UNAI EMERY got his revenge to finally end Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten Premier League run and fire a warning to Arsenal’s top-four rivals.
Solskjaer masterminded a 3-1 win here in January to knock the Gunners out of the FA Cup, targeting all their weaknesses mercilessly.
Yesterday it was Emery’s turn – but he needed two big slices of luck to pull it off and hand Solskjaer his first league defeat as United boss.
The first was a collector’s item mistake from David de Gea, who allowed Granit Xhaka’s swerving long-range shot to zip past him for the opener.
And then referee Jon Moss helped to settle it, deciding the softest of challenges by Fred on Alexandre Lacazette warranted a penalty.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted it to become the first player since Alexis Sanchez in 2016-17 to reach 20 goals in a single campaign for Arsenal.
But credit where it’s due. Emery found a way to get Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey into his team together for the first time since September and it worked a treat.
Arsenal needed this too after Thursday’s shambolic 3-1 Europa League defeat to Rennes, and they showed plenty of character and steel to bounce back.
United had an extra day’s rest on them after shocking Paris St-Germain on the Wednesday, but despite creating a host of chances they couldn’t beat Bernd Leno.
It all meant Arsenal leapfrogged their opponents into the top four, prompting jubilant fans to sing: “Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you!”
They are as well. Struggling Spurs are just a point ahead of them now in third, with the battle for the final two Champions League spots looking like it could go right down to the wire.
De Gea has been so, so good this season but the opening goal he conceded here was so, so soft.
The Spain No. 1 looked completely wrong-footed as Xhaka was allowed all the time in the world to receive a pass from Ainsley Maitland-Niles and fire in a shot from 25 yards.
But it was still a surprise to see it hit the back of the net, with De Gea taking a fatal step in the wrong direction and unable to recover in time.
United had already hit the crossbar through Romelu Lukaku before that, and they hit the woodwork again when a shot from Fred hit the post.
And they continued to be a threat with Bernd Leno doing well to stop Lukaku in his tracks before the half was over.
But in keeping with this fixture’s history of bad blood there was plenty of niggly stuff too, with Xhaka rolling around theatrically after Marcus Rashford left something on him in one challenge.
Paul Pogba and Aaron Ramsey also got into a spat after half time when the Frenchman wrapped an arm around the Wales midfielder’s neck and tugged him down.
Leno denied Lukaku again and Rashford flashed a free kick wide, but it looked like game over for United when they conceded a penalty with 22 minutes left.
It was Fred that Lacazette tempted into the challenge and while there was certainly contact it was minimal.
But referee Moss had no doubt, pointing straight to the spot, with Aubameyang stepping up to send De Gea the wrong way.
Pogba then cleared a Sokratis header off the line as Arsenal pushed for a third, and by the end Arsenal were worthy winners.