Premier League

Arsenal, Man Utd give us a classic as the best rivalry in Premier League history is revitalised

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah celebrates his goal

Arsenal and Manchester United gave us a brilliant game of football, showing the gulf in class between contenders and pretenders after Saturday’s slog fest between Liverpool and Chelsea.


Much of the build-up to this match was about Casemiro – who couldn’t play after picking up a suspension during the week. In fact, it was the absence of another Brazilian who had the biggest impact. Gabriel Jesus’ injury has opened the door for Eddie Nketiah, whose brace won a pulsating game for Arsenal. Jesus might not get back in this side when he is fully fit…

Anyway, Casemiro was unavailable and many expected Martin Odegaard to have the freedom of north London and Arsenal did do a good job of finding him and Gabriel Martinelli in between the lines, but the Norwegian playmaker was uncharacteristically sloppy at the start of the game. Having said that, the hosts would go forward at every possible opportunity and started on the front foot, until United took the sting out of the game and did not just grow into it, but set the pace of it.

It immediately had the feel of a top-of-the-table clash. United were pressing high and effectively, as were Arsenal; both teams were careful in possession but it was not cagey. We had a potential classic on our hands.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was dealing with Martinelli well. Luke Shaw was all over Bukayo Saka like a rash with the Gunners winger unable to be in possession without having his back to goal and his England teammate all over him.

The narratives were aligning themselves nicely. Arsenal were picking up the ball where Casemiro would have been. David de Gea struggled with his distribution. The wingers for both teams were seeing a lot of the ball and Marcus Rashford continued his incredible form by scoring one of his best goals of the season and his first at the Emirates.

Benjamin White has been excellent this season but always seems to struggle whenever faced up against Rashford. This was the case once again on Sunday as he was booked for a very poor challenge on the England forward before being substituted at half-time in what was a sensible decision from Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal pushed for an equaliser and got it in the 24th minute after Nketiah converted a teasing Granit Xhaka cross with Wan-Bissaka caught napping in what was a characteristically lazy piece of defending by the slide-tackling extraordinaire.

After half an hour we knew we had a brilliant game of football on our hands, a day on from Liverpool’s 0-0 draw…

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