United sweep aside Arsenal to remain second

Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3

Manchester United swept aside title rivals Arsenal 3-1 at Emirates Stadium to move within a point of leaders Chelsea.

Nani opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when his chip across goal was palmed in by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, before in-form England striker Wayne Rooney swept home a second following a quick counter attack.

A third on the break from Park Ji-Sung at the start of the second half effectively ended the contest, although defender Thomas Vermaelen netted a consolation for the out-muscled Gunners.

Arsenal, who had started the match five points behind Chelsea ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge next weekend, began well as Andrey Arshavin got away down the left, before cutting inside and trying to curl the ball past Edwin van der Sar from a tight angle, but his shot drifted wide.

United, though, were quick to regain possession and then cut down any space for the home side.

Nani and Darren Fletcher combined as they almost played in Rooney, but William Gallas made an important blocking tackle in the six-yard box.

Alex Song - back from the African Nations Cup - then had to hack the ball clear at the far post as United again got clear down the right far too easily.

When Arshavin - who was ineligible for last season's Champions League semi-final clash between the sides - burst away again, he lacked any support in the middle.

The Russian, though, remained Arsenal's most potent attacking threat.

In the 13th minute he skipped away down the left, cut back inside Wes Brown and curled another effort goalwards, which this time was only just wide of the far post.

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas suddenly burst into life with a surging run down the middle, before slipping in Arshavin, but the Russian lost his footing at the key moment and United cleared.

United - who have played a match more than Chelsea - slowly started to gain the upper hand and Gallas needed to make another timely tackle in the penalty area as Paul Scholes shaped to shot.

Nani drilled the ball wide as Arsenal were again exposed in the right channel, before playing a key part in the goal which gave United the lead.

The winger skipped easily in between two defenders then chipping the ball back across goal. Almunia pushed it inside his far post, with Park Ji-Sung ready to tap the ball into the net.

Fabregas' shot following a corner was blocked - and four minutes later United were 2-0 ahead.

Again Nani was the provider, dashing clear after picking the ball up from Rooney before squaring it for the England striker to sweep home his 22nd goal of the season, low into the corner.

The Gunners faced an uphill battle to get back into the match, with Arshavin firing wide from just inside the box - as manager Arsene Wenger was left to scratch his head and looked to the heavens for inspiration.

It could have been worse on 41 minutes, but Nani blazed his shot wide after more good work from Rooney down the left.

There was a hold-up at the start of the second half as Rooney received treatment following a knock on the knee in a challenge with Bacary Sagna.

The England forward, though, was soon back in the action, and tested Almunia with a fierce angled drive after cutting in from the left.

It was game over on 52 minutes, when United scored a third following another simple counter.

This time is was Park who broke clear, sprinting onto Fletcher's chip into the Arsenal half and then slotting past Almunia from just inside the box.

The Gunners were also well beaten here 3-0 by Chelsea at the end of November, before a run of seven wins from nine hauled them back into title contention.

Fabregas, continued to drive his young team on, firing over and then just too close to van der Sar, then Song volleyed wide.

Theo Walcott came on as substitute - and Arsenal pulled a goal back with 11 minutes to go when Vermaelen's volley took a deflection off Jonny Evans to wrong-foot van der Sar.

However, there was to be no grand finale as Wenger's youngsters were again found wanting when it mattered most.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'