but at times, it was almost too fast and furious form Arteta’s men.
And on 17 minutes, they lost possession once too often, Rashford winning the ball in the Arsenal half, kippering Thomas Partey and drilling low inside the far post.
It was the England forward’s ninth goal in as many appearances since the World Cup and it was one of his best.
He had scored twice against the Arsenal on his Premier League debut and twice in United’s victory over the Gunners earlier this season.
It was against the run of play but Arsenal did not allow it to faze them and they were straight back at it.
Gabriel Martinelli fizzed one wide from a Saka corner and soon they were level.
The build-up was patient before Xhaka delivered a cross from the left and Nketiah leapt impressively to score with a downward header at the back stick
United were always a threat on the counter-attack and, from one of these, big Weghorst knocked down for Antony who squared for McTominay to let rip with a shot Ramsdale did well to push round the post.
It was a proper game, with high tempo, high tension and short tempers.
Arteta was yellow-carded by ref Anthony Taylor for ranting at fourth official Andre Marriner after Luke Shaw had avoided a booking for a foul on Saka.
The Arsenal boss had been widely criticised for his touchline antics against Newcastle earlier this month but was showing no sign of calming down.
At half-time, he hauled off the struggling Ben White and sent on Takehiro Tomiyasu in his place.
The octane levels were getting higher, if anything.
Weghorst was lucky not to concede a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Gabriel Margalhaes and Lisandro Martinez executed a perfect sliding tackle to deny Xhaka on the edge of the six-yard box – a piece of pickpocketing so good that the victim shook the perpetrator’s hand.
There was a molten lava bubbling around the Emirates. Then, on 53 minutes, the eruption.
Saka received the ball on the right and cut inside Christian Eriksen but there didn’t look to be much on, unless your imagination is as wild as the England winger’s.
He looked up and steered a swerving left-footed shot past David De Gea with pace and precision.
Nketiah, in the centre, looked for a split-second as though he was about to complain about the lack of a pass. Then the net bulged and the Emirates went bananas.
United, though, refused to buckle. Almost immediately, Rashford’s shot took a deflection off William Saliba and Ramsdale was forced into a brilliant grasping save.
Soon, though, the visitors were level. Ramsdale flapped like a wounded pigeon at an Eriksen corner and Martinez netted with a tumbling header which Gabriel couldn’t clear off the line.
The Argentinian Red Dwarf sprinted to the corner housing the United fans, which had descended into an orgy of limbs.
Saka, having been delighted by the execution of his party trick minutes earlier, tried it again. The same cut inside Eriksen and the same shot but this team a slight deflection off the Dane deflected it onto the post.
Arsenal besieged the United goal but Ten Hag’s men wouldn’t budge, so Arteta sent on his new signing Leandro Trossard in place of Martinelli.
When United failed to clear a free-kick, Nketoah’s close-range volley was well saved by De Gea.
Then Odegaard orchestrated another incisive move, Zinchenko centred for the Norwegian whose pass, under pressure from Fred, was diverted home by a cute flick of the boot from Nketiah.
There was a lengthy VAR check for a couple of possible offsides but Michael Salisbury called it in Arsenal’s favour and it was a richly deserved win.
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Marcus Rashford’s early hit broke the deadlock in North LondonRichard Pelham / The Sun
Eddie Nketiah headed seven minutes after the opening goalRichard Pelham / The Sun
Bukayo Saka bent in a superb goal to put the Gunners in frontRichard Pelham / The Sun
Saka celebrates scoring against Manchester United for the third game runningRichard Pelham / The Sun
ReutersLisandro Martinez’s diving header looped over Ramsdale and in[/caption]
Gabriel made his feelings known to Bruno FernandesRex
Richard Pelham / The SunPremier League 2022/2023 Arsenal v Manchester United Pic Richard Pelham. 22.01.2023 Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta[/caption]