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Match report: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League): Antony scores on his debut

Matthew O'Hara

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Match report: Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League): Antony scores on his debut

Marcus Rashford’s second-half double and Antony’s debut strike fired Manchester United to victory over Arsenal

Three days on from Manchester United’s win in the East Midlands against Leicester City, they squared up against historic rivals Arsenal

Mikel Arteta’s North London outfit had made a perfect start to their Premier League campaign and going into the game at Old Trafford, looked to extend this run to six straight wins.

United on the other hand were searching for their fourth straight league victory and in an attempt to secure another three points Erik ten Hag elected to make one change to the side that defeated the Foxes in midweek. 

The Red Devil’s marquee summer signing Antony was handed his Manchester United debut by his former Ajax boss at the expense of Antony Elanga.

Cristiano Ronaldo retained his spot on the bench after his appearance late in the game at the King Power Stadium.

Ten Hag also resisted the temptation to rotate his winning midfield and defense with the dominant Lisandro Martinez preferred over Harry Maguire and Casemiro being made to wait for his first Manchester United start.

United’s final summer arrival Martin Dubravka also featured for the first time on the Red Devil’s bench.

In the end, goals from debutant Antony and Marcus Rashford secured United the points at Old Trafford.

First Half

In front of a raucous Old Trafford, both sides made lively starts to the game, managing to create half-chances at either end of the pitch in the opening minutes.

Seven minutes into the contest, Manchester United had their first golden opportunity to open the scoring through Christian Eriksen. 

A creative pass from debutant Antony who was pinned by Arsenal defenders by the corner flag teed up a Diogo Dalot cross. 

The Portuguese full-back whipped a dangerous ball to Eriksen at the back post, but the Danish playmaker was unable to fire his volley past Aaron Ramsdale.

Moments later in front of the Stretford End, an unmarked William Saliba squandered a big chance for the visitors, slicing a shot from a low cross well wide of David De Gea’s goal.

Despite looking dangerous in the early stages of the game, United would have a huge scare on the 12th minute when Gabriel Martinelli had the ball in the back of the net, but a subsequent VAR check ruled out the goal for a Martin Odegaard foul on Christian Eriksen in the build up.

Although Arsenal’s goal was chalked off, it certainly swung the momentum of the game in the North London sides favour with Mikel Arteta’s side imposing themselves on the encounter.

On the 21st minute, Antony had his first sight of goal in a Manchester United shirt, curling a speculative effort over Aaron Ramsdale’s bar. A clear sign of the new winger's intent.

 After this hectic opening, the pace of the game began to dissipate slightly, but on the half an hour mark David De Gea was forced into using his feet to block a low Martinelli cross that seemed to be creeping inside of the Spaniard’s near post.

Moments later, the Spanish shot-stopper was forced into another important save, on this occasion keeping out a close-range Martinelli header.

Half an hour of Arsenal pressure looked to be wearing down the United players when on the 34th minute The Red Devils made their move.

A driving run from Bruno Fernandes released Jadon Sancho who in-turn found Marcus Rashford on the edge of the penalty area.

With a nutmeg pass the Englishman put the ball on a plate for debutant Antony who swept the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to hand his new side the lead.

Antony celebrates his first goal in Manchester United colours. (Man Utd)
Antony celebrates his first goal in Manchester United colours. (Man Utd)

Mikel Arteta’s side would round off the first-half with a chance of their own through Bukayo Saka who blazed a long-range effort over the bar.

This missed chance brought to an end a blockbuster half with Antony’s debut strike separating the sides at the break.

Second Half 

The opening period of the second-half began with considerably less intensity than the first, with Manchester United taking a more passive approach to their football. 

Six minutes after the restart, Manchester United were counting their lucky stars as Arsenal had two big opportunities to level things.

Martin Odegaard missed the first from close-range before Bukayo Saka blasted a shot just wide of the post from inside the eighteen yard-box, a stark reminder for United that Arsenal were still very much in the game. 

After these near misses for United, Erik ten Hag elected to make his first change of the afternoon on the 58th minute, with the goal-scoring debutant Antony making way for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Moments after Ronaldo's introduction, Old Trafford let out a collective groan when Arsenal found their equaliser.

After spurning his earlier chance, Bukayo Saka made no error with his finish, smashing a deflected ball into an open goal. 

This goal rounded off a period of Arsenal dominance in the early stages of the first-half, which continued after Saka’s strike.

However, on the 65th minute Bruno Fernandes broke the Arsenal lines with an incisive pass that released Marcus Rashford, and the English international made no mistake with the finish that restored United’s lead.

Bruno Fernandes. (Alamy)
Bruno Fernandes. (Alamy)

Three minutes after this goal, the Red Devils could have had a third when Aaron Ramsdale scuffed a clearance straight to Fred, who played through Bruno Fernandes, but the Arsenal goalkeeper was equal to the Portuguese playmaker’s chipped effort. 

From the subsequent corner, Cristiano Ronaldo rose highest but could not divert the ball towards goal.

Following the United second, Mikel Arteta made a host of attacking chances that came back to haunt him on the 75th minute when Christina Eriksen’s surging run broke through the Arsenal defence.

The ball found the Dane who bore down on goal before squaring it to an unmarked Marcus Rashford to extend his goal-tally and the United lead to two.

Seven minutes later, Manchester United almost caught Arsenal on the counter again. A Granit Xhaka mistake was pounced on by Fred who looked to pick out an advancing Cristiano Ronaldo but the pass was all wrong and Ramsdale managed to defuse the danger.

Despite Mikel Arteta’s multitude of offensive changes, Manchester United’s defensive determination and counter-attacking pace undid the North London side with Erik ten Hag’s side recording their fourth victory on the bounce.

Teams

Manchester United: David De Gea, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez (Harry Maguire - 80’), Raphael Varane, Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Antony (Cristiano Ronaldo - 58’), Marcus Rashford (Casemiro - 80’), Jadon Sancho (Fred - 67’) 

Subs: Martin Dubravka, Tom Heaton, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Anthony Elanga

Arsenal: Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White (Takehiro Tomiyasu - 80’), William Saliba, Gabriel, Oleksander Zinchenko (Eddie Nketiah -72’), Albert Sambi Lokonga (Fabio Viera - 72’), Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard (Emile Smith Rowe - 72’), Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus

Subs: Matt Turner, Cedric, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Marquinhos

Featured Image Credit: Manchester United

Topics: Manchester United, Arsenal, Premier League, Antony

Matthew O'Hara
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