At the end of the day, it’s another three points for Arsenal. It was another wild, chaotic, sloppy, match from both sides, but those count just the same in the table. Arsenal 3, Manchester United 1. The Gunners move into fourth place in the table (for now, Spurs play later today) and still control their Champions League fate. If Arsenal win out, they finish 4th.
The Gunners got the scoring started early when two United players inexplicably couldn’t cut out a simple, floated ball in from Granit Xhaka. It fell to Bukayo Saka whose curling shot was nicely saved by David De Gea only to see a wide open Nuno Tavares tap in the rebound. Nuno picked a great time to score his first Arsenal goal, didn’t he? It was a quintessential Nuno performance — did some really good things going forward, did some terrible things defensively, and leaves you wondering how, exactly, he’s going to pan out as a player. He’s got the tools to be quite good, but he also needs to settle his game and eliminate mistakes.
The Gunners doubled their lead 30 minutes later. Eddie Nketiah looked to have gotten the goal on a tidy finish (after failing to put away a similarly good chance a few minutes earlier) but was deemed offside. Because he was offside, the play rolled back a few seconds earlier to when Alex Telles went through the back of Saka in the box. For the second match running, Bukayo converted the penalty.
United answered right back through Cristiano Ronaldo. Nemanja Matic was given far to much time to serve the ball in, Aaron Ramsdale misjudged the flight of the cross and left himself in no man’s land, and Gabriel Magalhaes’ marking left a bit to be desired. Arsenal were a bit shaky at the back on the afternoon and have been for a few weeks running. Hopefully Tomiyasu’s return (he made a cameo appearance in stoppage time) helps shore things up defensively because the Gunners are living dangerously and at some point before the end of the season, the luck is going to run out.
Arsenal looked nearly certain to surrender their 2-1 lead to start the second half. United had all the chances, and the Gunners didn’t have a shred of composure. The score could have gone level on a penalty kick, conceded by Nuno Tavares jumping with his arms well away from his body. Personally, I thought the penalty was harsh. When you jump, your arms go up, and the ball got headed into his arm quickly. He didn’t know anything about it. But I completely understand why it was given.
Fortunately, the ball don’t lie. Bruno Fernandes did his ridiculous, hopping, stutter-stepping run-up and put the ball off the post. Perhaps if he had taken it normally, he would have converted. Or perhaps had he let Ronaldo, the player in much better form who had already scored on the day, take the penalty, the match plays out differently. But Bruno took it and missed it, which swung the momentum back towards the Gunners. The momentum swing clincher (if you will) came shortly after, when Aaron Ramsdale made a stunning reaction save to tip a Diogo Dalot shot onto the post.
About 15 minutes later, Bruno gave the ball away. Arsenal worked it to Bukayo Saka, whose attempted chip / cross may have hit a hand — Bukayo was screaming for the penalty, at least. The ball wound up at Granit Xhaka’s feet, and he launched an absolute screamer beyond a screened De Gea to put the match out of reach. United wanted an offside call for Eddie Nketiah being in De Gea’s line of sight, but the referee was rightly having none of it.
United didn’t offer much threat after going down 3-1; the air went out of them. The rest of the match was not without controversy, however. Bruno Fernandes somehow escaped a straight red card for a nasty, studs into the ankle, well after the ball was gone challenge. He’s really a despicable player. Throwing himself over, constantly complaining, and quite dirty week-in, week-out.
Football is a funny game, isn’t it? Arsenal play pretty well, definitely well enough to get results, against Brighton and Southampton and come away with 0 points and 1 goal scored. They play chaotic, sloppy football against Chelsea and Manchester United and come away with 6 points and 7 goals scored. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. The Gunners needed a bit of luck / magic / bounces / breaks / calls / [whatever you want to call it] in a bad way, and the club got it at just the right time. It’s still 50-50 whether they finish 4th, but they’ve got a shot. It’s going to be a fun final 5 matches.