- Xhaka’s deflected strike hit 57 mins in
- Welbeck headed in a second 3 minutes later
- Arsenal stays alive for top 4
Thanks to goals from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck, Arsene Wenger has beaten Jose Mourinho for the first time ever in Premier League play, a 2-0 result that keeps Arsenal’s faint hopes for a Champions League place alive and puts Manchester United in a weaker position in that same race.
United had the first big chance of the game as Wayne Rooney fed through Anthony Martial, but the Frenchman’s effort was stymied at close range by Petr Cech. The Gunners went down the other end minutes later, and Aaron Ramsey forced a save from David De Gea.
The proceedings went back and forth as neither side gained full control. Rooney had a header just wide off a corner, while Ramsey’s 30th minute pull-back was blocked with a pair of Gunners waiting. Ramsey and Ozil were both wide open on the end of an Alexis Sanchez far-post cross, but it was just out of reach with the goal gaping.
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Rooney had the game’s biggest chance down the other end after picking out Rob Holding‘s back-pass, but he was smothered by Cech with no one else back.
With the score untouched at halftime, the game seemed to take a dip after the break as both teams looked to have hit the reset button. Then, out of nowhere, the Gunners led. Xhaka took aim from a huge distance out, and a massive stroke of fortune came his way as the shot struck the back of Ander Herrera and looped perfectly into the top corner.
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The game sprung to life after the goal, and the Gunners doubled their lead. A cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the right touchline floated over the head of Chris Smalling and right to Welbeck who blasted his header off the underside of the crossbar and in.
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Once down 2-0, Manchester United struggled to produce the chances they had in the first half. The Gunners were forced into a change as Xhaka was left with his seat on the turf, and he was replaced by Francis Coquelin on 75 minutes.
United looked for a way back in, but they had little to offer Cech’s goal as Arsenal did well to hamper them on the ball. Axel Tuanzebe delivered an impressive volley in stoppage time but it was too close to the Gunners’ shot-stopper.
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The win for Arsenal keeps their very faint top four hopes mathematically alive. On 63 points, they sit two back of Manchester United in fifth and six behind Manchester City for that final Champions League place. The Gunners have four matches remaining, which gives them a game in hand on the rest of the competition.
Manchester United falls back in the race, on 65 points, four back of Manchester City after the club’s first loss since October, ending a run of 25 matches. Jose Mourinho has publicly claimed they are prioritizing the Europa League, and rested a number of usual starters for this game as a result.