Henry's moment of magic quells United

Arsenal defenders lock the door on Ferguson's men as Frenchman's spectacular goal brings title race back to boil
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The visiting view was that, as 'blips' go, this was a minor tremor rather than a major earthquake - but Arsenal were in no doubt as to the significance of Manchester United's first Premiership defeat since 12 February.

The visiting view was that, as 'blips' go, this was a minor tremor rather than a major earthquake - but Arsenal were in no doubt as to the significance of Manchester United's first Premiership defeat since 12 February.

A Championship race which, just three weeks ago, was being talked of as a one-horse romp is now firmly back on the boil even if the card has only been expanded to two runners - the new leaders, Leicester City, remain an outside bet.

Thierry Henry, whose outrageous 30th-minute goal divided these two heavyweights and enabled Arsenal to draw level on points with United, said: "I am very happy we have pulled back Manchester United, last year they got too far away and it was difficult to catch them."

"It had a lot of meaning for us," added Arsÿne Wenger, the Arsenal manager. Alex Ferguson, however, dismissed the result. "We were unlucky but we always have a blip this time of year. We'll be all right come January, February, March."

The United manager drew sustenance from his team's dominance of midfield in which Arsenal, whose central quartet were all playing out of position, were reduced to harrying and chasing. However, they did that so well, particularly Ray Parlour, United were not given the time and space to create the quality of chances they usually do.

Too often the ball was played forward in the air, where Martin Keown's head met everything. When attacks were more sophisticated, Tony Adams' reading of the game snuffed them out. "We had good control and possession but not penetration," added Ferguson. "We could not unlock Adams and Keown, they earned the points more than anyone."

They, and Henry, whose goal was described by Wenger as "something completely crazy" and Ferguson as "so spectacular it took the breath away. I could not believe it, he'll never score one like it again." For those who remember this far back, it was reminiscent of Justin Fashanu's famous strike for Norwich City against Liverpool nearly 20 years ago.

It followed a free-kick, conceded by David Beckham on the right flank 10 yards inside his own half. Tapped sideways by Silvinho, it was rolled into Henry by Gilles Grimandi. He had his back to goal and Denis Irwin on his shoulder. There appeared nothing on. Henry, who had gone seven appearances without a goal, flicked the ball up with his right then swivelled to hit a dipping volley which dropped just over his French national team-mate Fabien Barthez into goal. "It is one of the best I have scored," said Henry. One of? The others must have been pretty special.

The goal kick-started what had previously been a drab affair with both teams appearing to suffer a reaction from their midweek exertions. Barthez, who injured his troublesome back late on and is unlikely to play for France this week, had had more problems coping with risky back passes than anything Arsenal offered. Only an early Dennis Bergkamp free-kick, which almost put Adams in, and a 10th-minute Silvinho break, which resulted in a tame volley from Grimandi, even threatened danger.

United were only marginally more dangerous. Andy Cole headed just wide after 13 minutes, Keown blocked a promising Paul Scholes shot shortly afterwards, and Roy Keane, given the ball by Bergkamp, worried David Seaman with a dipping 25-yard volley.

Then Henry brought the match to life, establishing a pattern of United pressure and Arsenal counter-attack. Henry and Silvinho set up Bergkamp for a chance the normally reliable Dutchman dragged wide. Henry, released by Freddie Ljungberg, might also have scored before the break but, with Cole shooting wide as the half ended, and Ryan Giggs bringing a leaping save from Seaman as the next one began, United showed they would not go down quietly.

Seaman, having one of his better games, blocked Scholes effort as he burst onto Giggs' chip, saw Teddy Sheringham, to the Gooners' delight, blaze over, and Cole shoot wide. Beckham was equally wasteful with a promising free-kick as the minutes ticked away but, had the game been at Old Trafford, United might well have been awarded a penalty in the dying moments as Irwin was pulled back by Ljungberg.

Arsenal, however, should have put the game beyond doubt by then. Barthez had to sprint from his area to deny Henry, Silvinho beat four players and rounded Barthez only to be forced too wide, and Parlour fell over the ball when perfectly set up by Henry.

It mattered not. However, it should be noted, a year ago tomorrow United were beaten 5-0 just at Chelsea. They went on to win the championship by a record 18 points. "It is early days," added Ferguson.

Goal: Henry (30) 1-0.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Luhzny, Keown, Adams, Silvinho; Bergkamp (Wiltord, 77), Parlour, Grimandi, Ljungberg; Kanu (Vivas, 56), Henry. Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), Dixon, Vernazza.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Barthez; G Neville, Johnsen, Silvestre, Irwin; Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs (Solskjaer, 84); Cole, Sheringham (Yorke, 67). Substitutes not used: Bosnich (gk), Butt, Brown.

Referee: G Barber (Tring). Bookings: Arsenal: Adams, Bergkamp. Manchester United: Irwin, Beckham, G Neville.

Man of the match: Adams

Attendance: 38,146.