By Josh James at Emirates Stadium
Two goals within the space of three second-half minutes were enough to earn maximum points against Manchester United. After a very even first-half, we took the lead early in the second period, with a goal out of nothing. With few options open to him, Granit Xhaka decided to let fly from 25 yards and his shot looped up off Anders Herrera's back, dropping just under the cross bar. Three minutes later it got even better for the Gunners. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain delivered a perfect right wing cross which Danny Welbeck powered home with his head. It was the forward's third goal in Arsenal's colours against his boyhood club, and it was celebrated with suitable gusto by player and fans alike. There were few alarms after that. United's best chances had come in the first half. Cech saved from Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, while the impressive Aaron Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain both forced David de Gea into full-stretch saves before the interval. It was enough to inflict United's first league defeat since October, and left Arsène Wenger celebrating his first Premier League victory against a Jose Mourinho-managed side.
WELBECK LEADS THE ATTACK
Danny Welbeck returned up front against his former team, replacing Olivier Giroud, as we made two changes from the north London derby side. Rob Holding was also recalled, taking Gabriel's place in the back three, as the manager stuck with the formation he first adopted against Middlesbrough in mid-April. United made eight changes for the game, playing this fixture in between the two legs of their Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
With Liverpool dropping points in the earlier kick-off, both these sides knew the door was ajar for a top-four Champions League qualification place. For us that meant taking all three points, but it was United who started more aggressively, as they looked to extend their 25-match unbeaten run in the Premier League. Early on Rooney released the scampering Anthony Martial, but his shot was turned away by Cech at the near post for a corner. Our first opening of the came on the counter-attack from defending a corner. Alexis burst forward and carved open the retreating visiting defence with a 30-yard pass for Ramsey. The Welshman, inside the box, connected well with his low shot, but de Gea was down well to push it wide.
CHANCES AT BOTH ENDS
After a fairly quiet spell from both sides, an electric run up the right wing from Oxlade-Chamberlain injected some energy into the Gunners. He sprinted away from Rooney on the half-way line before winning a corner. From that corner, Welbeck's scrambled effort was blocked by Phil Jones at close range. We were in behind the United defence again shortly afterwards when Alexis threaded a perfect pass through to Ramsey. He was forced wide but managed to cut the ball back to Welbeck, only for Chris Smalling to get across well and smother. Ramsey again went close before Oxlade-Chamberlain tried his luck from 20 yards. The flying de Gea was equal to it however. Arsenal were on top, but it was Rooney who so nearly opened the scoring when he latched onto a loose back pass from Holding inside the box. Laurent Kosicleny was caught out by the stray pass, and was indebted to Cech, who stood his ground to deny the England man. The pace of the game had well and truly picked up now, but neither side was able to find the breakthrough in the opening period.
After a fairly pedestrian start to the second half, out of absolutely nothing, the Gunners took the lead. Xhaka picked up possession well outside the area, and there appeared nothing on for the midfielder. He tried a speculative effort, which hit Anders Herrera on the back, looped up high and over the flailing de Gea. It may have had a touch of fortune about it, but Xhaka was rewarded for having a potshot. Just three minutes later we doubled our advantage, and there was nothing lucky about the second goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain whipped in a fantastic cross from wide on the right, and Welbeck dominated his markers to thump in a header off the bar. Emirates Stadium was rocking now.
SEEING OUT THE WIN
The visitors made a couple of attacking substitutions, introducing Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, as Mourinho's men looked to respond. Cech saved a Rooney free-kick as we were made to weather a United storm. The relatively new look defence - this was only the fifth game using the back three - remained disciplined and solid though, and United were reduced to mainly long-range efforts. We continued to look dangerous going forward as well. Mesut Ozil skipped away from Rooney and sent a ball across goal that was just out of Welbeck's reach, when it seemed a third goal was on the cards. Rooney had a couple more shots from outside the area just off target, but our belief grew as time ran out, and in the end it was a well-deserved three points. The race for the top four is on.
Referee: Andre Marriner
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