Football: Platt's late winner halts talk of a one-horse race

Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2

Arsenal injected hope into themselves and the top half of the Premiership yesterday when they grabbed hold of Manchester United's reins and gave them a severe tug. Talk of runaway leaders and one-horse races has been silenced temporarily.

Indeed this match might prove a turning point in more ways than one as layers of concern were laid on United. Gary Pallister faces a lengthy period of convalescence with a recurrence of a back injury and Paul Scholes got his fifth booking of the season which means he will be suspended for three matches, one of which is against Liverpool at Anfield. No matter how they look at it, it was a ghastly afternoon for the champions.

Even the draw United probably deserved was denied them by a goal scored seven minutes from time by David Platt, a player they released as a youngster. They had come to land a serious blow on their closest rivals but instead the pulsating and tempestuous match moved Arsenal to within a point of them.

The winner proved the final twist to a plot that wriggled off in so many directions its destination remained cloaked to the final whistle. Arsenal took a two-goal lead, were pegged back, by two goals from Teddy Sheringham and, even after Platt scored, the substitutes Christopher Wreh or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might have given the result a different complexion.

It was splendid entertainment but on the minus side, Nigel Winterburn and Peter Schmeichel appeared to be hit by objects thrown from the crowd. A spokesman said the Football Association would await reports before taking action, adding: "Obviously we are concerned when players appear to be struck or injured by objects thrown from the crowd but we are not going to make any hasty decisions."

Haste was the last thing on the minds of United as they began with such assurance they could have been playing out the final minutes of their 6-1 Sheffield Wednesday massacre. Arsene Wenger had expected to meet a retreating force and had preferred Gilles Grimandi to Steve Bould at centre- back to combat the pace of Andy Cole.

What he got was United pinning his side into their own half. Their movement and passing were exemplary, while Sheringham drifted into a gap between Arsenal's back four and midfield and directed the traffic with his chest and head. It was superb stuff, the only problem was that their aplomb was interrupted by two outstanding home goals.

For eight minutes Arsenal had barely touched the ball until Marc Overmars shocked the United defence with a run of such speed and decisiveness it required a brave lunge from Henning Berg to halt it. The danger appeared over but Nicolas Anelka turned on the rebound cut inside Gary Neville and beat Schmeichel at the near post.

The goalkeeper had little chance with that shot and his slightly suspect positioning gave him even less with the next that came his way after 26 minutes. Ray Parlour's corner from the left flicked Tony Adams' head and carried on to the right-hand corner of the area where Patrick Vieira thumped it into the roof of the net.

United were behind but they still had control of midfield and slowly their dominance began to find gaps in the hitherto watertight home defence. Sheringham and Cole had shots that were too close to David Seaman before Gary Neville delivered the kind of cross centre-forwards salivate over in the 33rd minute and Sheringham headed emphatically past the Arsenal goalkeeper.

Seven minutes later the score was 2-2 when Nicky Butt headed on, an otherwise disappointing Ryan Giggs flicked the ball with the back of a heel and Sheringham turned and shot into the far corner.

When Scholes was brought down in the area by Winterburn it seemed the match had turned comprehensively in United's favour. The referee turned down claims for a penalty, however, and, with Pallister injured, the game slowly slipped from their grasp.

Tactically their fingers were prised open by Wenger who restricted their space by bringing on Bould to create a three-man rearguard for the second half. Winterburn and Lee Dixon suddenly had the security to attack and Arsenal wrestled control of the midfield.

This gave Ian Wright, an anonymous figure in the first half, space and his run down the right after 81 minutes ultimately led to the winner. He dragged the ball back for Wreh whose shot was going wide until it hit Gary Neville and bounced towards the goal. Schmeichel, already on the floor, somehow clawed away the ball but as United were applauding their goalkeeper, the decisive blow was about to land.

Platt lost his marker, Beckham, with a run from the back to the near post and with a glorious header he sent the ball spiralling over Schmeichel into the far corner.

Wreh missed a chance to make the lead even more emphatic with a hopeless shot soon afterwards and the game finished with United pressing desperately forward. Solskjaer almost got the equaliser they craved but his volley was to straight to properly worry Seaman.

It was a day when little went right for United.

Goals: Anelka (7) 1-0; Vieira (27) 2-0; Sheringham (33) 2-1; Sheringham (41) 2-2; Platt (83) 3-2.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Grimandi, Winterburn; Parlour, Platt, Vieira (Bould, h-t), Overmars; Anelka (Wreh, 79), Wright. Substitutes not used: Manninger (gk), Boa Morte, Hughes.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; G Neville, Berg, Pallister (Johnsen, 38), P Neville; Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs ( Solskjaer, 71); Sheringham, Cole. Substitutes not used: McClair, Poborsky, Van der Gouw.

Referee: M Bodenham (Ferring, West Sussex).

Bookings: Arsenal: Platt, Wright. Manchester United: P Neville, Scholes.

Attendance: 38,205.

Man of the match: Parlour.

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home