Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Match Report: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford grabbed the headlines as Manchester United toppled Arsenal by a 3-1 score line on Sunday afternoon, with Brazilian debutant Antony also up and running in a red shirt with a first-half strike.

How did United set up?

Erik Ten Hag almost named an unchanged starting eleven for the fourth game running for Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford, but there was one notable change in the form of the Dutch manager’s new big-money man Antony.

Fellow new boy Martin Dubravka had a spot on the bench, yet there were two notable absentees in Donny van de Beek and Alejandro Garnacho.

Here were the starting lineup and substitutes…

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Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Diogo Dalot (RB), Raphael Varane (CB), Lisandro Martinez (CB), Tyrell Malacia (LB), Scott McTominay (CM), Christian Eriksen (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CAM), Antony (RW), Jadon Sancho (LW), Marcus Rashford (ST).

Subs: Tom Heaton, Martin Dubravka, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Casemiro, Fred, Anthony Elanga, Cristiano Ronaldo.

How it went down

First half

Dalot was at the heart of United’s first ten minutes effort. On the back of an assist last week for Fernandes, the Portuguese fullback showed quick feet in an unconventional position on the left wing early on, but his cross was cleared away. Not long afterwards, he lifted a ball to the back post from his more familiar right flank and put it on a plate for Eriksen, but the Dane sliced his effort wide.

VAR perhaps spared Eriksen’s blushes in the 15th minute when Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was ruled out. The Brazilian was played in behind beyond Dalot and was able to tuck it home, but the goal was chalked off as it was deemed that Eriksen was unfairly dispossessed but Martin Odegaard in the middle of the park.

De Gea made an awkward save at his near post to deny a deflected Martinelli cross on the half hour mark. He denied the tricky winger again just two minutes later when Martinelli won a header at the back post.

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Then came the moment that Antony will have dreamed of the night before the game; the new signing was on the end of a quick move from the left side to the right, managing to tuck it cleanly beyond Aaron Ramsdale and into the bottom corner after Rashford poked it through to him. Old Trafford erupted as Antony gave a passionate celebration in the 35th minute.

The goal scorer then tried an audacious effort from range, but Ramsdale was equal to it in the Arsenal goal as the first half petered out to a close.

Second half

Odegaard was teed up nicely by Gabriel Jesus just after half time but the Norwegian international skewed his effort wide. Bukayo Saka spun away from Malacia moments later and whistled an effort just far of the back post. Saka had his cross deflect off the crossbar soon afterwards, but United remained ahead despite early pressure after the interval.

There was a standing ovation for Antony as he left the field in place of Ronaldo just before an hour had been played. Whilst many were disappointed to see the winger withdrawn with a third of the game left to play, he will have come off in a good state of mind after an impressive debut.

Just as Antony settled down on the bench, Arsenal equalised through Saka. The ball had been played centrally into the path of Jesus, with Dalot’s interception helping the ball on to Saka who slotted it through the legs of Martinez and into a relatively vacant net.

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The Reds have never lost when leading at half-time in the Premier League at Old Trafford, yet the Gunners were worth challengers as the pressure mounted on the United defence.

That fire was soon put out, though, as Rashford slotted his side ahead in the 66th minute. The Englishman found himself in that trademark one-on-one position after Fernandes’ excellent through ball on the counterattack, and despite pressure from the defenders behind him, he made no mistake in front of the Stretford End.

Fred replaced Sancho after the goal as Ten Hag looked to add defensive cover.

Fabio Viera was on for Arsenal to make his Premier League debut as part of a triple change from boss Mikel Arteta, who looked to throw caution to the wind.

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It ultimately came to nothing, however, with Rashford getting his second and United’s third in the 76th minute. Eriksen found himself in behind the defence with acres of space to run into on the right, and the 30-year-old did the safe and generous thing by squaring it to Rashford who tucked it home.

Maguire and Casemiro were on for Martinez and Rashford, with the latter men looking weary after a good shift on Sunday afternoon. Maguire was soon booked when Casemiro’s error put the team on the back foot.

Saka was also given a card for a late challenge on Malacia, likely born out of frustration, with Eriksen later carded for timewasting.

Final score: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal (Antony 35’, Rashford 66’ 75’) (Saka 60’)

Man of the match

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There were a variety of impressive showings in a red shirt against Arsenal, but it is difficult to look beyond Marcus Rashford for the man of the match award.

With two goals and one assist, it is fair to say that the 24-year-old was the star of the show in a fixture he knows all too well. Fans will remember his impressive debut against Arsenal back in 2016 when he also bagged a brace under the management of Louis Van Gaal.

The England international did not have a hell of a lot of the ball across the course of the game, but that was more down to the way that United set up to play.

Fans and pundits alike will agree that this season is a big one for Rashford, who has struggled in the last 18-24 months to find his best form; now is the time to kick on for the academy lad.

The bigger picture

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It has been quite the turnaround for Ten Hag and United when you consider the demolition at the hands of Brentford was only a mere 22 days ago. In that time, the Red Devils have gone on to win all four of their league games, scoring seven and conceding just a couple of goals.

Fans are yet to see the domineering, possession-based football that Ten Hag has built his reputation upon, yet you would more than expect this to come in time. Here and now, results are most important, and the team are not going far wrong in what they are doing out on the pitch.

It is becoming more and more clear by the week as to what the manager’s best team might be. The manager’s new signings are bedding in nicely in the defence and now even the attack with Antony there. The likes of Rashford and McTominay are putting in better showings without setting the world alight. You would think that there is a spot in the team for the likes of Ronaldo and Casemiro due to not only their quality and experience but also because of the money they are on. Expect squad rotation in the Europa League next week, with many senior internationals needing a game.

The result puts United up to 5th in the league table, just three points off top spot where Arsenal remain. The defeat at Old Trafford is Arteta’s side’s first defeat of the season after winning their first five.

Taking things one game at a time is important. Four wins on the bounce is amazing, but people should not get carried away.

Next up for Ten Hag and United is Real Sociedad in the UEFA Europa League. The game kicks off at 20:00 (BST) this coming Thursday 15th September.

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