Goalscorers: Antonio Valencia 4, Jesse Lingard 11, 63, Alexandre Lacazette 49
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi (Alex Iwobi 15), Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac (Olivier Giroud 76), Granit Xhaka (Danny Welbeck 70), Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez
Manchester United: David de Gea, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young (Marcus Rashford 90), Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba (SENT OFF), Jesse Lingard (Matteo Darmian 76), Anthony Martial (Ander Herrera 67), Romelu Lukaku
Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 59,547
The bitter rivalry between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho has been one of the fiercest managerial confrontations in recent Premier League seasons. Mourinho has often held the upper hand but going into this match in December 2017, it was Wenger who had won the most recent encounter (a 2-0 victory at The Emirates Stadium in May 2017).
Wenger had Alexandre Lacazette fit to start after he had been forced off with a groin injury in the midweek win over Huddersfield. Arsenal had won 12 successive home league matches coming into this fixture. However, they gave themselves a mountain to climb, going 2-0 down inside 11 minutes.
Only four minutes had been played when Laurent Koscielny played a poor ball. This exposed a high defensive line and Antonio Valencia was the beneficiary. Played in by Paul Pogba, the Ecuadorian drilled his shot beyond Petr Cech to hand the Red Devils the lead. Mistakes were costing Arsenal dearly. Seven minutes later, Shkodran Mustafi was caught in possession by Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku and Anthony Martial played their part in the build-up for Jesse Lingard to make it 2-0. Mustafi’s evening was over shortly afterwards, withdrawn because of injury to be replaced by Alex Iwobi.
After those early setbacks, Arsenal piled the pressure on. However, they were to be faced by one of the most outstanding goalkeeping displays ever seen in the Premier League. David de Gea once again showed why many consider him to be the best goalkeeper in world football. In total, he made 14 saves – the joint-most in a Premier League game since Opta began recording these stats in 2003.
De Gea made good saves to deny Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin and a sensational stop from a free-kick to spare Lukaku’s blushes from scoring an embarrassing own goal. Lacazette had also been denied twice in the first half but he did find a way past De Gea four minutes into the second half. Alexis Sanchez picked out Aaron Ramsey, who had just about stayed onside and he played Lacazette in to score. Then, De Gea’s finest moment was to produce a lightning stop to deny Lacazette at point-blank range, before reacting so sharply to thwart Sanchez.
Arsenal were all over the visitors but just at the crucial moment, Mourinho’s men struck on the counter-attack on 63 minutes. Pogba held off Koscielny’s best attempts to foul him and he squared the ball across the box for Lingard to have a simple tap-in and score his second of the evening. Pogba had played brilliantly but then a moment of madness saw him stamp on Bellerin’s calf and it was spotted by Andre Marriner. He had little option but to send the Frenchman off, meaning Pogba would miss the upcoming Manchester Derby at Old Trafford.
Arsenal’s first home loss in the Premier League since Watford’s surprising 2-1 success in January 2017 was a tough one for the supporters to take as Mourinho claimed the spoils again over his old adversary, helped by a dazzling display from his super Spanish goalkeeper.