London (AFP) – Manchester United ended Arsenal’s 12-match home winning run in a breathless encounter to close the gap on Manchester City on Saturday but Tottenham slipped further off the pace with a costly draw at Watford.
With Pep Guardiola’s pacesetters not in action until Sunday, United’s 3-1 victory took them to within five points of the Premier League summit following emphatic wins for Chelsea and Liverpool earlier in the day.
But Mauricio Pochettino must find a way of lifting struggling Spurs after they dropped two more points against Watford with a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road that leaves them 15 points off the pace.
Jose Mourinho took his team to the Emirates with questions over how they would approach the fixture after a poor recent away record against fellow members of the “Big Six”.
But United quashed all thoughts of shutting up shop and were immediately on the front foot, taking the lead through captain Antonio Valencia in the fourth minute and doubling their lead just minutes later through in-form Jesse Lingard.
Arsenal came back strongly, attacking in waves and pulled a goal back early in the second half through Alexandre Lacazette but United reestablished a two-goal margin through Lingard again.
As the match lost some of its high-octane momentum, referee Andre Marriner sent off Paul Pogba for a studs-up tackle on Hector Bellerin to change the balance of the contest, but Arsenal could not take advantage.
With the Manchester derby looming next week at Old Trafford, United have a chance to haul themselves right back into the title race though Mourinho will be devastated to lose the services of midfielder Pogba.
“I loved the way my team played and fought,” said Mourinho. ” Arsenal played in some period amazing attacking football — creating difficulties for us. But I have to say that my players deserve all the great words.
“I don’t know so many in English but amazing, phenomenal, fantastic. They deserved three points.”
Wenger commented: “I am really disappointed because it was a good performance, but we had nothing to show for it at the end and that is hard to take.”
In a thrilling end-to-end contest United looked irresistible on the break but Arsenal enjoyed more than 70 percent of possession in the first half, hitting 15 shots as David De Gea’s goal led a charmed life.
The Spaniard was incredible throughout but the highlight was an astonishing double save to keep United’s lead intact at 2-1. Mourinho hailed the display as “the best from a goalkeeper in the world”.