New Delhi: Manchester United took all three points in the first ‘Top Four’ clash of the season after a hard-fought win against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, with Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo all on the bench, the first half was a tight, tense affair with both sides playing at pace but unable to create many clear-cut chances.
After a solid start by the visitors it was Manchester United who had the first promising chance of the game.
Wayne Rooney flighted a delightful chip into Darren Fletcher in the box who chested the ball down before turning and volleying over Manuel Almunia’s bar.
Rooney then almost caught a glimpse of goal himself but Thomas Vermaelen did well to ensure he couldn’t get on the end of Patrice Evra’s cross.
Yet the Gunners’ slick passing and movement was becoming more incisive than the home side’s and mid-way through the first half they were presented with a good opportunity.
Robin van Persie twisting and turning looked odds on to score after making space for himself in the area, but his shot was blocked by Evra.
Minutes later and a corner to the visitors was only flapped at by Ben Foster and fell straight into Andrey Arshavin’s path.
The Russian opened his body and aimed for the top corner but, much to the relief of the home crowd, the ball flew fractionally wide.
Yet with five minutes to go before the break, Arshavin was to provide the breakthrough as Arsenal took the lead.
After being flattened by Darren Fletcher moments earlier in the box, the Russian picked himself up, picked up possession and advanced on goal before hitting a sublime effort past Foster in the United goal to silence Old Trafford.
The Red Devils attempted to respond but were looking toothless in attack and within two minutes of the restart they had their goalkeeper to thank for preventing them going two goals down.
Arshavin again was the creator, tormenting John O’Shea down the left before crossing for Van Persie.
The Dutchman got in front of Wes Brown and looked set to tap home but was denied brilliantly by Foster’s feet.
Indeed the Gunners were looking by far the better side at the start of the second half but were rocked on the half hour mark when United snatched an equalizer.
Giggs slid a pass through to Rooney and he took a touch to take the ball past Almunia who brought the England international down leaving referee Mike Dean to point straight to the spot.
Up stepped Rooney who calmly sent the Spanish stopper the wrong way to continue his fine goalscoring start to the season.
Spot On Rooney Scores Again
Suddenly, a tepid game caught fire with the challenges flying in and the tempo raised several notches.
Van Persie smashed a free kick against the United bar and seconds later the home side took the lead after a Giggs free kick was headed past his own goalkeeper by Abou Diaby.
The hosts were jubilant yet Diaby almost made instant amends, surging into the box leaving three United defenders in his wake, before scuffing a cross-shot fractionally wide.
In search of an equalizer Wenger sent on strikers Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo but the Gunners simply couldn’t restore their earlier attacking impetus despite five minutes of added time.
Indeed the best chance of the closing stages were wasted by Dimitar Berbatov and Nani on the break although van Persie did have the ball late on but the flag had already gone up for offside.
A chaotic ending to the game saw Wenger sent to the stands but ultimately United held on for an important win to disrupt the Gunners’ superb start to the season.