Samir Nasri scored the first goal with a shot through a crowded United area which deflected off the legs of Gary Neville leaving Van der Sar stranded. He then struck his and Arsenal’s second two minutes into the second half after a good passing move which he finished with a glorious shot into the bottom corner. United substitute Rafael struck a brilliant volley late on to give the red devils hope but Arsenal held on take the three points.
In the first minute a back pass from former United defender Mikael Silvestre was picked up by Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia giving United an early freekick. Anderson’s strike was blocked and Michael Carrick blasted the follow up wide of the post. Dimitar Berbatov had the ball in the Arsenal net after 9 minutes when Almunia parried a low Wayne Rooney strike but it was ruled out for offside by referee Howard Webb.
Two minutes later Arsenal had their first chance when Gael Clichy’s cross found an unmarked Nicklas Bendtner in the United area but he could only head over Edwin Van der Sar’s goal. Soon after another cross, this time from Frenchman Nasri was missed at the back post. Arsenal were beginning to dominate the early stages. Abou Diaby had a shot blocked in the United area moments later.
United were always dangerous on the break. Wayne Rooney should have given United the lead but blasted over from an excellent pass from Cristiano Ronaldo after 17 minutes in a move which saw some great passing form Anderson and Berbatov. United were made to pay as Arsenal took the lead after 22 minutes from Nasri. He blasted through the United defence with the ball deflecting off the legs of Neville leaving Van der Sar rooted to the spot as the ball sailed into the back of the net.
In an exciting end to end game Cesc Fabregas tried his luck form outside the area after a swift Arsenal counter attack, but his shot was deflected wide. United were up the other end five minutes later with Ji Sung Park denied this time from a good Almunia save down to his right. As half time approached United were continuing to pressure the Gunners defence but Arsenal held on to go in 1-0 up at the break.
Two minutes after the break Nasri struck again after a brilliant pass from Fabregas found him unmarked after a wonderful passing move from Arsenal. He dragged the shot across Van der Sar and into the far corner to put Arsenal 2-0 up. Ronaldo missed a great opportunity to immediately pull United back into the game, but he volleyed wide from close range a minute later. United’s front line were looking increasingly frustrated and limited to shots from outside the Arsenal box.
Rooney did manage to penetrate the Arsenal defence but his header was easily saved down low form Almunia on the hour. United needed a change to try to quash the relentless Arsenal pressure. Rafael replaced veteran Neville at right back after a rather unimpressive performance form the United captain. But United’s frustration continued when Carrick was harshly booked when he challenged Almunia to a loose ball. The Spaniard needed treatment for the collision. Ryan Giggs was introduced at the expense of Anderson a few minutes later.
As United continued to press for a way back into the game they were leaving themselves open to the counter attack. Nasri was denied a penalty on 73rd minute when he was pulled down by Nemanja Vidic only for Webb to wave away the appeals. Rooney then came off for Carlos Tevez with the last throw of the dice for Ferguson as Almunia was replaced by Likasz Fabianski following his earlier collision. The breathless pace continued as Bendtner had a shot saved just before Emanuel Adebayor came on for Arsenal.
Rafeal scored late on with a fantastic volley from the edge of the area to test the Arsenal nerves as the assistant signalled 6 additional minutes. But it was too little too late for United as Arsenal held on to take the points in a thrilling encounter.
This was far and away the best game of the season so far and a wonderful advertisement for the Premier League. It seems Arsene Wenger has answered the critics as well as putting the Gunners back into the title race.