Manchester United 3 Arsenal 2
Rashford 29,32, Herrera 65, Welbeck 40, Ozil 69

If Arsenal harboured any hopes of a first win at Old Trafford in 23 visits, then this was surely the game the Gunners had to show up for. On the back of a Champions League master class by Barcelona and that 2-0 loss at the Emirates stadium, with a return leg almost certainly meaning another Arsenal exit of Europe’s top club competition, and combined with an FA Cup replay at Hull still in the offing, the last thing the Gunners needed was to gift Manchester United two early first half goals. That however is precisely what they did, enabling 18-year-old Marcus Rashford to grab a brace. Danny Welbeck’s header just before the break gave the Gunners hope of a comeback, but yet again, United struck through Ander Herrera after a swift counter to restore the home side’s two goal advantage. Mesut Ozil’s downward strike beat David de Gea four minutes after United’s third goal. Arsenal went in search of a late leveller, but no further goals were added to complete a miserable trio of Gunners’ results in all competitons.

Arsene Wenger reflected on this untimely loss. “We dropped three important points today. We have to have a better level of fight than that and have to bounce back on Wednesday night (at home to Swansea) and not feel sorry for ourselves. That is what it means. After, mathematically what is means, we will know at the end of the season,” he said.

Gabriel returned from injury and his preference in a starting eleven which included Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck was hoped would fair better in a defence which was exposed by Barcelona last week. The Gunners were looking to win a Premier League game at Old Trafford for the first time in almost a decade, although last season’s FA Cup win when Welbeck struck against his former side, demonstrated that Arsenal knew what it took to win at the home of one of their biggest rivals.

The early omens were good, and when Nacho Monreal was put in my Ozil over the top, DeGea came out to smother the chance. Either side of the United ‘keeper and Arsenal would have had the opener. The home side responded with Rashford earning a free kick having been stopped just outside the area. Petr Cech got down well to save from the resultant Memphis Depay free kick.

With their next move of note, United took the lead. Gabriel failed to deal with Guillermo Varella’s cross and Rashford stole in with the opener. Minutes later and United and Rashford doubled their tally. Sweeping in again from the right, this time Jesse Lingard crossed and an unmarked Rashford found the net with a free header. Once again, questions will be raised over Gabriel’s defending.

Alexis Sanchez hasn’t been the same player since his two-month absence due to the calf injury he picked up at Carrow Road, and that showed here too. However he won a free kick which Ozil took. Welbeck got his head to the cross to nod past DeGea to halve the deficit. It was Welbeck’s second consecutive Gunners goal at Old Trafford. Arsenal could have had a claim for a penalty on the stroke of half time when Rashford appeared to handle on the line from an Ozil corner which wasn’t cleared, but play was waived on.

Olivier Giroud came on for the ineffective Walcott, however it was United who went further ahead. Juan Mata fed Rashford to his right. Monreal did well to impede the youngster, but Herrera was racing up the middle and unmarked and not tracked, he placed his shot off the unfortunate Laurent Koscielny’s chest and past Cech. Arsene Wenger looked on and wondered how United were allowed to cut through with so much ease.

To their credit, Arsenal never buckled. A move which started from midfield with the combative Francis Coquelin saw Alexis aim over a cross. Welbeck’s effort saved by DeGea. The loose ball was latched onto by Ozil, whose downward shot beat the United keeper for a now 3-2 scoreline. Another Arsenal goal was not in the offing, and the loss will be hard on a side who have now just the one victory in their last three games in all competitions.

Wenger added, “I felt that we had a lot of the ball and a lot of possession. We favoured their game plan because we conceded two quick goals and at 2-0 down it is difficult. You have to take a gamble. I think the biggest regret was we had so much of the ball but we conceded three goals. It is difficult to win away from home after that.”