Manchester United 3, Arsenal 2
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists his team are still in the Premier League title race despite seeing their hopes severely dented by Manchester United’s newest hero Marcus Rashford.
Eighteen-year-old Rashford took his tally to four goals from his first two senior games with a quickfire first-half brace that laid the foundations for United’s victory.
Former Old Trafford striker Danny Welbeck cut the deficit but Ander Herrera’s deflected shot re-established the hosts’ two-goal cushion before Mesut Ozil gave the Gunners hope of a late rally.
Arsenal now trail leaders Leicester by five points with 11 games remaining and lie three points adrift of Tottenham ahead of Saturday’s colossal north London derby.
“We are still in the title race,” said Wenger, whose side host Swansea next in midweek. “We still have time to close the gap. But there is no point feeling sorry for ourselves, our response has to be quick and it has to be strong.
“The regret is having so much of the ball, so much possession, but we conceded three goals away and it’s difficult when you’re away from home. We put the effort in but we struggled to be dangerous. From the middle of the pitch, we were not dangerous enough.”
Wenger refused to be drawn on United boss Louis van Gaal throwing himself to the ground in front of fourth official Mike Dean in protest at what he perceived to be Arsenal diving. “I’ve no comment to make on that, you will just say I’m a bitter loser – which I am – but I have no thoughts on that,” he said.
He and Van Gaal did agree on the promise shown by Rashford, who struck twice on his senior debut for injury-depleted United against Midtjylland on Thursday and repeated the trick on his top-flight bow.
The teenager, who only netted his first for the club’s under-21s two months ago, pounced to plant a shot high past Petr Cech after Gabriel failed to clear Guillermo Varela’s cross in the 29th minute.
Rashford struck again just three minutes later when Arsenal again laboured to deal with a cross, Jesse Lingard hoisted the ball back into the penalty area and the youngster nodded down past Cech.
Welbeck, who dumped United out of the FA Cup on his first return with Arsenal last season, glanced in Ozil’s free-kick to hint at a comeback just before half-time.
But it was United who struck next in the 65th minute, Rashford leading a break before teeing up Herrera to score from 20 yards, via a heavy deflection off Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny.
The Gunners responded moments later through Ozil, who drove into the ground and in after David de Gea had saved from Welbeck, but United held on to reclaim fifth place from West Ham.