Arsenal ended Manchester United’s 25-game unbeaten run in the league with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
After a first half that had very few clear-cut chances and memorable moments, the entire encounter completely opened up in the second period, and it was the home side that emerged victorious.
While it wasn’t the best performance of the season from the Gunners, it was enough to get the job done over their rivals. Granit Xhaka had a shade of fortune with his goal, but Danny Welbeck had it all to do to score one against his former team.
A weakened Manchester United side failed to seize the initiative in the contest, and eventually paid the price. Jose Mourinho rested a number of key players for Thursday’s Europa League tie against Celta Vigo, and saw his unbeaten run come to an abrupt end.
Take a look at five talking points from the game:
Arsene Wenger finally gets the job done over his arch-nemesis
A rivalry as old as time is that of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. While the Premier League has played home to some fierce managerial rivalries, none have quite possessed the essence as this one.
Over the last 13 years, the two supreme managers in world football have gone back and forth, from exchanging veiled insults to boasting about their superiority in front of the press.
Mourinho, a master at mind games, appeared to be getting the better of the Frenchman on each occasion, especially when their teams faced off in the Premier League, but it all came to a dramatic end on Sunday.
For the first time in 13 league matches between the two, Wenger managed to pick up the win over the self-proclaimed “Special One.” After being referred to as a “specialist in failure”, the Frenchman finally managed to turn the tide over on his managerial adversary.
As Mourinho had his thoughts firmly set on the Europa League, he fielded a weakened side against Arsenal. The Gunners took full advantage of the lack of match fitness in some of the United players, and deservedly picked up three points on the day.
Axel Tuanzebe comes good deputising for Antonio Valencia
Axel Tuanzebe’s game by numbers vs Arsenal:
81% pass accuracy
4 tackles won
Big shift. pic.twitter.com/4Kfj8wixd6
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 7, 2017
One of the biggest talking points about United’s eleven was the inclusion of Axel Tuanzebe, who started ahead of Antonio Valencia at right-back. The teenager was making his full Premier League debut for Manchester United, and was tasked to nullify Alexis Sanchez.
With all due respect to the Chilean, he was outclassed and dominated from the start by the 19-year-old. Tuanzebe was like a wall in front of Sanchez, and did not give him any room in the final third.
He was tidy at recycling the ball to his teammates after winning it back, and boasted a passing accuracy above 80 percent. He proved that he was ready to make the step up to first-team football, and is expected to feature in the league again this season.
All the eggs in the Europa League basket for Manchester United
Jose Mourinho had spoken about prioritising the Europa League over a top-four finish before the Arsenal match, and many thought of it as him playing mind games ahead of a big encounter, hoping to put pressure on their opponents.
However, that did not happen and he watched his side fall to their first defeat after being unbeaten for 25 league games in a row. That also meant that they lost significant ground made by Manchester City and Liverpool.
Should Arsenal win their game in hand, United will fall to the jinxed sixth position in the league. They are already four points behind City in fourth place, with only three games left to play.
So, it will make sense for Mourinho to rest his players for the Europa League, if they manage to see off Celta Vigo in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final. Winning that competition would see the Red Devils automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal give themselves a glimmer of hope for Champions League qualification
The Gunners were rank outsiders in the race for the top four on Sunday morning, but after watching Liverpool drop points away to Southampton, they managed to beat Manchester United, in what was a six-pointer in the race for a Champions League berth.
Arsenal may have been lucky to take the ascendancy through Granit Xhaka’s deflected long-ranger, but worked extremely hard for their second goal as Danny Welbeck headed in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross.
They are sitting sixth with 63 points in the bag, but have played a game fewer than Manchester City (69) and United (65), and have two matches in hand over Liverpool who are in third with 70 points. The Gunners play Southampton on Thursday, hoping to break into the top five.
Aaron Ramsey plays a pivotal role in securing three points for the Gunners
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 7, 2017
Mourinho tried to nullify the opposition threat in the final third by man-marking their goal-scoring threats in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, which saw Aaron Ramsey pull the strings from a slightly deeper position.
Playing along with Granit Xhaka in a two-man central midfield, the Welshman kept drifting forward, hoping to have an impact in the opposition penalty area. His first touch often let him down and Alexis Sanchez looked frustrated by his actions, but he still managed to put in a match-winning performance for them in the second period.
He often played as a shadow striker as Sanchez and Ozil drifted to the flanks and was efficient with his passing, achieving an accuracy of 88 percent. As Sky reported, he covered more grass than any other player on the pitch, and was splendid for the North London outfit.