Manchester United 2 – 1 Arsenal: RVP returns to haunt Gunners
Manchester United surged to the top of the table with a dominant 2-1 win over a poor Arsenal side that now lie nine points off the league leaders.
Robin Van Persie opened the scoring against his former club early on as he capitalised on a Thomas Vermaelen error to fire home into the bottom corner.
United should have gone into the break 2-0 up but Wayne Rooney missed from the spot after Cazorla was adjudged to have handled in the box.
Patrice Evra doubled the Red Devils’ advantage mid-way through the second half with a header before Jack Wilshere saw red for a poor challenge on the French full back.
Cazorla did pull one back for Arsenal with the last kick of the game, but it proved little consolation to the travelling Gunners faithful who chanted “We want our Arsenal back” – referring to their disapproval of owner Stan Kroenke, throughout.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger named the same starting XI that secured a narrow 1-0 win over QPR win a week ago, which means that Theo Walcott was once again among the substitutes despite scoring a hat-trick in the incredible 7-5 League Cup win against Reading in mid-week.
The French tactician would have been hoping for his side to keep it tight early on but they got off to the worst possible start when Vermaelen could only clear a cross to Van Persie and the Dutch striker struck home first time with a well placed half-volley into the bottom corner.
Despite seeing a lot of the ball, Arsenal failed to create any chances of note and they were fortunate that United’s final ball and finishing was poor throughout.
Rooney should have scored when he was found in acres of space in the Gunners’ box but his shot was parried away one-handed by Vito Mannone in the Arsenal goal.
The former Everton striker made an even more glaring miss just before half-time as he fired a penalty wide after Cazorla raised his arms to block Ashley Young’s cross.
That miss failed to fire Wenger’s side up for the second half, though, as United continued to dominate proceedings after the break.
Antonio Valencia missed a gilt-edged chance as he scuffed his shot facing an open goal from Van Persie’s cross.
Olivier Giroud did strike the post for Arsenal shortly afterwards, but it was a short reprieve as United were soon 2-0 up.
Mannone managed to keep out a low Van Persie shot but United scored from the resultant corner as Evra headed home a Rooney centre.
Things soon went from bad to worse for Arsenal as Wilshere, only playing his second game back from injury, received a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Evra.
Arsenal did surprisingly improve somewhat after the sending off and reduced the arrears late on as Cazorla’s sublime curled finish left David De Gea scrambling for air.
Wenger felt the sending off was harsh but did not disagree with the result.
“I’m disappointed because we had a lot of the ball but we were not very efficient. It was a bit of an illusionary domination. We gave an early goal away and in a game like that it is a massive advantage for a team,” he told BBC Sport.
“We had a lot of the ball after we conceded the first, but they created more chances and deserved to win the game.“
Arsenal will look to get their season back on track when they travel to Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Laurence Taylor, Football correspondent