Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea produced a goalkeeping masterclass as a 10-man Red Devils side beat arch-rivals Arsenal 3-1 in a hard-fought Premiet League encounter on Saturday night to go within five points of leaders Manchester City.
United were 1-0 up with barely five minutes on the clock after Laurent Koscielny’s pass was intercepted by Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian played a quick one-two with Paul Pobga before firing a powerful shot between Petr Cech’s legs.
Arsenal’s poor start became a catastrophic one when Jesse Lingard robbed Shkodran Mustafi deep in the Gunners’ half. The United Academy product played ball to Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian would release Anthony Martial who, in turn, laid it on a plate for Lingard to slam home in the 12th minute.
Mustafi, signalled to the bench that he was unable to continue and was promptly replaced by Alexi Iwobi. Whether it was the change or the fact that they were 2-0 down, Arsenal responded by dominating the visitors from there on.
Alexandre Lacazette, a surprise inclusion after Arsene Wenger had ruled him out in the build-up, was a lively presence and began to test de Gea’s reflexes from a manner of angles.
By the half-hour mark, Arsenal were by far the dominant side and it was only due to the brilliance of de Gea in goal and Nemanja Matic around the penalty box that United somehow survived a Gunners onslaught till half-time.
Arsenal picked up where they left off after the interval and would reduce the deficit via Lacazette. Alexis Sanchez spotted Aaron Ramsey’s run into the box and sent in an inviting cross for the Welshman who unselfishly set up Lacazette to score from close range with de Gea beaten for once.
Jose Mourinho had set up his side to hit the hosts on the counter and Lingard would have a one-on-one with Cech soon after United conceded but the veteran keeper managed to make redirect his shot onto the bar to prevent the Red Devils from restoring their two-goal advantage.
Four minutes before the hour-mark came a key moment in the tie when Lacazette beat his marker to send a fierce shot in, but de Gea was not only equal to the initial shot but the rebound from Sanchez as well to preserve his side’s lead.
And United would make Arsenal pay dearly via a clinical counter-attack with Pogba the architect once again. The midfielder shrugged off his compatriot’s Koscielny’s challenge on the wing to square it for Lingard to stroke home into an empty net in the 63rd minute.
At that time it seemed like game over and Jose Mourinho responded with a typical substitution, taking off Martial for Ander Herrera but Pobga would go from hero to zero when he got sent off for leading with his studs while tackling Hector Bellerin.
Referee Andre Marriner promptly sent off the United midfielder and the visitors were up against it for the final 15 minutes but thanks to a desperate rearguard action, survived to claim a priceless away win.
There was plenty of drama after Pogba’s dismissal as Koscielny hauled down Lukaku when the striker was clean through on goal but perhaps the presence of Bellerin saved the French defender as the referee only gave him a cation, much to the disbelief of Mourinho.
Arsenal had two genuine penalty shouts waved away in the closing stages with de Gea almost singlehandedly keeping the Gunners at bay with some incredible saves.
In fact, the United custodian matched a Premier League record by making 14 saves over the course of 90 minutes, the joint-most in a single top-flight game. After Liverpool beat Brighton earlier in the day, Arsenal slipped to fifth place and remain their with their first home loss of the season.
Leaders City can restore their eight-point advantage if they beat West Ham United in their game in hand on Sunday.