Manchester United clinched a big win in a major test of their title credentials on Saturday as they beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates.
The visitors started the game in fine fashion, as Antonio Valencia capitalised on an early defensive lapse, before linking up with Paul Pogba to score between the legs of Petr Cech. They soon doubled their lead, thanks to another defensive error and some fine pressing work by Jesse Lingard, who found the back of the net this time.
It was all one-way traffic beyond that point, with Arsenal dominating the proceedings and creating all the clear chances for pretty much the rest of the half. But, they couldn’t find a way past David De Gea, who stood like a wall in front of his goal, as well as the woodwork, at times.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 2, 2017
The hosts were finally able to pull a goal back in the early stages of the second half as Aaron Ramsey beat the offside trap brilliantly to set Alexandre Lacazette up for an easy goal. While the Gunners continued to dominate the game, their visitors put the match to bed against the run of play just past the hour mark.
Lingard and Pogba set off on a fine counterattacking run, with the former tapping in the Frenchman’s low cross to make it 3-1. There was some more action towards the end of the game as Pogba was sent off for a stamp on Hector Bellerin’s goal, but Manchester United held on for the win. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jose Mourinho’s men.
David De Gea: 9.5/10
Superlatives are not enough to describe just how good De Gea was on the night. 14 saves, though, is a figure – a joint-Premier League record – that is enough to depict just how impactful the Manchester United number one was on the night as he was a wall too big to be surmounted for the Arsenal attackers.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 2, 2017
These did not just include a number of routine saves, but several world class stops as well, not least being the double save to deny Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez. And while his net was ruffled eventually, there was very little that the Spaniard could have done to stop it. The difference.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
Up against it for pretty much the entire night on Saturday, Lindelof had his hands full. But, the ever improving Swede was equal to the task as he coped well against wave after wave of unrelenting attack by Alexis Sanchez and co. He was among the ones at fault for Lacazette’s goal though, in an otherwise solid outing.
Chris Smalling: 7/10
The leader of the defensive unit, Smalling organised his back-line supremely well on the night, while also being dominant in the air. The Englishman often had to put his body on the line as well during many a chaotic sequence, although he was liable for a lapse in concentration in Lacazette’s goal after the offside trap was beaten.
Marcos Rojo: 6/10
Rojo’s comeback trail continued on Saturday, and with the game essentially giving him action worth three outings in one, it was not surprising to see him being off pace in the last half an hour or so. Late on, he was lucky to have not conceded a penalty, and it’s clear that he still needs to build some fitness before he can be back to his best.
Antonio Valencia: 7/10
The Manchester United skipper set his side up for a hard fought win early on by precisely shooting the ball between the legs of Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech. Valencia never had a moment’s rest for most of the game and was up to the task as he put in a shift and kept the dangerous Sead Kolasinac quiet.
Paul Pogba: 6/10
Pogba’s game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
100% tackles won
1 red card
What a performance up until the 74th min. 🙌🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/j8wr4VuQfa
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 2, 2017
A wonderful performance by the Manchester United talisman, until he got sent off, Pogba was the leader that his side needed in the middle to see out such a difficult game. Impressively, he worked supremely hard off the ball, not giving Granit Xhaka an inch, while also calming things up whenever he received the ball.
His fantastic link up and understanding with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial saw him being a thorn for Arsenal defenders in the few chances that the visitors got. But, all the hard work was undone late on as the Frenchman was sent off for stamping on Bellerin, and he is now set to be sorely missed in next weekend’s derby.
Nemanja Matic: 8/10
After managing to be fit enough to start in the crucial game on Saturday, Matic was so influential in doing all the tidying up that his impact can’t be stressed enough. The Serb marshalled the first line of defence for his side that often stopped the Arsenal attack in its tracks before it could ever get to the back-line.
Matic’s game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
4 aerial duels won
80% tackles won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 2, 2017
Most importantly, he blocked an Arsenal effort in a chaotic sequence, which even the superhuman De Gea was unlikely to stop. Matic is likely to be rested for the midweek Champions League game now, and it is a rest well earned.
Ashley Young: 8/10
After two attack-heavy outings over the last seven days, Saturday’s was a game in which Young had to be on his guard all through the night, and played a big enough part in the win.
Apart from his workman like discipline at the back, the England international also stopped a Mesut Ozil free-kick that looked destined for the top corner by tracking back and heading the ball clear. In this kind of form, he is such a top asset for Mourinho, who is getting every ounce of performance from the veteran.
Jesse Lingard: 9/10
Another player who continued his purple patch, Lingard was instrumental in his side’s win, and not just for his brace. While each of his goals was well taken – and he could have had a third as well, if not for Cech and the woodwork – he was crucial in pressing the ball out of the Arsenal players several times.
3 – Jesse Lingard has scored three goals in his last two Premier League games, as many as in the previous 51 combined. Impression. pic.twitter.com/P10RoZ7hbE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2017
The biggest example of this was the work that he did for his first goal, taking the ball off Shkodran Mustafi before linking up with Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial and finishing the move off. Absolutely exceptional, and it looks like he’s here to stay in the central role.
Anthony Martial: 8/10
Saturday’s game was a fine example of just how far Martial has come under Mourinho, defensive with a lot of discipline to help Young out while not shying away from taking his chances. He was a major catalyst for his side’s second goal as a fantastic turn helped set up Lingard, who made no error in finding the back of the net.
The Frenchman looked visibly miffed upon being taken off with half an hour to go, which typified his desire to continue contributing to his team’s cause despite looking so worn out after a hard night’s work.
Romelu Lukaku: 7/10
He not have had a goal to show for his efforts on the night , but many would rate this performance to be one of his best in a Manchester United shirt despite that. In fact, Lukaku had just one moment to forget when De Gea bailed him out for a shot towards his own goal, but he was quite smart otherwise.
The Belgian had a role to play in two of his side’s goal, with his hold up play looking much improved as well. A late tackle by Laurent Koscielny on him should have seen the Frenchman being sent off, while he was also denied a penalty. It now looks like he’s just one goal away from being back to his very best.
Ander Herrera: 7/10
Herrera replaced Martial with half an hour to go as Mourinho looked to shut up shop completely, and the Spaniard followed up on his manager’s thought process to the T. Calm under pressure, Herrera was also niggling enough to lure in the irritating fouls late on to stretch the game further. Looks set to start next week with Pogba out.
Matteo Darmian: N/A
Darmian came on Lingard to add an extra body at the back following Pogba’s dismissal, which proved to be enough to contain the hosts, although he was quite lucky to have not conceded a penalty after he brought Danny Welbeck down in his own area.
Marcus Rashford: N/A
On for the last few moments, Rashford helped run down the clock, and had very little to do.