LONDON — There were not a parked bus in sight at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as Arsenal and Manchester United put on a show.
United ran out 3-1 winners with two goals from Jesse Lingard and an early Antonio Valencia strike, but that only tells part of the story as Alexandre Lacazette scored for the Gunners, Paul Pogba was sent off and David De Gea was in sensational form.
Here’s what we learned from an absolutely bonkers encounter in north London.
DE GEA ON ANOTHER PLANET
David de Gea saved Manchester United time and time again on Saturday.
In the first half the Spanish goalkeeper saved superbly from Alexandre Lacazette while on the floor as the ball looped up and hit the bar. He then clawed the ball away as Romelu Lukaku knocked the ball towards his own goal.
He wasn’t done. Oh no. In the second half he saved superbly from Alex Iwobi and then moments later, with the score 2-1 and Arsenal pushing, he made one of the best double saves you will see. De Gea dove to his right to save Lacazette’s low effort and then his reactions to get up and deny Alexis Sanchez were lightning quick. That moment changed the outcome of this game.
De Gea was the man of the match by a country mile. It is time we placed him above Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois as the best goalkeeper on the planet right now. Simple.
Judging by United’s defensive performance, De Gea will be a busy man against Manchester City in the Manchester Derby next weekend.
SAME DEFENSIVE ISSUES ARISE FOR ARSENAL
Arsenal were the better team from the majority of this game. They had 15 shots on target and 75 percent of the possession but defensive mistakes, once again, cost them dear.
Wenger’s men were 2-0 down with 12 minutes gone and it came via two absolutely needless giveaways from central defenders. United’s third goal came from another defensive mistake.
Just like against Manchester City and Liverpool this season, Arsenal’s lack of defensive solidity in big games against their top four rivals was the difference.
Laurent Koscielny gave the ball away cheaply for United’s first goal and was bullied by Paul Pogba for United’s third and Shkodran Mustafi‘s poor ball led to United’s second.
Arsenal missed chances galore and came up against an inspired De Gea and on another day they could have won 4-3. They didn’t because their defensive lapses surfaced once again. That’s what will cost them any chance of achieving anything more than finishing in the top four for the foreseeable future.
UNITED RUTHLESS ON COUNTER
Yes, United rode their luck and had DDG to thank for their win, but they also launched several sensational counter attacks with Pogba, Anthony Martial and Lingard leading the charge to support Lukaku.
All three of United’s goals came on the counter but their second goal summed up how ruthless they were on the break. Lukaku played in Martial who had cut in from the left and his clever turn and ball into Lingard led to the onrushing United midfield sweeping home. It was a thing of beauty.
In truth, United could have scored with more of their counters as Lingard had his shot tipped onto the post by Petr Cech in the second half and Lukaku was reluctant to shoot on similar breakaways.
Remember: this was a team who has scored just one goal in seven outings away at the “top six” since Mourinho took charge in August 2016. They could have scored five times, at least, on the counter on Saturday.
There was no parking the bus. The bus was strategically placed for a quick getaway and it worked a treat with Pogba and Lingard causing havoc.
POGBA RED CARD 50/50; TOUGH CALLS WRONG
Pogba undid all of his good work with a moment of madness.
United’s French midfielder went in studs up on Hector Bellerin who had his left leg across the floor and referee Andre Marriner gave Pogba a straight red card. That will keep him out of the next three games, including the Manchester Derby against Manchester City next Sunday.
You can see why Marriner gave the red card. Pogba had time to pull out of the challenge and it was studs up on Bellerin’s calf. It didn’t look great, especially on the replay, but did he mean it? Was it malicious? The jury is out but it’s unlikely Pogba will win his appeal, if he lodges one, with the FA. His lung-bursting runs will be badly missed by United against Man City next Sunday and his much anticipated battle with Kevin De Bruyne will have to wait until later in the season.
Other big calls were clearly incorrect as Danny Welbeck was brought down by Matteo Darmian in the box and Arsenal should have had a penalty kick, while Koscielny should have been sent off when taking down Lukaku as last man. Bellerin may have been getting back, but when the foul was committed Arsenal’s center back was the last man.