Aaron Ramsey scored the only goal of the game to keep alive Arsenal’s slim hopes of winning the Premier League while simultaneously putting a dent in United’s chances.
The victory for Arsenal means that they’re six points behind United and three behind Chelsea with three games to go. United and Chelsea’s goal difference is now level on +38 meaning that should Chelsea win at Old Trafford next week, they’ll go top of the League.
Arsenal started very well and within the first couple of minutes Jack Wilshere put a snap shot wide after being set up by a poor clearing pass from Nemanja Vidic. If it wasn’t for Rio Ferdinand’s closing down, Wilshere would surely have done better with the chance.
The Arsenal domination continued throughout the first-half but The Gunners never really looked like testing Edwin van der Sar in the United goal. The opening twenty minutes in particular saw Arsenal’s pressure and off the ball running compound United to their own half.
United were poor and couldn’t string more than a few passes together and Arsenal’s tactics to stifle Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney were working. By pressing the United men, they couldn’t find the time or space to look up and feed in the wingers.
Referee Chris Foy was having a very poor afternoon and on more than one occasion got in the way of an Arsenal pass. He then enraged the home support and stand-in captain, Robin van Persie further when he failed to spot a Nemanja Vidic handball in the penalty area. As a cross was whipped in the United captain stuck out his arm to clear it and if spotted it would’ve surely resulted in a red-card for the Serbian as well as a penalty.
United threatened just the once late on in the half when good work on the right between the largely ineffectual Nani and Fabio da Silva released the Brazilian full-back in the Arsenal penalty area but his delayed pull-back to Javier Hernandez was well blocked.
From the way United were playing it appeared that they had set up for a draw; the usual counter-attacking 4-5-1 they employ against The Gunners made way for the successful 4-4-1-1 of recent weeks, but it was proving detrimental to the way that United wished to break down their opponents.
After the break United seemed to have a bit more impetus but struggled to create any chances. Arsenal’s Alex Song time and again got away with checking Rooney’s off the ball runs and when one was penalised, Rooney forced a good save from Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
Antonio Valencia then came on for Anderson which saw Nani switch to the left-wing and Park move central, and it was this change that was to prove costly for United. Park failed to follow Ramsey’s run after poor defensive work had allowed van Persie to check onto his favoured left-foot and tee up the Welshman to calmly place the ball into the corner.
The goal didn’t really spark United into life and – besides a Nani free-kick that had Szczesny beaten and went just wide, they didn’t look like creating a chance. Dimitar Berbatov replaced Hernandez soon after but his introduction made little difference.
Just minutes after the substitution Rooney won the ball well in the middle of the pitch and drove at the backtracking Arsenal defence, he played in Nani on his left but Szczesny was once more equal to the effort.
A further attacking substitution was made when Carrick was replaced by Michael Owen who – almost immediately, was brought down by Gael Clichy as he ran through on goal. Referee Foy waved play on but further viewings show that Clichy clearly fouled Owen in a decision that some will argue is justice for the non-awarding of a penalty for Arsenal in the first-half.
Arsenal never looked like conceding and United never looked like scoring as the game went on, and at full-time The Reds couldn’t really have any complaints with the outcome of the match. If the game against Chelsea wasn’t big enough already, United now know that any slip up will mean they’ll no longer be in the driving seat, and with no margin for error the title really is on the line next Saturday at Old Trafford.
1. van der Sar 6; 20. Fabio 7, 5. Ferdinand 6, 15. Vidic 6, 3. Evra 6; 17. Nani 5, 16. Carrick 6(7. Owen 85), 8. Anderson 5(25. Valencia 55 5), 13. Park 5; 10. Rooney 6; 14. Hernandez 5(9. Berbatov 74).
Referee: Chris Foy
Attendance: 60, 107