Nuno the anarchist makes wild game wilder


Key moments went Arsenal’s way. Not least United’s penalty miss and hits on the post and bar.

One of the issues when Manchester United are in town: there’s tension between Man United’s historical image and their current reality.

They have the players to win games with individual brilliance, but the team is flawed and liable to concede goals.

Ominously Ronaldo was back on 99 goals.

Man U hadn’t lost in the capital for 13 games.

Nketiah stayed for his 14th Arsenal start.

Could Nuno Tavares’ unpredictability be a secret weapon?

Early Arsenal pressure told when Xhaka’s cross found Saka whose shot was parried by De Gea into the path of the on-rushing Tavares who poked it home for his first Arsenal goal.

The Portuguese seemed the centre of attention, popping up everywhere, and shooting wildly missing the goal, when passes to colleagues would have been better, and avoiding a penalty claim. And in the second half was architect of the game’s critical moment and he inexplicably raised his arm and touched the ball from a corner, leading to Fernandes’ penalty miss at 2-1.

Mikel Arteta put it diplomatically: “Tavares had a few difficulties in the second half.”

Maybe he can be Arsenal’s secret weapon – confusing the opposition with his unpredictability – so long as his colleagues can work out what he is trying to do.

Arteta had told the players to start quick and get the crowd onside. A goal in two minutes probably surprised him.

But like in the Chelsea game, an Arsenal goal seemed to encourage opponents.

Ronaldo flicked to Fernandes and onto Elanga who drew a good save out of Ramsdale. McTominay had a chance from a header. Ramsdale sent a goal kick straight to Fernandes whose effort was half-blocked by Gabriel. Elanga had another run from a Ronaldo pass, into the Arsenal area and fell under pressure from Tavares. Dalot hit the bar from distance.

At the other end, Odegaard set up Nketiah but he hit it straight at De Gea, when a foot either side would have netted.

But soon after, Saka and Odegaard combined with the ball coming off the England international, as he was falling under Telles’ challenge. VAR eventually gave a penalty after Nketiah had netted from an offside position.

Saka drove it hard to De Gea’s right for his 12th of the season. Man U haven’t won from being 2-0 down since 2020.

Again, an Arsenal goal seemed to galvanise United. Matic sent in a dinked cross between White and Gabriel and with Ramsdale in nomansland, Ronaldo moved ahead of Gabriel, as if by stealth and kept the half-volley low and into the net.

Arsenal had chances after that with Elneny, Saka and Odegaard having shots saved or blocked along with Tavares’ wild attempts on goal.

Ronaldo swivelled from a looping header and found the net – but was millimetres offside.

Ramsdale got a fingertip to a Dalot shot – onto the post and out

Groans accompanied Xhaka as he kicked the ball away completely unnecessarily for his 50th yellow. And Tavares, wanting to be back in the limelight, subconsciously or otherwise, pulled Telles’ shirt after lack of control and also got a yellow.

But jeers turned to cheers as Saka’s cross was cleared, Fernandes lost control and Elneny who had a sound match, set up Xhaka for a thunderbolt into De Gea’s net – his first of the season which effectively decided things.

Saka came off with an ominous thigh problem. Holding came on to shore up the defence. And on anther cheering note Tomiyasu returned after a long absence.

Xhaka said: I am happy for three points. It’s been a long time I didn’t score. It is good – my family is here. It was 50/50 in the second half. United were pressing us. But I like to score against United.

Mikel Arteta told us in the first 15 to take the fans with us and try and score. To win 3-1 v United is important.

“It is not first time we score and concede after five minutes. We need to be stronger mentally. After the third the game was finished.”

Mikel Arteta said: “It was a big performance. It had everything. Threats, chances, and moments which were lost and lacking energy, and efficiency in the boxes. We had luck when we needed it.

“They have exceptional players.

On the injury to Saka, he said: “We have four or five players with difficulties at start of match.”

On the race for Champions League places: “It is going to be a rollercoaster with small margins.”

Ralph Ragnick said: “We had plenty of opportunities. We showed an improved performance. It is a difficult result. We had numerous chances to score. We didn’t defend well inside and round the box. There were three unlucky VAR decisions. Their third goal was offside. David couldn’t see the ball. One of our goals was not offside. And there was a handball in the first.

“The penalty would have changed the whole game. We were very unlucky. There’s a lot of work to do. But we showed what kind of football we can play. We showed attitude.

But the German admitted: “The top four has gone.”

Premier League: Arsenal 3 Manchester United 1

Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 17Cédric Soares (Substituted for Tomiyasu at 90+1’minutes), 4White, 6Gabriel, 20Tavares (Booked at 68mins), 25Elneny (Booked at 79mins), 34Xhaka (Booked at 67mins), 7Saka (Substituted for Holdingat 74’minutes), 8Ødegaard, 10Smith Rowe (Substituted for Martinelli at 64’minutes, 30Nketiah

Manchester United: 1de Gea, 20Dalot, 2Lindelöf (Booked at 82mins), 19Varane, 27Telles (Booked at 31mins), 39McTominay, 31Matic (Substituted for Rashford at 77’minutes), 36Elanga (Substituted for Lingard at 77’minutes),18Bruno Fernandes (Booked at 76mins, Substituted for Mata at 84’minutes), 25Sancho, 7Cristiano Ronaldo (Booked at 90mins)