Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho aimed a swipe at Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger after his side’s 25-match unbeaten Premier League run was brought to an abrupt halt by the Gunners.
Midfielder Granit Xhaka and former Old Trafford striker Danny Welbeck both scored in quick succession during a destructive second-half blitz to boost Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Sixth-placed Arsenal are now six points adrift of Manchester City in fourth and seven behind Liverpool although hold games in hand on both. United remain fifth, two points clear of the north Londoners.
Victory also allowed Wenger to enjoy this first competitive success over rival Mourinho, with whom he has endured a fractious relationship, at the 16th attempt – a fact not lost on the Portuguese.
“I am happy for them,” said Mourinho, who claimed it was now “impossible” for the Red Devils to finish in the top four.
“This is the first time I leave Highbury or the Emirates and they [the fans] are happy. I left Highbury and they were crying. I left Emirates and they were crying.
“They were walking the street with their heads low, so finally today they sing. It’s nice for them. It’s a big club. Do you think I enjoy that a big club like Arsenal is not winning big trophies? I am not enjoying that, honestly.
“Arsene Wenger is not a small manager, he’s a big manager. So to have that record is not normal.
“Today, no problems. We shook hands before and after the game. During the game, I didn’t like what I never like: he puts too much pressure on the fourth official all the time.”
Wenger, meanwhile, expressed his relief that his charges recovered from defeat at Tottenham to revive their top-four aspirations, although he conceded that snookers are required.
“We could not afford to lose today,” he said. “We have still a chance mathematically, and we need some help as well from the teams around us.”
United were indebted to a low, one-handed David de Gea save on nine minutes to thwart Aaron Ramsey after Alexis Sanchez’s through-ball had dissected their back line.
Centre-half Chris Smalling’s last-ditch block denied Welbeck from close range before De Gea repelled Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 20-yard shot as Arsenal applied pressure on the half-hour mark.
Moments later, however, Rob Holding, playing on the right of Arsenal’s back three, inexplicably playing a square pass into his own six-yard box, forcing Petr Cech to frustrate United skipper Wayne Rooney.
Following a scrappy opening to the second period, Arsenal took a fortuitous lead on 54 minutes when Xhaka’s long-range, left-footed drive deflected off Ander Herrera and looped beyond De Gea.
Arsenal doubled what proved an unassailable advantage three minutes later when Welbeck rose highest to head Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross past De Gea, in off the crossbar.