A first win at Old Trafford in 14 years was achieved, thanks to many contributary factors.
The foundation though, was an extraordinary defensive steel that completely nullified any threat from the home side.
Ten changes were made by Mikel Arteta from the one that comfortably saw off Dundalk on Thursday. The only player who remained was Mo Elneny, somewhat surprisingly instead of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos.
Up top, it was again Alexandre Lacazette, ably assisted by Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In defence, Gabriel Magalhaes and the returning Rob Holding were in the backline, with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney at full-back.
And from the off, we were at the races. We pressed, we squeezed, we harried. Our press was especially effective in United’s third. This helped put the home team into panic mode as they couldn’t escape and get it safe without humping it long. That usually meant we could reclaim possession quickly and again get on the front foot.
Our midfield was also in full effect. Mo Elneny was having a blinder. He seemed to be pulled up to his highest level by the industry of his central midfield teammate, Thomas Partey. Bukayo Saka was his usual self and running at United and it seemed as if we had an extra man on the pitch at times. We were well on top.
And around the fifteen minute mark, it looked as though we were going to grab the goal that our dominance deserved, with Willian putting in Bellerin on the overlap and the Spaniard whizzining in a ball across the box that a sliding Aubameyang missed by a gnat’s eyebrow.
United were looking wobbly and we were in the ascendancy. We have been here before of course, when we play ever so well but fail to put away our chances – was this going to be the case again?
We also had to remember that Mike Dean was reffing the game too. His yellow card was getting some action too, with three in the first half. United had started to raise their head a little too, with Rashford and Greenwood offering a little concern for Gooners as they started to run at us.
Our defence were handling things well however, and the best chances of the game so far were to fall to us before half time.
First, Willian clipped the bar after the ball was laid off by Aubameyang. Then Saka headed over after losing his marker in the box.
It was the last moment of the half of note and the second half started a little differently. United had changed tack and they nearly broke through early on, if it weren’t for Saka racing back to block Greenwood.
We woke up quickly though, and Lacazette teed up Aubameyang for a curler that was inches wide. We didn’t look like we were going to give up easily this time round, unlike on previous visits to Old Trafford, however.
And on the 68th minute, the most unlikeliest of calls from Mike Dean gave us a prime opportunity.
Hector Bellerin was given the ball in Utd’s box from Willian. He was goalside but heading slightly away from goal when Pogba clipped the full-back and Bellerin went down. Dean whistled for a penalty and up stepped Auba to send De Gea the wrong way.
It prompted Solskjaer to make two more changes, with Van De Beek and Cavani coming on. Arteta brought on Nketiah for Laca and we were starting to sink deeper as United started to get desperate. We were dealing with the attacks and Leno had very little to do in all honesty, but as a fan it was still nervy – we had lost so many opportunities before.
Two more changes followed in the last ten minutes but we comfortably saw out the last minutes to earn a brilliant, resolute and deserved win at Old Trafford.
Arteta was behind the win with a brilliant tactical setup – what were the salient points of the game?
Elneny sent a message
The message? That he can be the foil for Thomas Partey and much more than a reliable stopgap. The Egyptian played it forward and he tracked runners. Effective everywhere.
Gabriel is a revelation
The Brazilian stopped everything. Assisted well by Rob Holding, Gabriel is still nowhere near his peak either. This kid is still in his Arsenal infancy too and looks every inch the defensive titan.
Plenty of bottle
We had a chance here. Ole’s side seemed unable to escape our press and we made the most of our dominance. It was a different mentality and showed exactly why Arteta’s process can fill us with optimism. We have defeated Liverpool, City, Chelsea and United recently and we will continue to get better.
The next match for our Gunners is this Thursday versus Molde in the Europa League.
Have your say on how our players performed, rate them one by one here.