Eddie Nketiah bags brace as Arsenal saw off hard-fighting Manchester United in a five-goal thriller at Emirates to retain Premier League title hopes.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils were looking to complete a double against Arsenal after winning the first leg 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag was forced to make one change from the side that drew against Palace, replacing Casemiro with McTominay in the middle of the park while Mikel Arteta stuck to the squad that humbled Tottenham 2-0 at London Stadium.
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Manchester United: David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw; Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Wout Weghorst.
A dramatic first half saw Mikel Arteta pit his potent squad against a resurgent Manchester United squad well trimmed by Erik Ten Hag.
Manchester United showed a more balanced and stable teamwork throughout the first half with great attacking prowess.
The Red Devil’s back four – Varane, Martinez, Wan-Bissaka, and Shaw – provided enough stability to the team, allowing McTominay and Christian Eriksen to advance forward despite playing as defensive midfielders.
Shaw marked out Bukayo Saka in the left-back while Wan Bissaka effectively tackled Gabriel Martinelli in the right flank.
In the middle of the park, Bruno Fernandes was able to contain Thomas Partey, but Arsenal still had some level of control over the game with a subpar performance by McTominay.
Casemiro’s absence was obvious, with Arsenal captain Odeggard and Xhaka helping the Gunners push through counterattacks.
Manchester United gave nothing away in the game. They also launched offensives and created chances.
It was a balanced game breathing with quality from both sides. United were far better in contesting for possession and frustrating Arsenal wingers upfront.
United went into the lead in the 17th minute. A brilliant strike from Marcus Rashford from outside the box swung the visitors into the lead.
It was Thomas Partey’s mistake that led to the goal. The former Atletico Madrid man was dispossessed in the middle of the park by Fernandes, who releases Rashford into the final third. The England star then fired from 25 yards out and it was a goal for the Red Devils.
A few minutes later, Arsenal responded perfectly in the 37th minute. Granit Xhaka played down the space in the left flank and then delivered a cross into the box. Eddie Nketiah guided it with a beautiful header into the net to level the scores at 1-1.
Both sides made 239 passes in the first half but Man United completed more passes 197 against Arsenal’s 188. Arsenal had 51% of the ball possession against Manchester United’s 49%.
Overall, the first half witnessed both teams show off great quality and brilliance with the ball.
Arsenal dominated proceedings in the second half and mounted heavy pressure on Manchester United for a winner.
In the 53rd minute, the Gunners earned a deserved lead. Bukayo Saka produced an incredible magical moment bending in from the right flank with menace before firing a thunderbolt pass De Gea from 25 yards into the bottom-left corner.
It was a stunner strike from the England man, but Arsenal’s lead was shortlived 6 minutes later with a diving header from Lisandro Martinez from six yards after a corner kick. Ramsdale slapped off Eriksen’s corner, and the ball fell directly into the path of the Argentina World Cup winner who brought the scores level at 2-2 draw with a diving header.
After Lisandro Martinez’s equaliser, Arsenal were mounting intense pressure on Man United in search of a winner. It was Eddie Nketiah again in the 90th minute.
Nketiah scored a crucial winner at the death guiding Odeggard’s strike pass De Gea into the back post to restore Arsenal’s lead. The goal was disputed but after VAR check, it was upheld.
Arsenal then held off Man United’s late-minute pressure to secure a vital 3-2 win that keeps them ahead in the Premier League title race.