Man Utd 3 Arsenal 1: Ten Hag revolution in full swing as new boy Antony and resurgent Rashford see off old enemy
MARCUS RASHFORD rolled back the years with a second-half double as Manchester United chalked up a fourth straight victory and ended Arsenal’s 100 per cent start to the Premier League season.
Rashford had scored twice against the Gunners on his United debut as a teenage sensation back in 2016 – but has suffered a confidence crisis since his missed penalty at last summer’s Euros final.
But after £85.5million new boy Antony had opened the scoring on his debut and Bukayo Saka – another to miss a penalty in that Euros final – had levelled, Rashford’s quick-fire brace gave Erik Ten Hag’s side a win they scarcely deserved.
Arsenal bossed this match until midway through the second half – Gabriel Martinelli having an early effort ruled out by VAR and twice being denied by David De Gea saves.
Mikel Arteta’s side remain top and they will take plenty of heart from this performance despite this defeat.
But United’s turnaround after back-to-back defeats at the start of Erik Ten Hag’s reign has been remarkable and they are now just three points off the top of the Premier League.
For the first time in years, this felt like a genuine A-list fixture rather than just a chance to reminisce about Fergie and Wenger and Keane and Vieira and wonder where it had all gone wrong.
But while Arsenal’s 100 per cent start to the campaign had been impressive, this was their first encounter with a fellow ‘Big Six’ club – and it was a test they ultimately failed.
Ten Hag gave an immediate full debut to winger Antony, signed from his former club Ajax on the morning of deadline day, while Arteta welcomed back Oleksandr Zinchenko after injury.
In a lively old start, Christian Eriksen volleyed wide from Diogo Dalot’s centre and William Saliba shot waywardly after Martin Odegaard’s quickly-taken free-kick to Martinelli caught United dozing.
But on 12 minutes, the latest in a spate of this weekend’s VAR interventions, denied Arsenal an opener.
Bukayo Saka’s delicious through-ball released Martinelli, who slotted calmly past David De Gea but VAR Simon Hooper ordered ref Paul Tierney to check his monitor, correctly spotting that Odegaard had illegally bundled over Eriksen to win possession.
Antony’s first sighter on goal was wasted when his curling effort from distance was way off target.
Saliba was yellow carded for chopping down Sancho and halting a dangerous United counter-attack.
But Arsenal were bossing it and Martinelli, their chief threat, was denied twice by De Gea in the space of two minutes.
First, he cut in from the left and forced the Spaniard to save with his feet at the near post.
Then his back-post header from Odegaard’s cross was pushed out by the alert United keeper.
But against the run of play, United seized the lead on 35 minutes – Tierney playing an excellent advantage after Gabriel had barged over Bruno Fernandes, Sancho feeding Rashford who slipped a pass to Antony.
The Brazilian debutant was unmarked but his finish was impressively cool as he slotted past Aaron Ramsdale and inside the far post.
Even the benched Cristiano Cristiano – the last United player to score on his ‘debut’ on his comeback match against Newcastle a year ago – gave the new boy a standing ovation.
After the break, Arsenal were straight back on the front but Odegaard duffed a glorious volleyed chance from close range and Saka shot wide of the far post with United’s defence pulled apart.
On 57 minutes, Ronaldo replaced Antony – and Arsenal scored almost immediately.
Raphael Varane stepped into midfield but lost possession and Odegaard slipped a through-ball towards Jesus.
Dalot nicked the ball off the Arsenal striker’s feet but only as far as Saka, who netted emphatically.
It was the least Arsenal deserved – and yet they were level for only six minutes.
A dreamy through-ball from Fernandes allowed Rashford to outpace the Arsenal defence and drill inside the far post despite a despairing Ben White tackle which almost robbed him.
Old Trafford erupted as the local lad, who has seemed a lost soul for most of the last 18 months, notched such a crucial goal with such an accomplished finish.
Fred replaced Jadon Sancho – and McFred, reunited, soon got busy.
The Brazilian sub won a crunching tackle and Scott McTominay was booked for a rugby tackle.
After Ramsdale had made a decent save from Fernandes, the United skipper played another excellent pass through the Arsenal defence, Eriksen sprinting on and squaring for Rashford to finish from close range.
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