Three things we learned from Manchester United’s big win at Arsenal

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LONDON — Manchester United completed a smash and grab win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as Louis van Gaal got the better of Arsene Wenger in their first meeting in the Premier League.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

United soaked up copious amounts of Arsenal pressure, as the Gunners wasted several good chances early on that came back to bite them.

A second half own goal from Kieran Gibbs plus Wayne Rooney’s late breakaway has sent United into the top four, as the pressure begins to pile on Wenger and Arsenal.

We learned a lot about both teams in North London on Saturday, but here’s three things.

WILSHERE’S LACK OF GOALS HOLDING HIM BACK

Jack Wilshere could easily have had a hat trick on Saturday. Arsenal’s industrious and scrappy midfielder ferreted away in midfield and started numerous Arsenal attacks by picking up the ball 50-yards out and running towards United’s goal. In the first half he waltzed clear of United’s shaky backline but fired his shot straight at David De Gea as the home fans looked on in disbelief. Time and time again Wilshere does the hard bit but fails to finish. He has one goal in 22 appearances this season and scored five goals in 48 games last season. No wonder England manager Roy Hodgson has switched the pint-sized midfielder to a holding role.

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Fellaini and Wilshere square up.

After his glaring miss in the 14th minute on Saturday, Wilshere was running around like a man possessed as he squared up to Marouane Fellaini with his temper getting the best of him. On another day Wilshere could have been shown a red for thrusting his head towards Fellaini, the only issue was Wilshere could only reach the collarbone of the towering Belgian. In the second half Wilshere then suffered a nasty looking ankle injury as he overran another slaloming run and was caught by Paddy McNair. That forced him off as he’s set for another spell on the sidelines. All in all, not a great day for Arsenal’s 22-year-old midfielder.

UNITED REVERT TO 3-5-2; PLENTY OF PROMISE

Injuries have ravaged United’s backline once again this month with van Gaal’s team suffering an incredible 39 injuries at an average of one every three days since he took over. That fact forced the Dutchman’s hand on Saturday as he reverted back to his favored 3-5-2 formation which United failed to adapt to early in the campaign. The Red Devils haven’t lined up with three at the back since their 0-0 draw with Burnley on Aug. 30 but they did so at the Emirates. It didn’t go so well, especially in the first half.

When Arsenal surged forward neither Chris Smalling, Paddy McNair or Tyler Blackett stepped forward. Eventually, one of them had to and Smalling took first knock for the rest of the game while United’s two academy products swept up either side of him. Left wing back Luke Shaw, who was a major doubt for this one, hobbled off in the 16th minute and was replaced by Ashley Young. United’s makeshift back five of Valencia, McNair, Smalling, Blackett and Young dug deep to secure the win and with De Gea behind them, they looked more comfortable as the game wore on. Going forward the 3-5-2 was flexible and allowed United to launch countless counter attacks in the second half after soaking up pressure. Di Maria, Rooney and Fellaini sprung free time and time again as United had plenty of bodies in support and could have scored three or four on the break. The 3-5-2 enabled van Gaal’s men to put in the perfect away day display to put them in the top four.

DE GEA STAKES HIS CLAIM AS PL’s BEST ‘KEEPER

United’s Spanish ‘keeper made the one aforementioned top draw save from Wilshere in the first half, and was forced to make several stops down low from Danny Welbeck. Throughout the match Arsenal peppered United’s goal with 21 shots, with eight on target. De Gea looked cool and calm and despite a few dodgy kicks the lanky 24-year-old Spaniard is staking his claim as the PL’s best ‘keeper. All this after a dislocated finger on international duty. Even though he may not look like it, he’s a tough cookie. In matches against Everton, West Ham and Chelsea he has shown his class and is right up there with Thibaut Courtois, Fraser Forster, Tim Howard and Hugo Lloris as the PL’s best. This season he has been United’s best player and in a backs-to-the-wall performance away from home he was unfortunate to lose his clean sheet thanks to a stunning effort from Olivier Giroud in injury time. United’s new-look team will be built on defensive solidity, and De Gea continues to provide that. With wins against Everton and Arsenal, a draw against Chelsea and a narrow defeat against Man City when they were down to 10-men, United are putting in solid performances against their rivals for the top four.

Champions League wrap: Ajax, RB Leipzig, Salzburg win; Barca held

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While Liverpool and Chelsea lost in shutout fashion, only three other teams saw zeroes next to their names after 90 minutes of UEFA Champions League play on Tuesday.

[ UCL: Scores, full lineups, stats, box scores ]

You may be surprised to see that Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund kept each other off the board, while Lille was cooked by Ajax.

Red Bull Salzburg 6-2 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team to a win in a UEFA Champions League game. The Red Bull Salzburg boss got a hat trick from red-hot 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who has 17 goals in nine matches this season and is also the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Ajax 3-0 Lille

Mexico’s Edson Alvarez now has two goals in two career UEFA Champions League games, as he joined Quincy Promes on the score sheet in a 2-0 win. American-Dutch right back Sergino Dest played 90 minutes in the win, and Nicolás Tagliafico recorded two assists. USMNT forward Timothy Weah was again absent with a hamstring tear.

Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona

Lionel Messi spent most of the match on the bench, and Marco Reus missed a Jadon Sancho-won penalty thanks to a Marc-Andre ter Stegen save.

And what a save it was!

Elsewhere

Chelsea 0-1 Valencia — RECAP
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool — RECAP
Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Benfica 1-2 RB Leipzig

Barkley sails late penalty as Chelsea falls at home

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig