Arsenal 3-1 Man Utd (Odegaard 28′, Rice 90+5′, Jesus (90+10′ | Rashford 27′)
EMIRATES STADIUM — There are few greater joys in football than the jubilant celebration to toast a last-minute winner. Both Arsenal and Manchester United experienced it at the end of a pulsating contest at the Emirates but only the home fans went home happy.
Alejandro Garnacho thought he was the hero, steering a low shot expertly into the corner as the clock ticked towards 90 after a slick United move had pierced open Arsenal’s backline. No sooner had the teenager bellowed Vamos in impassioned delight that VAR came to spoil his party. Gabriel Magalhaes froze in the nick of time to play Garnacho off.
There was no such anguish for Declan Rice. In the fifth minute of eight added on, Arsenal’s record signing made the difference, lashing a volley into the bottom corner to send his new supporters into dreamland. Gabriel Jesus added a third, but it was Rice’s moment. The stadium PA announcer crystalised it by sticking on Ice Ice Baby and the home fans partied like it was 1990.
Erik ten Hag felt that fine margins went against his side. “It was not offside, the wrong angle,” he said of Garnacho’s disallowed strike. “It’s a penalty on [Rasmus] Hojlund and then we concede a goal that’s a foul on Jonny Evans. It’s so clear and obvious.”
Even at this premature stage of the season it felt like a significant result for the Gunners. A draw or a defeat would have left them cut adrift of Manchester City heading into the international break. Instead, the gap is just two points and the mood is buoyant rather than flat.
Rice, who Arteta described as “tremendous” and “dominant” after the game, said as much to Sky Sports as he collected his thoughts at the end of the game.
“Man City have won four out of four, if we didn’t win today we would have been five points behind [if Garnacho’s goal stood],” he said. “That’s a massive margin to make and we couldn’t have that distance after four games. To go into the break with a couple of wins and a draw is great.”
Defeat for United meant a continuation of their wretched away form against “Big Six” rivals plus Newcastle. Their record under Ten Hag in such matches reads: played eight, won none, drawn two and lost six. They have been beaten by half of their last dozen opponents on the road. This was a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, but it’s still a big issue that the Dutchman must solve.
United even went in front this time, scoring from their first attack after a nervy, unconvincing start. A loose Kai Havertz touch fell to Christian Eriksen and his raking pass sent Marcus Rashford streaming forward in pursuit. United’s No 10 retrieved the ball, cut inside and bent a shot in off the post, via a touch from Aaron Ramsdale’s fingertips.
It was Rashford’s fourth league goal in his last three games against Arsenal, but his celebrations were soon cut short. Gabriel Martinelli tore past Aaron Wan-Bissaka from kick-off and teed up Martin Odegaard to slam home the equaliser and wipe out United’s one-goal lead after just 35 seconds. Rashford went from tapping his temple to putting his head in his hands.
Odegaard may be renowned for his playmaking qualities but he brings so much more to this Arsenal team, notably energy off the ball and quality in front of goal. Only five Premier League players, including Rashford, have scored more non-penalty goals than the Norwegian since the start of 2022-23.
Before those blows were traded the game was played at a serene pace; for the 70 minutes or so after it descended into ridiculously watchable chaos. It seesawed from one end to the other, and Victor Lindelof and Bukayo Saka could have both been sent off before half-time, with the former committing a desperate lunge on Eddie Nketiah and the latter catching Bruno Fernandes with his studs.
The fun continued after half-time. United had a glorious double chance after the restart but Anthony Martial’s shot was saved by Ramsdale and Rashford’s goal-bound follow up blocked brilliantly by William Saliba.
The luckless Havertz, who had earlier snatched at a glorious chance on his favoured left foot, thought his fortune had changed after being pincered by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Casemiro inside the box. Anthony Taylor had other ideas, reversing his decision to award a penalty after reviewing it on the pitchside monitor.
Rasmus Hojlund was hurled on for his United debut with 25 minutes remaining and made a nuisance of himself, tussling gamely with one of the division’s most aggressive defenders Gabriel. Jadon Sancho, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen, left out of the matchday squad “based on his performances in training”.
United ended the game with arguably their fifth and sixth-choice centre-backs on the pitch, with Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans replacing the injured Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof. Evans’ first competitive appearance for the club in a decade did not go to plan, his toe-poke helping Rice’s firmly struck volley fly past Andre Onana on its way in.
Rice slid on his knees in wide-eyed wonderment before celebrating with all and everyone in his way, basking in their shared ecstasy.