Substitute Marouane Fellaini’s 91st-minute header ended Wenger’s hopes of getting a share of the spoils on his final trip to the hallowed grounds of the Theatre of Dreams.
Paul Pogba had given the hosts the lead in the first-half but a youthful Gunners side responded via Henrikh Mkhitaryan soon after the restart to leave the tie evenly poised.
In the end, United simply desired the win more and their late charge paid dividends when the divisive figure of Fellaini rose highest to give their fans bragging rights.
The five major talking points from the highlight Premier League fixture of Matchday 36:
Arsene Wenger: Afforded standing ovation from home fans before kick off… faces hilarious banter after
After Jose Mourinho’s requests to the United faithful that Arsense Wenger should be accorded a reception befitting of his service to their arch-rivals, the home fans responded with a standing ovation that was heart-warming, to say the least.
A somewhat grudging respect is a sign of a healthy rivalry and while the French tactician’s endured a turbulent time during the end of his reign, it wasn’t long ago that the Gunners were neck-and-neck with the Red Devils.
Plus, the fact that Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho presented the outgoing Gunners boss with a memento was a nice touch.
As it was, once the game got off the pleasantries were put to one side and Old Trafford was in full voice as they roared their beloved side on.
Once Pogba scored the opener, however, the chants rung out at The Theatre of Dreams with the home fans sarcastically pleading with Wenger to stay on for another year or so.
Got to love some humour and perhaps the half-smile from Wenger was in acknowledgment of that?
Henrikh Mkhitaryan outshines Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez’s reunion with his former Arsenal mates was the talk of town all week while the man who went the other way in January—Henrikh Mkhitaryan—was by and large ignored by the media.
An injury doubt for Sunday’s clash, the Armenian won the race against time to feature against his old side and while he didn’t end up winning the match, he did put a point across at his old stomping ground.
There was a sense of what could have been with Mkhitaryan as he departed after a season-and-a-half in January and his first-half showing was extremely bright, even if he had little to show for it.
He looked like a man who had a point to prove and while Sanchez huffed and puffed, the Chilean didn’t quite look on top of his game.
DON’T MISS | Red Devils striker suffers injury scare
And Mkhitaryan would get the goal he deserved, fairly early in the second-half, to remind the Red Devils what they are missing.
Whatever your stand on his refusal to celebrate, you can’t deny the Armenian put in a tidy shift at Old Trafford.
Arsenal’s future is bright despite cruel loss
The untested Konstantinos Mavropanos was excellent all game long and shackled Romelu Lukaku family well.
Not the easiest task, marking the burly Belgian, on your Premier League debut no less, but the Greek defender was assured from the off on Saturday.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was calm in the central midfield pivot alongside the seasoned Granit Xhaka and Reiss Nelson did cause the United defence some problems with his directness.
The last time Arsenal played such a youthful side at Old Trafford, they lost 8-2 and this was a far, far better performance from their young guns.
Yes, Fellaini’s goal was a sucker punch but the North Londoners can be proud of their display even as their miserable away record in the Premier League continues.
Even Jose Mourinho admitted a draw would have been just about fair!
Jose Mourinho gets his substitutions… just right
While Marcus Rashford’s introduction was forced upon United due to Lukaku’s injury, the other two changes (Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini) were sent on with very specific instructions: Get the winner.
And they did, with Fellaini’s back header settling what had been a subdued affair, at least as past Manchester United-Arsenal clashes go.
The Belgian midfielder’s never been a popular figure at United, due to his ungainly style of play but when it can be so effective, can one really blame the manager for going for the direct route?
Yes, United should do better against a ‘weakened’ team such as the one Wenger fielded on Sunday, but in the end the three points were in the bag, weren’t they?
United effectively assured of 2nd spot now
At long last, United fans can breathe a sigh of relief for with Liverpool’s draw against Stoke City, Jose Mourinho’s men surely have second place secured with their last-gasp win over the Gunners.
With Liverpool set to play two games and United three, the Red Devils have 77 points while the Reds have 72.
Considering the Merseyside outfit travel to Chelsea on Matchday 37, it is highly likely that Jurgen Klopp’s men will drop more points.
United haven’t been pretty this season, but coming second is still a decent achievement and while it will be of scarce comfort for the fans, it does show progress is being made under Mourinho.