Reaction, Highlights and Player Ratings : Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal


Michael Carrick’s caretaker stint as boss ended with a landmark night for Cristiano Ronaldo as he struck his 800th and 801st goals to take Manchester United to a 3-2 win in an entertaining game over Arsenal.

United’s start was familiar for home fans, with the Gunners almost scoring straight away from a corner – Ben White’s header was cleared almost off the line by Rashford.

In the 14th minute Arsenal won a corner – from the ensuing mix, De Gea was stood on by his own player, Fred (who had started the game in his usual erratic form). He went down – the ball bounced out, and Smith-Rowe thrashed the ball into the net from 25 yards. Martin Atkinson went to put the whistle to his mouth and then pulled it away as the ball travelled and gave the goal – as he should. It was just the sort of farce that sums up United’s recent weeks.

Arsenal were in no mood to allow United to walk through to level up, and of course had no obligation to.

No Solskjaer to blame – no tactics to blame. It was a calamity all of their own making, and yet United’s initial response was pitiful – Maguire shot from thirty yards on the half hour, and it went well over, with the skipper yelling the ball was flat. It was replaced, and Maguire promptly had another long range effort that this time rolled comfortably for Ramsdale.

Just before half time, United got a goal out of nowhere – good football down the left from Maguire and Sancho was followed by a slip of a pass from Fred to Fernandes, who had a only a small pocket of space in the box, but finished across goal past Ramsdale.

In the first minute of the second half, Gabriel diverted the ball towards goal with his back from a corner, and De Gea needed to be alert and at full stretch to stop it going in.

United then went up and had their own chance – Ronaldo did well to beat Partey, but the visiting goalkeeper was equal to it.

A couple of minutes later, Ronaldo got his moment in history, registering his 800th career goal – but it started from his compatriot, Dalot, whose interception and clever pass was something that is not seen in the Wan-Bissaka playbook. And Rashford did well to hold his position and pick a pass to Ronaldo, just about around the penalty spot – and he does what he normally does from there.

Immediately, Arsenal responded with a goal that was almost identical – Odegaard finishing off a cute move, and this time past a goalkeeper.

A quarter of an hour later, Odegaard was the villain – he took out Fred in the box, and Martin Atkinson somehow saw it happen straight in front of him and didn’t award a penalty. There is no hiding place when these decisions are made now, though, because they can be overturned – it was. United got their penalty. Ronaldo scored it, his first since his return. And that was it for the drama, as the hosts were able to see it out despite a couple of positive openings for Saka.

Some of the old bitterness remains between these clubs. Primarily from Arsenal fans, frustrated by their defeat in the rivalry in the Ferguson/Wenger war and from October 2004 despite the fact that they’ve had their fair share of dodgy decisions here since. They see United as their enemy despite being pilfered and embarrassed by City and Chelsea.

The bitterness remains – United fans don’t like Arsenal fans, and it’s particularly difficult when they have an upturn in form and people talk about them as a better team in the moment through phases of a season. This game proved again that there are three teams of quality in the league. United might be fourth – but they’re closer to the rest than the top.

Oh, for the intensity and quality of yesteryear. Arsenal are even further away, but United are closer to them than to City or Liverpool, as this back and forth match proved. We had hoped that a step had been taken this season – can Ralf Rangnick help them take it?


Michael Carrick signed off with a 4-2-3-1 – Harry Maguire was recalled straight away after his suspension and Dalot was called into play on the right side following a Wan-Bissaka injury. Lucky Maguire, then, and unlucky Bailly, whose performance at Stamford Bridge did not deserve to be replaced by someone who has played like Maguire has in recent weeks.

This was one of the games chosen for Amazon Prime and their pre-match build up featured this description – ‘a very very attacking team’ – which tells you much about how things can be perceived once a manager has been dismissed, considering the shape and personnel was almost identical to that for most of the last two seasons.

This evening was never going to be a conclusive argument for or against this team shape but it did at least put to bed any idea that there was some mini-revolution in the caretaker era – the bold resting of Fernandes and Ronaldo in recent games aside, the shapes and systems were all variations of those used under Solskjaer. Carrick’s selections have not demonstrated a particular taste for punishing poor form.

Prior to the match Carrick dismissed talk of ‘pressing’ as ‘silly’ which might have been an unfortunate turn of phrase, but if not, was likely to indicate he doesn’t see his own long term future under the direction of the new manager. It was announced by the club immediately that he had left his position after the match and would leave the club – which gave its own answer. Carrick leaves after 15 years at the club who won almost everything there is to win in the game.

If this was the last we’ll see of the Solskjaer set-up then it went out with a bit of a bang in terms of entertainment, though overall quality left a bit to be desired.


De Gea 6

Dalot 7

Lindelof 7

Maguire 7

Telles 7

McTominay 6

Fred 8

Sancho 6

Fernandes 7

Rashford 6

Ronaldo 8

Subs :

Lingard 6


Van De Beek

Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the family-authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport films 'Too Good To Go Down' in 2018, and 'True Genius', in 2021, both adapted from his books of the same name. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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