Arsenal 2-0 Man United: Xhaka and Welbeck End United’s Unbeaten Run

welbeck
Photo Credit To @Arsenal

Xhaka and Welbeck struck within minutes of each other to hand United their first defeat in 25 games and Wenger his first win over Mourinho in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger finally got to notch his first point on the scorecard on Sunday night, thanks to a fortuitous finish for Xhaka and fierce header from Welbeck that proved enough to down an under-strength Manchester United at the Emirates. His and Mourinho’s head-to-head in the league now reads 8-1 to the Portuguese. And the Frenchman finally has some tangible cause for happiness in what has been utterly miserable couple of months in charge.

Jose Mourinho may have been expecting it, but Sunday’s loss at the Emirates wouldn’t have hurt any less for him. The Portuguese came into the fixture making wholesale changes to the side that was victorious against Celta Vigo in midweek. And even though the squad for Sunday’s clash with Arsenal wasn’t by any measure second-string, it wasn’t one that the United manager would field to face his arch rival in ideal conditions. With one eye on the semifinal second leg on Thursday, Mourinho had to prioritise one over the other. And for one who so delights in needling Wenger, he must have pained him to compromise on Sunday’s game.

While Xhaka’s deflected, looping finish may have been down to mostly luck, the header from Welbeck certainly wasn’t. Certainly it was a mistake/miscommunication between Smalling and the fledling right-back Tuanzebe that allowed the former United man to power home. But it was a very well taken goal, coming less than four minutes after Xhaka’s, and effectively stunned the visitors. And it gave the Gunners a deserved push at the end of a particularly difficult campaign, breathing hope yet of a respectable finish. They still remain sixth. But now at least they stand a mathematical chance of sneaking in.

United start brightly only to eventually succumb to pressure from the hosts

Manchester United just can’t seem to maintain a consistent identity. While the plague-like blunt mediocrity of the years between Ferguson and Mourinho seems to have almost receded, United still can’t seem to sustain any initial spells of fluency and dominance and translate them into controlled wins. Here too, Mourinho’s side began well in an open exchange between the two sides. Martial ended a typically mazy run with an effort Cech had to deal with. Ramsey tested De Gea’s reflexes at the other end. And Rooney missed yet another gilt-edged chance – which came via a Rob Holding howler – that he would almost certainly have dispatched automatically a couple or so years ago. That was probably the best opportunity of the half. And not counting a couple of uncomfortably close offside calls against them, United should have been well ahead at the break.

Instead, Mourinho’s side allowed themselves to be pushed deep into their own half after the restart, compounding the frustration of their supporters. Once Arsenal’s midfield started humming from there on, United barely managed to get out of their own half. The Gunners posed little threat initially, repelled by some good marking and movement from United. But once Xhaka struck, catching Herrera on the back for a wicked deflection that completely threw off De Gea, Arsenal went in for the kill. Welbeck cannoned in a wonderful headed finish not long after off Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross. And the result seemed already decided by then.

Mourinho tried to switch things up, bringing on Lingard and Rashford and also handing young McTominay his Premier League debut. But they couldn’t conjure much, apart from a couple of hopeful attempts from Rooney. Arsenal held on with ease and Wenger finally got to walk away with a win over Mourinho in the top-flight.

”The top four? Impossible.”

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho insisted his side didn’t deserve the loss:

“We made eight changes. Of course, we knew we were not coming in our maximum power. That’s a decision. We want to try to win the Europa League – it’s more important than finishing fourth.

“We didn’t deserve to lose. The game was under control. They had a couple of chances in the first half but so did we and ours were the big chances. Arsenal scored and afterwards they brought the block low and defended well and coped with our attacking football.”

On hopes of finishing in the top four:

“The top four? Impossible. For two reasons. I don’t think the other clubs, who are playing one match a week, are going to lose. And, because we go with everything on Thursday [Europa], we cannot go with everything at Tottenham [on Sunday].”

The Portuguese was his belligerent self despite finally falling to his old nemesis, and expectedly had a few parting shots:

“Arsenal’s 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 and they were crying – walking the streets with heads low. Today they leave with their scarves [waving in the air].

“Arsène Wenger is not a small manager, he’s a big manager – to have that record of winning so many matches [against him] is not normal. I really don’t care about it [the loss] today. No problems. We shook hands and during the game I don’t like what I never like. He puts too much pressure on the fourth official every time.”

Meanwhile Wenger remains cautiously optimistic of Arsenal’s chances

The Frenchman was pleased with the result on the night – not least because of his victory over Mourinho:

“We started a bit nervous and under pressure but slowly we became better and, in the second half we controlled well the game. The first goal was quite lucky and the second goal was a great goal.”

On whether Arsenal can still finish in the top four:

“We want to win our games. Some teams that are safe continue to fight. Let’s focus to win our games. Every win is important. We had a bad patch and seem to have recovered from it.

“We now have a big game on Wednesday night at Southampton and we need to be calm and focused. We still have a chance [to finish in the top four] and we need some help from teams around us. I watched the Liverpool game before we kicked off. And I saw the penalty that the referee gave to them. It was a very nice decision.”

On Welbeck’s header:

“That’s the kind of goal you want from Danny. He has all the abilities a striker needs. Hopefully, that will give him a boost.”

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