Arsenal dealt a blow to Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four Premier League finish as Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka struck in a 3-1 win on Saturday that revived the home side’s chances of Champions League football next season.
Arsenal were rewarded for their blistering early pace as Tavares tapped home in the third minute after United goalkeeper David de Gea pushed away a curling effort by Saka, following some poor defending by the visitors at The Emirates.
Saka doubled the Gunners’ lead from the penalty spot after a foul on the winger in the build-up to a strike by Eddie Nketiah that went in but was ruled out as offside by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
United’s sluggish display overshadowed fleeting moments in which they threatened and was another reminder of the challenge facing incoming manager Erik ten Hag, though the visitors got one back as Cristiano Ronaldo swept in Nemanja Matic’s cross.
The Portuguese forward’s 100th Premier League goal came after a traumatic week personally after the death of one of his newborn twin babies.
In a show of support, Arsenal fans gave the United number seven a round of applause in the seventh minute, as Liverpool supporters had done in their fixture on Tuesday which the Merseyside club won 4-0.
United improved in the second half but their woes deepened as skipper Bruno Fernandes hit the post with a poor effort from the penalty spot following Tavares’ handball, before a 70th-minute thunderbolt from Xhaka sealed the win for the Gunners.
That came after a fine save by Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale to push Diogo Dalot’s effort on to the post — the second time in the game the player hit the woodwork — on a frustrating day for United, who also had a Ronaldo strike ruled out for offside.
“It’s a big performance in a game that had everything. We created chances, we had to suffer, there were moments when we lacked energy and they were on top, we were efficient in the boxes, we had luck,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told BT Sport, adding that the fight for fourth place was going to be tight.
“This is going to be a rollercoaster – today it went in our favour,” he said.
Xhaka said he was delighted to have scored his first goal for the club since Boxing Day 2020.
“Very happy for the three points and secondly very happy to have helped the team with a goal… it’s good to do it front of the fans. But the most important thing was the three points,” the Swiss midfielder said.
The win lifted Arsenal to fourth place on 60 points, three ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who take on Brentford later on Saturday. United are sixth, with interim boss Ralf Rangnick facing a tough task in his final four games.
United have now lost four straight away league games for the first time since a run of six matches between December 1980 and March 1981. They will aim to break that losing streak against Chelsea on Thursday. Arsenal travel to West Ham United next weekend.
Rangnick said United’s top-four chances had effectively ended.
“For me even before the game it wasn’t very likely, but after today’s result it’s gone, yes,” the German said.