Thursday 14 December 2017

Gunners Wel' within reach of 'top four'

Arsenal 2 Manchester Utd 0

Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring against his former club Manchester United
with team-mates Alexis Sanchez yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring against his former club Manchester United with team-mates Alexis Sanchez yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger finally recorded a Premier League victory against Jose Mourinho as Arsenal kept their slim top-four hopes alive with a well-deserved win over Manchester United.

The under-fire Frenchman had failed to beat Mourinho in the pair’s previous 12 league meetings but he got his first three points against the former Chelsea boss just when he needed it.

Granit Xhaka’s deflected strike gave the hosts a lead at the start of the second half before ex-United striker Danny Welbeck scored his third in as many games against his former employers to secure a 2-0 win.

Arsenal remain sixth despite the win but will still harbour hopes of closing a six-point gap on Manchester City in fourth.

The Gunners have a game in hand.

United still had a strong side despite making eight changes from their Europa League semi-final first leg against Celta Vigo but Mourinho’s unblemished record against Wenger never looked like remaining intact.

The likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney came into the side for the visitors, with the latter guilty of missing a great first-half chance.

The recalled Rooney, who has scored more Premier League goals against the Gunners than any other player, headed over an early Mata cross.

Arsenal tested David De Gea soon after but the Spaniard easily saved an Alexis Sanchez effort.

The lively early start continued as Anthony Martial ghosted in behind the three-man Arsenal defence to collect a Rooney pass only to see his shot turned behind by Petr Cech.

Both goalkeepers were called on to keep their sides level and it was De Gea who showed why he had been named in the PFA Premier League team of the year as he dived low to tip an Aaron Ramsey shot away from goal following a superb Mesut Ozil pass.

Welbeck came close as the half wore on, fit-again Jones bravely blocking his close-range shot.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sold Rooney a dummy and then forced another save out of De Gea with a long-range strike.

Their good work was almost undone as Rob Holding played a pass into his own box which Rooney was alive to, beating Laurent Koscielny to the ball but not tucking it past Cech when clean through.

The half petered out but Arsenal needed less than 10 minutes after the interval to take the lead - albeit with a huge slice of luck.

Xhaka lined up a long-range strike and his speculative effort took a big deflection off the back of Herrera to loop up over De Gea to open the scoring.

And the hosts needed a little over three minutes to double their advantage as Welbeck rose unmarked to head home an inch-perfect Oxlade-Chamberlain cross.

United boss Mourinho couldn’t resist a parting shot at Arsenal: “Arsenal fans are happy and I’m happy for them. It’s the first time I leave and they’re happy.

“I leave Highbury they were crying. I leave the Emirates, they were crying, walking the streets with heads low.

“Today they leave waving their scarves. It’s a big club. You think I enjoy a big club like Arsenal not winning trophies? I don’t enjoy. But today I tried to win.

“Arsene Wenger is not a small manager, he’s a big manager, to have that record of winning so many matches is not normal. Normal is win, lose, draw. I really don’t care about it today. No problems.

“We shook hands but during the game I don’t like what I never like. He puts too much pressure on the fourth official every time.”

Wenger, who finally got the better of old adversary Mourinho in the Premier League, admits qualifying for the Champions League remains a long shot but said: “There’s still a mathematical chance. We need some help but the best help we can get is from our own focus between now and the end of the season.”

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