A Samir Nasri double (22 & 48) gave Arsenal a crucial win in an enthralling encounter at The Emirates but were made to suffer a nervy last few minutes as Rafael (90) pulled a goal back at the end of normal time.
Nasri scored his first via a big deflection off United skipper Gary Neville after a corner kick was cleared and his second early in the first half after a fine Arsenal move but Rafael had ideas, his superb volley finding the bottom corner on ninety minutes.
All the talk before the game was on Arsenal’s injury worries but Walcott, Gallas, Silvestre and Almunia all started. The nerves showed early on as Silvestre back pass was too short and Almunia had no choice but to pick the ball up. From the resulting free-kick the ball came out to Carrick and he shot wide. United then put the ball into the net after Park’s exquisite dummy found the ball to Rooney and his shot was pushed by Almunia into the path of Berbatov but the Bulgarian was offside.
Arsenal then had a couple of chances of their own Bendtner headering over and then failing to get to the end of a Nasri cross. Rooney should have put Manchester United in front but he shot over from a cut back from Ronaldo but Nasri (22) made United pay as a Cesc Fabregas corner was half cleared to Nasri and his left foot shot was deflected in by Gary Neville.
Arsenal were open to Man United’s attacks, from the counter and by giving the ball away and Park nearly took advantage but his hot was saved. Diaby had a good run which resulted in what looked like a foul from Carrick but Webb waved play on. The referee had another big decision to make as Clichy blocked a cross with his arm as he was trying to move it away but no penalty given. Arsenal certainly rode their luck at times but were playong triangles in attack but were relieved for the half time wistle.
Arsenal had a dream start to the second period, a series of good passes from the Gunners culminating in a through pass by Fabregas after a decieving run from Walcott opened up the defence for Nasri (48) to shoot into the bottom corner.
Clichy then could have been sent off for a wild challenge on Ronaldo but was booked and in the other end Diaby misconnected a header as Van Der Sar missed the ball. However Ronaldo had the best chance for United as his volley with the keeper to beat went agonisingly wide. Rooney headed straight to Almunia while Carrick was booked for accidently kicking Almunia in the face which he was harshly booked for and the keeper was shortly unable to continue.
Arsenal had a number of opportunities to break United and score but miss placed passes and some poor finishing denied the game to be all over. Nasri had a penalty shout as he was tugged back however Rafael (90) then set up a nervy encounter as he controlled and volleyed in a magnificent goal into the bottom corner in the last minute of normal time.
Bendtner missed a good chance when he screwed over at the end and Arsenal’s reluctance to slow the ball down gave United opportunities to break but it never was. Arsenal had produced a potentially season saving victory and a performace which will give huge confidence to the young team.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy, Walcott, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri, Diaby, Bendtner. Subs: Fabianski, Toure, Vela, Ramsey, Song Billong, Wilshere, Djourou.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Anderson, Carrick, Park, Rooney, Berbatov. Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Nani, Rafael Da Silva, O’Shea, Evans, Tevez.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).