Arsenal inflict first domestic defeat on Solskjaer's United
|(Granit Xhaka 12, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 69-pen)|
Arsenal ended Manchester United's unbeaten domestic record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-0 win at the Emirates on Sunday.
A swerving strike from Granit Xhaka and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty earned the Gunners a victory that sent them into the Champions League places while pushing United back down to fifth.
It was United’s first league defeat since Dec 16, Jose Mourinho’s last game in charge, and ended Solskjaer’s remarkable three-month, 12-match unbeaten league start as his interim replacement.
Arsenal went ahead in the 12th minute when Xhaka belted a shot from 30 metres out, with United goalkeeper David de Gea seemingly wrong-footed by the curve of the ball.
“He must be Brazilian the way he struck the ball, the way it swerves,” Solskjaer said after the game.
United hit the woodwork either side of the goal, with Romelu Lukaku heading against the crossbar first and Fred striking the post minutes later.
Lukaku had a golden opportunity to score from close range early in the second half but his first touch was heavy and, as he lunged to shoot, goalkeeper Bernd Leno blocked the shot with his body to send the ball spinning up and over the bar.
Marcus Rashford was at the centre of the action as United worked hard to pull themselves level. The England striker smashed a free-kick wide after Aubameyang bundled Paul Pogba to the ground 25 metres out.
Rashford was through on goal again moments later but could not get his shot away as Leno rushed forward and got down to collect the ball.
Arsenal won a very soft-looking penalty in the 69th minute when Fred was judged to have brought down Alexandre Lacazette, with the replay showing that the Brazilian barely brushed the Frenchman’s side as they ran for the ball.
Aubameyang then converted the penalty, making up for his missed spot-kick at Tottenham Hotspur a week earlier.
“I made a mistake against Tottenham, looking down at the last moment, not watching (Spurs keeper Hugo) Lloris, but today I watched until the end, and being focused you score a penalty,” the Gabonese striker told Sky Sports.
In the second pitch invasion incident in one day in English football, a man ran on after Aubameyang’s goal and shoved United defender Chris Smalling. He then approached Arsenal players with his arms aloft before stewards took him off the pitch.
Earlier in the day in the second-tier Championship, Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish was punched by a pitch invader during a derby match at Birmingham City.
The win lifted Arsenal to 60 points, just one point behind their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are third, and two points above United who slipped to fifth.
Earlier on Sunday, second-placed Liverpool beat Burnley 4-2 to move on to 73 points, one behind leaders Manchester City. – REUTERS