Monday 27 December 2021

Match report: Newcastle United 1-1 Man Utd

Manchester United were spared defeat on their return to action through substitute Edinson Cavani's second half leveller.

After a 16-day hiatus following a Covid outbreak at Old Trafford which saw the postponement of our games with Brentford and Brighton, United were second best for long spells against Eddie Howe's lowly but improving Magpies side. 

The Reds remain unbeaten under Ralf Rangnick and have certainly improved in defence, but these will surely be the only two positives the hard-to-please German will take from his side's trip to the north east. Whilst there may have been a degree of ring rustiness, an error-strewn
United will have expected better and were indebted to a save-of-the-season contender from David de Gea late on to deny Miguel Almiron and ensure we didn't - at least - leave empty handed.

The Reds last played at another struggling opponent in Norwich City - a game won by a goal to nil - and there were two changes from that XI as Raphael Varane returned in lieu of Covid positive Victor Lindelof, and Mason Greenwood came in for Jadon Sancho.

It was an error from the rusty Varane which led to Newcastle's early seventh minute lead. Sean Longstaff - so often the scourge of our team - channelled his inner Andres Iniesta to dispossess the Frenchman and fed star man Allan Saint - Maximin. The Magpies flying forward did the rest as he cut inside Harry Maguire and thumped a rising drive beyond the stranded de Gea and in.

The much-malinged Joelinton flashed a shot wide and Saint - Maximin's dangerous delivery narrowly evaded the onrushing Callum Wilson in a fast start from the relegation-threatened hosts.

But United slowly began to gain a foothold in the contest and carved out a chance through our Portuguese connection as Bruno Fernandes found Cristiano Ronaldo but he uncharacteristically skewed off target.

Wilson and Saint - Maximin linked up again as the latter found the former to sweep in from close range but Newcastle's centre forward was flagged offside.

Martin Dubravka had little to do but was called into action to hold Greenwood's free-kick and preserve his side's slender lead at the interval.

Rangnick had seen enough and made two changes for the second half with Cavani and Sancho on for our no.11 and Fred. 
De Gea saved superbly to somehow deny Saint - Maximin from point blank range before Dubravka kept out Rashford as he tipped over from distance at the other end after United's no.10 had briefly come to life. 

The Reds were much improved after the interval and went close twice in quick succession through Cavani - who fired wide - and then Ronaldo's header was well stopped by Dubravka.
Despite our increased threat, Newcastle still looked dangerous on the break with De Gea needed to claw away from Ryan Fraser and then again to block well to keep out the impressive Saint - Maximin. 

The Frenchman had ridden roughshod over United right-back Diogo Dalot, given a torrid time up against Saint Maximin's pace, power and trickery. To his credit, though, Dalot improved in the second half and was involved in the move which helped get us level.

His cross into the box found Cavani and, although the Uruguayan marksman's initial effort was blocked, the ball fell kindly for him to toe-poke home beyond Dubravka at the second attempt - the veteran striker's second goal of an injury-disrupted campaign. 

He almost put United ahead against the run of play on 75 minutes but captain Jamaal Lascelles did well to recover and clear off the line. 
It seemed as though the Reds would lay siege to the Magpies goal in the face of a tiring opposition low on confidence as we chased the winner despite an underwhelming showing.

But, alas, it was Howe's men whom could count themselves unfortunate not to win it as the clock ticked down.

With three minutes left, replacement Jacob Murphy thumped an effort off a post and the ball ricocheted to another South American substitute, Almiron. He let fly with a dipping, 20 yard curler but de Gea somehow flung himself full length to remarkably tip the ball away with his fingertips and prevent a first defeat for Rangnick. 

The Reds are seven points behind fourth-placed Arsenal although have games in hand on all but one of the teams above us. 

Overall team performance: 5/10
United Man of the Match: David de Gea. 

Friday 17 December 2021

There's nothing worse than a weekend without Manchester United

 Here we go again people, it feels like we're back in March of 2020.

Right now, I should be getting ready to go to Manchester. Booked on to the 12.30pm train from Sussex en route to Manchester Piccadilly before heading to Old Trafford for tomorrow's lunchtime game with Brighton.

That was the plan, a plan painstakingly put together over the last few months in readiness for my second trip to Old Trafford during the 2021-22 season. But Covid couldn't resist one more intervention, determined to suck the joy out of life for seemingly the umpteenth time over the last 20 months. 

Even after two years and three jabs, there is no escape from this pandemic for the ages. Only another 5,000 boosters to freedom, people. We thought this was all behind us - the very idea of postponed games and shutdowns seemed so 2020 - but yet here we are all over again. 

Manchester United's game against Graham Potter's Seagulls proved the latest victim to the virus as Covid wreaked havoc on the Premier League. An outbreak at the club, with 19 cases across players and staff, forced United to shut down Carrington and saw our midweek game at Brentford fall by the wayside. When 17 Reds returned to some form of training on Wednesday, hopes were raised we might have enough players to get a side out on Saturday.

But when two more players were sent home having returned positive PCR tests and a further four followed suit on Thursday, the inevitable happened. The game was confirmed to be off shortly before 3pm yesterday with only six senior United players available for selection. Brighton also had an outbreak in their squad and lost to Wolves with a heavily depleted side. Both United and Albion pushed for a postponement and in the end it was the only option. The league were left with no other choice. 

The only - and I mean ONLY - silver lining from this particular Red's point of view was the early decision to postpone. The league had been criticised for calling games off at the eleventh hour but at least we got a swift decision this time. 

At least I knew, at least I wasn't halfway to Manchester before they called it. Our game at Brentford was called off at midnight on Monday, Leicester vs Tottenham fell late morning yesterday and Burnley's tie at home to Watford went even later, only two hours before kick off when the travelling Hornets were already in Lancashire. 

At least we were spared that scenario here as the league broke their own trend 48 hours before kick-off at Old Trafford. I'm gutted I can't go but at least I didn't have to make a wasted journey to Manchester. The whole event of preparing and travelling to a game is part of the wider experience which makes it so special - here's hoping fans will still be permitted into grounds when the rescheduled fixture takes place. 

 It's becoming increasingly apparent action must be taken to stop the storm of Covid cases in the Premier League. As well as our game versus Brighton, Southampton against Brentford, Watford at home to Crystal Palace and West Ham's tie with Norwich, our last opponents, have all been called off because of outbreaks of the virus. So too Leicester's trip to Goodison Park on Sunday. Only five fixtures are set to go ahead as scheduled this weekend but another gameweek without watching our beloved club means you might as well call the whole thing off. It simply isn't the same when you haven't even got United to fill your life even if we're only on TV. 

The league intend to carry on as normal but Brentford boss Thomas Frank joined several of his contemporaries in calling for a "firebreak" shutdown to break the chain of infection, to hit the reset button and go again in January. What do you even do without Boxing Day football? I suspect we're about to find out. 

If the league resist calls for a hiatus, it all means United won't play again until we go to Newcastle on the 27th December - 16 days on from our win at Carrow Road. At a time of year when the games come thick and fast, it's alien to have such a big gap between matches. The issue is - with the 2022/23 season starting early because of the World Cup - a late finish due to any potential shutdown would create a logistical nightmare for the Premier League's powers-that-be. But with games going down left, right and centre, things simply cannot be left as they are. A meeting will be held on Monday by all 20 clubs to discuss the way forward with the traditional Boxing Day feast of football the next set of fixtures. 

I'd rather no football at all than having to go behind closed doors again but I don't think the latter scenario is an issue when the players themselves are dropping like flies. 

I guess I'll spend the weekend doing some wrapping and buying the last of the presents instead then. 

Monday 13 December 2021

Manchester United face PSG... and then Atletico

Manchester United will face Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League after a redraw.

Ralf Rangnick's side were initially pitted with the might of PSG with Cristiano Ronaldo set to go head-to-head against his long time rival Lionel Messi, only for an administrative error to cast doubt on the validity of the draw, ultimately declared "null and void" by European football's governing body. United's ball was initially pulled out the pot against Villarreal but they were ineligible to face each other having met in the group stages - an eventuality UEFA said should have been prevented.

Unai Emery's Yellow Submarines were instead drawn with our cross town rivals and league champions     City. 

Further confusion later occurred when United were missed out from the pot of possible opponents for Atletico Madrid with Liverpool included instead.

But this too was wrong as United could have played the Spanish champions and Liverpool could not, having been in the same group as Simeone's side.

It seemed like a stitch up with UEFA desperate to contrive a Ronaldo vs Messi game to bring in money and TV hits, but at least they came to their senses and justice eventually prevailed - a redraw was the only sensible, fair option even if - as I'm sure it was - the mistakes made were genuine. I would've been OK with PSG had the draw been done properly but there was no way they could leave it as it was. 

UEFA later issued a statement in which they said a technical error with the administrative software caused the chaos. 

It all begged the question: how can something so simple prove so difficult to do? But then that's UEFA - their ability to make a pig's ear out of the seemingly routine remains unrivalled. 

When the restarted draw got underway, the Reds were still given a tough tie, but one better and more appealing than a match with Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and co. I'd definitely prefer Atleti rather than having to play PSG for the umpteenth time although it will be still be very difficult to get past a team known for their needle, organisation and pragmatism. Against Rangnick and his famed "gegenpressing" tactic, it will be a fascinating clash of styles. By then, the Reds will be finely tuned to their new interim manager's methods with a real contrast of football identikits from Rangnick and his opposite number Simeone. 

As group winners and a seeded team, United will travel to the Wanda Metropolitano for the first leg of the knockout tie on 23rd February before we welcome the La Liga giants to Old Trafford a month later (March 15). Atleti are struggling for form having won the league last term but Simeone's penchant to make life hard for even the elite can never be written off. 

The two sides have only ever met twice before in continental competition but never in the European Cup. Atleti ran out 3-0 winners in the 1991/92 European Cup Winners Cup with the return game all square, 1-1, at OT. 

The away goals rule in all European matches has been scrapped with two-legged ties to be decided via extra-time and penalties if required. 

Elsewhere in the revised draw, six-time winners Bayern Munich travel to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, whilst City play Sporting.
Benfica play Ajax, holders Chelsea host French champions Lille (as they did in the original draw), it's Villarreal against Juventus, Internazionale vs Liverpool (with nine European Cups between them) and the undoubted tie of the round as 13-time winners Real Madrid go head-to-head with fellow heavyweights PSG. 

Saturday 11 December 2021

Match report: Norwich City 0-1 Man Utd

 A late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty earned United a narrow victory at lowly but improving Norwich to continue Ralf Rangnick's unbeaten start as Reds boss.

The Portuguese was choke slammed to the turf by Max Aarons as he rose for a cross and sent Tim Krul - so often the scourge of United - the wrong way to settle the contest. 

In truth, the struggling Canaries belied their lowly status with a performance of fight, character and spirit but Dean Smith's side were ultimately punished for their profligacy. In the end, United were indebted to another virtuoso display from the in-form David de Gea who saved from Teemu Pukki and Ozan Kabak to help us to a second successive clean sheet. 

Rangnick made eleven changes to his line up as he reverted to the XI which beat Crystal Palace in his first game in charge. Smith was forced into a makeshift selection through injury, Covid issues and ineligibility. 

Norwich captain Grant Hanley blocked a Scott McTominay effort early on before the Canaries injury problems worsened with the skipper forced from the field on 21 minutes to be replaced by Jacob Sorensen. 
United then came within inches of the opener when we won a free-kick as a result of the high press. Alex Telles whipped the ball over the wall but it took a slight deflection on to the bar and away to safety. 
Polish winger Przemyslaw Plachet (try saying that after a pint or three) - on his first start of the season - picked out Pukki from which United cleared their lines before Diogo Dalot, now firmly established as Rangnick's first choice right-back, had a daisy cutter held by Krul at the other end.

The Norwich stopper continued to keep out United as he beat away a dipping effort from Ronaldo eight minutes shy of the interval.
Lukas Rupp sent his header wide and then Maguire also popped up with another header only for Krul to tip over and preserve parity at the interval. 

De Gea saved well from Placheta and Kabak thwarted Marcus Rashford with a lunging challenge as United found in harder than they perhaps expected against the Premier League's bottom side.

De Gea came to United's rescue again with a stunning one handed stop to deny Pukki before Rashford fired into the side netting on the counter after a flurry of Canaries corners.
Mason Greenwood was introduced as we searched for the elusive winner and Victor Lindelof then also had to be replaced with breathing difficulties. 

But before Eric Bailly could be brought on, United were awarded a spot-kick. Aarons grabbed Ronaldo around the throat and choke slammed him to the turf to leave referee Darren England with little option but to award the penalty. 

Ronaldo, just as he did against Arsenal, slammed the penalty high into the roof of the net to unleash his iconic celebration in front of the away end with 15 minutes to go. 

Another superb De Gea stop denied Kabak shortly afterwards with blocks from Dalot and Bailly thrown in for good measure as Norwich put us under late pressure.
For all their impetus, United could - and probably should - have put the result beyond doubt four minutes from time as a rare moment of quality from Rashford found Ronaldo with the goal gaping but he uncharacteristically skied over the bar when it looked easier to score.

That kept Norwich in the game and they almost snatched a deserved point at the death when De Gea clawed substitute Pierre Lees - Melou's header off the line, although replays showed he was offside anyway.

United held on to move up to fifth place, one point below place-above West Ham ahead of our trip to Brentford on Tuesday. 

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: David de Gea. Excellent again from the in-form Spanish stopper. 

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Match report: Man Utd 1-1 Young Boys

Mason Greenwood's stunning early strike saw Ralf Rangnick's rotated Reds play out our Group F campaign with a draw.

United had already qualified for the last 16 as winners of the section so the German boss - in his first European game in charge - made eleven changes to a side consisting entirely of Academy graduates and second stringers. Amad, Anthony Elanga, Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson were all handed starts as Nemanja Matic captained the side in an unfamiliar centre-back role alongside Eric Bailly. Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan - Bissaka both started and now seem to have slipped down the pecking order under Rangnick. 

It took only eight minutes for United to take the lead in a game played in atrocious conditions at Old Trafford. A sweeping move down the left wing saw Shaw keep pace with the attack and - having been fed by Elanga - he in turn picked out Greenwood who applied a lovely, acrobatic, bicycle kick finish beyond visiting keeper Guillaume Faivre. 

Henderson had impressed as a sweeper-keeper to mop up several forward forays from the Swiss side, but was called into action shortly beyond the half hour mark to deny Fabian Rieder. Jordan Siebatcheu headed over from close range before Juan Mata went close at the other end when Young Boys captain Fabian Lustenberger stuck out a foot to deflect the Spaniard's effort over the bar. 

It looked as though United's young side would go in ahead at the interval, but David Wagner's side, already out of the competition, equalised in fine style.
The Reds tried to intricately pass their way out but van de Beek's loose ball was seized upon by Rieder. Wan - Bissaka couldn't make the tackle and the left winger let fly with a 25-yarder to leave Henderson with no chance. 

The visitors almost completed a quickfire turnaround when Michel Aebischer thumped in a shot, but the impressive Bailly hacked away to safety with a lunging tackle to preserve parity. 

Elanga was lively for United as he forced Faivre to beat out his shot and then he had another effort blocked having been picked out by Lingard. 

Meshack Elia pulled his drive wide for Young Boys and a gilt-edged chance came the way of the wonderfully named Quentin Maceiras, but he could only skew off target on 66 minutes.

To their credit and despite their status as the group's bottom side, ex-Huddersfield boss Wagner's men certainly enjoyed their second ever visit to Old Trafford and performed well in their final European match this season.

Rangnick used the second half, which increasingly had the feel of a pre-season friendly, to introduce youngsters Teden Mengi and Shola Shoretire. Much travelled veteran Tom Heaton also got a run out as he came on for a long-awaited debut in goal two decades after signing for the club. 

Wilfried Kanga almost capitalised on a slip from the young defender but the 19-year-old recovered superbly to block the substitute striker's effort. More Academy graduates were given their moment in the sun when Rangnick introduced Robbie Savage's son Charlie for a first team bow - something his dad never managed during his days at Old Trafford - with his old man proudly watching from on high. 

Zidane Iqbal became the first British-born Asian player to make a senior appearance when he replaced Lingard in the closing stages. 

Given the wholesale changes and the glimpse of our future, Rangnick's rocking rotated Reds can be satisfied with their night's work ahead of the draw for the last 16 on Monday. 

It did not end well for Wan - Bissaka though when he had to be stretchered off after the final whistle having inadvertently collided with the advertising hoardings. 

Team performance rating: 6/10
United Faithful of the Match: Mason Greenwood. Superb goal and lively throughout. 

Tuesday 7 December 2021

United to face familiar foe in the FA Cup

Manchester United have been drawn against a divisional rival in the third round of the FA Cup. In other news, water is wet. 

It's that time of year again when the 44 sides from England's top two leagues enter the world's oldest and most prestigious knockout cup competition. 
The draw was made at Wembley on Monday evening by Arsenal Ladies Legend Faye White and men's counterpart David Seaman, a four time winner, and there were some eye catching ties.

For seemingly the umpteenth time in succession, United were paired with Premier League opposition, with Aston Villa to visit Old Trafford on an unconfirmed date between 7-10 January 2022. It felt inevitable we would be drawn to face another Premier League team having already been knocked out of the League Cup by West Ham. As is so often the case, the tie comes with a subplot to the proceedings. 

It means of course former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will return to M16 for the first time since his retirement as a player, with Gerrard having recently been appointed as manager of the west Midlands side when he replaced the sacked Dean Smith last month. 

Gerrard has a fair bit of history against United and will no doubt receive a *warm* reception from the Old Trafford faithful with plenty of chants about him slipping on his rear end. I'm not too bothered about the FA Cup but it would be nice to knock a side managed by Gerrard out and deny him another trophy, wouldn't it? 
In fairness to him, he has improved the Villains fortunes with three wins from his first four games in charge of the club - only a narrow loss to Manchester City has prevented an unbeaten start to Gerrard's time in the Villa Park hotseat. 

The tie will be the first of a double header with the Reds set to travel to the Second City to face Villa in the league on the 15th January as we look avenge the 0-1 loss at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

This will be the thirteenth meeting between two of the biggest clubs in the country - with nineteen FA Cups between us - and the fifth this century. United came from behind to knock Villa out of this competition in 2002 and 2004 (en route to winning the trophy) with third round victories in consecutive seasons - at Old Trafford in 2007 and then in the Midlands the following season, the Double-winning campaign of 2007/08. 

United are 12 times winners of the famous trophy, with our last victory back in 2016 under Louis van Gaal. Villa haven't won the FA Cup since 1957, ironically against the Reds in a match infamous for Peter McParland's shoulder barge on United keeper Ray Wood - McParland went on to hit both goals to seal the club's seventh - and to date last - FA Cup triumph. 

Elsewhere, United's Premier League rivals were handed kind-looking ties with Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City all set to face lower league opponents as always seems to be the case.
Antonio Conte's men host third tier Morecambe, Jurgen Klopp's side also play a League One team in Shrewsbury whilst European champions Chelsea will host National League leaders Chesterfield at Stamford Bridge. Pep Guardiola will be happy with his team's annual bye to the fourth round as their remarkable run of favourable draws continue with City to travel to League Two high flyers Swindon. Arsenal, winners on the most occasions (14), face a potential banana skin when they visit Championship side Nottingham Forest. 

Holders Leicester host Watford and former manager Claudio Ranieri in one of three all-Premier League fixtures - West Ham against Leeds is the other -  and there's an intriguing south London derby between Millwall and Crystal Palace. 

Friday 3 December 2021

He's Carrick, you know.... hard to believe he's not Scholes

Summer 2006 and Sir Alex Ferguson's emerging Manchester United are a side in transition. 

Chelsea have won two successive titles and look set for a new era of dominance, bank-rolled by the Russians and led by the finest young manager in world football, Jose Mourinho. 
Ferguson's young side, spearheaded by the burgeoning talents of teenage tyros Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, won the League Cup but ceded the domestic crown to the aforementioned Londoners with a huge Roy Keane shaped hole in midfield after the shock mid-season departure of the influential captain. 

In truth, Keano could never really be replaced - some players only come once in a generation and no matter how hard you try their absence will be felt for years. In a bid to bolster his engine room and to at least bring some bite back into the midfield, Ferguson turned to Tottenham. More pertinently, their 25-year-old schemer Michael Carrick. Carrick signed for £18m and took the no.16 shirt previously donned by his illustrious predecessor. No pressure there then. 

It took the unassuming Carrick a while to win over the doubters, a sceptical fan base used to a human wrecking ball in the form of the snapping and snarling Keane. Carrick was never that player but excelled at the simple and the smooth, a deep lying playmaker adept at winning the ball and moving it on. Strong in the tackle and with a good passing range, Carrick became a mainstay in the middle for over a decade, the ying to Paul Scholes's yang and later proved an experienced head to steer the side serenely through the turbulent post-Sir Alex days. If Keane was an Aston Martin, Carrick was a Rolls Royce. The Andrea Pirlo to Keane's Gennaro Gattuso. 

Carrick was a player who never got the credit he deserved, playing as he did in a Golden Generation of players for both club and country. But whilst many of his team-mates, the likes of Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Rooney and Ronaldo were considered galactic talents, Carrick's star never dimmed. A mere 34 caps for England seem almost an insult for a player of his quality and Sir Alex's side certainly would not have ushered in a new era of dominance if if wasn't Carrick's almost silent string-pulling in midfield. He was never the strongest or the quickest, but his reading of the game and distribution often laid the platform for his perhaps more illustrious team-mates to shine. He was never going to produce a ridiculous piece of skill or a 30-yard screamer but every team needs a Carrick in their ranks. His arrival broke Chelsea's increasing stranglehold on the English game and proved the final piece of the puzzle as Ferguson's last great side fitted together. The 18m would come to look like a bargain as Carrick and co. won the title in his first season at the club - our first in four years - to spark another era of trophy-laden dominance over the next half decade.

Carrick and team-mate Rooney are the only two English players to win every honour in the game: five Premier Leagues, two League Cups, the Champions League, the Europa League, FIFA Club World Cup, six Community Shields and completed his haul of domestic honours with the FA Cup win under Louis van Gaal in 2016. Carrick was named as United's Player of the Year by his peers in 2012-13, our last title winning season and played 464 times across 12 seasons in Red. 

Having retired as a player, Carrick moved on to the coaching staff under Mourinho alongside Kieran McKenna following the departure of Mourinho's trusted lieutenant Rui Faria. 
The rest, as the old adage goes, is history: Carrick stayed on under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the man responsible for taking training and doing the tactical work. 

It's the end of an era and another departure of a club legend - albeit one not quite as celebrated as Solskjaer. Carrick was expected to stay on despite the imminent arrival of Ralf Rangnick but stepped down from his role as first-team coach after Thursday's 3-2 win over Arsenal. Carrick was part of the problem but, to his credit, held the fort well as caretaker manager after Solskjaer's sacking and picked up two wins and a creditable draw at Chelsea from his three games in caretaker charge. 

He can leave the club with his head held high just like Ole having steadied the ship when we needed him and given the incoming German Rangnick something to work with and build upon. Perhaps only now will he get the recognition he deserves. 

As the adoring Stretford End once serenaded in his honour: he's Carrick, you know, hard to believe he's not Scholes. 

Thank you for everything Michael and good luck in the future. 

Thursday 2 December 2021

Match report: Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal

 Cristiano Ronaldo hit career goals 800 and 801 to earn United a thrilling and deserved victory over old rivals Arsenal. 
Emile Smith - Rowe's controversial opener put the Gunners ahead but Bruno Fernandes equalised before Ronaldo swept us ahead. Martin Odegaard's quickfire leveller restored parity but Ronaldo slammed home from the spot to give Michael Carrick victory in his last game in caretaker charge. 

Carrick will now hand over to incoming interim Ralf Rangnick and will leave the club having held the fort admirably and to his credit, following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking. Carrick's departure ends a 15-year association with the Reds with our former midfield maestro having picked up two wins and a draw from his brief three match stint at the helm. 

There were three changes from the side that drew in the capital on Sunday with captain Harry Maguire - available again after suspension - coming back in to the defence ahead of Eric Bailly. Cristiano Ronaldo returned up front and Diogo Dalot came in at right-back with Aaron Wan - Bissaka carrying a knock. 

Mikel Arteta's side forced a flurry of early corners without causing undue alarm, but United went close on the counter attack as Fernandes found Jadon Sancho whom in turn found the Portuguese with a reverse pass, but Ben White cut out the danger. 

Ronaldo flashed a shot wide and the excellent Dalot saw his low effort held by the in-form Aaron Ramsdale before the visitors took the lead in contentious circumstances.
David de Gea went down injured after he collided with Fred from a corner and the ball was cleared but - despite the prone stopper lying on the turf - Smith - Rowe fired into the empty net with VAR allowing the goal despite referee Martin Atkinson blowing after the ball had crossed the line. 

United felt play should have been stopped and were incensed by the visitors lack of sportsmanship in another fiery flashpoint in this iconic fixture. 
Ronaldo's acrobatic strike was cleared by White and the returning Maguire had a couple of chances too when he let fly from distance with a shot that cleared the bar then another saved well by Ramsdale. 

Just when it looked as though the Gunners would hold their slender advantage at the interval, United restored parity with a superb crafted leveller. Fernandes swept home his first goal in 15 games at the culmination of a flowing team move involving Fred and Sancho. 

De Gea saved well from Gabriel's header before Ramsdale was called into action at the other end to deny first Ronaldo and then Rashford in a breakneck start to the second half. 

The pair then combined to put United ahead in the 52nd minute. Dalot's stunning cross-field pass picked out Rashford and he cut the ball back for CR7 to fire in beyond Ramsdale for career goal no.800. But no sooner had the celebrations died down, Arsenal doused the fire with a brilliant strike of their own.

Mohamed Elneny found Gabriel Martinelli and he forced Alex Telles inside to create space for a cross, seized upon by Odegaard to sweep in an immaculate low finish beyond De Gea only 90 seconds after Ronaldo's goal.

De Gea saved from Gunners captain Pierre - Emerick Aubameyang - although he was offside anyway - and another header from the striker proved no problem for the United keeper. 
Much like Fred, Odegaard then turned from hero to villain when he scythed down the Brazilian in the box. Despite being only five yards away and with an unobstructed view, referee Atkinson somehow needed VAR to award the spot-kick despite damning evidence showing the Arsenal man had got nothing on the ball.

Ronaldo stepped up for only United's second spot kick of the season and made no mistake with an unerring finish straight down the middle to restore our lead.
Substitute Bukayo Saka had a shot deflected wide and Jesse Lingard, who had also come on, could have added a fourth but fired into the side netting. 

In the end, United held out for an important victory in front of the watching Rangnick who will take charge of the Palace game on Sunday. 

Overall team performance: 7/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Diogo Dalot