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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Old Trafford

Gunners once more flounder at home of old foes as winning run ends

Manchester United (1) 3 Antony 35, Rashford 66, 75

Arsenal (0) 1 Saka 60

Arsenal’s perfect start to the domestic campaign was brought to an end at their familiar Theatre of Nightmares.

Old Trafford has not been the happiest of Premier League hunting grounds for the Gunners – with a couple of notable title-winning season exceptions.

But in theory this is now a team better equipped to resist the sort of maulings which have come their way a little too often.

Yet the outcome followed an all-too familiar path as the Gunners surrendered their 100 per cent record.

It was galling for them that they twice conceded when on top – debutant Antony’s goal having been cancelled out by Bukayo Saka before Marcus Rashford netted twice for Erik ten Hag's team.

Arsenal also had a Gabriel Martinelli goal chalked off by VAR on an afternoon where they did not seem able to catch a break. But they paid a price for defensive shortcomings and did not cash in on plenty of possession.

Having resisted an early flourish from a United side parading new £82.2m Brazilian signing Antony from Ajax, Arsenal found the net when Martinelli finished perfectly after dashing onto Saka’s through ball.

Unfortunately for Mikel Arteta’s men, the goal was ruled out after VAR alerted ref Paul Tierney to a foul by Martin Odegaard on Christian Eriksen to win possession in midfield in the build-up.

They may have been denied then, but the Gunners were undeniably encouraged and started to piece together some confident moves. One of them ended with Odegaard’s cross finding the head of Martinelli and it needed a stretch from David de Gea to tip the effort aside.

Yet just as Arsenal were starting to look the stronger, they fell behind when Antony was found in oceans of space on an unguarded left side of the penalty area by Rashford and he tucked the ball past Aaron Ramsdale.

The goal inquest will focus on how Aleksandr Zinchenko was sucked into the middle so much that Antony was given all that space.

A spirited start to the second half promised an equaliser. Odegaard hopelessly miscued a pullback when in front of goal and Saka wrong-footed the United defence before firing wide from close range with his right foot.

Then, moments after Ronaldo had replaced Antony, Arsenal drew level when Granit Xhaka and Odegaard fashioned a through ball for an industrious Gabriel Jesus which ended in a goal for Saka after Diogo Dalot’s challenge had merely served up the ball to the incoming England winger.

Parity was short-lived, however, as a quick breakaway straight down the middle of the park ended with Rashford drilling into the far corner after Bruno Fernandes had played a perfectly-weighted ball into the danger zone.

Then, in another breakaway, Christian Eriksen – also involved in the second goal - sprang the backline before teeing up Rashford for the third, with a triple substitution from Arteta appearing to have surrendered the initiative.

Arsenal stay top for now, in spite of the defeat, but it surely won't be for much longer unless they can find greater solidity at the back.

United: (4-2-3-1) De Gea – Dalot, Varane, Martinez (Maguire 78), Malacia – McTominay, Eriksen – Antony (Ronaldo 58), Bruno Fernandes, Sancho (Fred 68) - Rashford (Casemiro 80). Subs not used: Heaton, Dubravka, Lindelof, Shaw, Elanga

Gunners: (4-2-3-1) Ramsdale – White (Tomiyasu 80), Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Nketiah 74) – Sami Lokongo (Vieira 74), Xhaka – Saka, Odegaard (Smith Rowe 74), Martinelli – Jesus. Subs not used: Turner, Tierney, Holding, Soares, Marquinhos


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