Paul Pogba made an impact at the wrong end as his concession of a penalty proved vital in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Man Utd.
With both sides in desperate need of three points, tensions were understandably high in the early going.
After a brief settling in period, Arsenal carved out the game’s first close call down the right flank.
The ball was fed into Hector Bellerin who fizzed a low pass across the face of goal, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at full stretch could not make up the ground to prod home what would’ve been a certain goal.
Man Utd’s response was swift, with their forward pairing of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford combining well to bring about a smart stop from Bernd Leno.
The nerves from both sides were clearly visible given the prize at stake, with the frenetic affair often leading to hurried play in the final third.
That notion was never more evident than in the 37th minute when Aubameyang picked up a loose ball after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s mistimed header failed to make contact.
The forward pulled the ball back to the waiting Lacazette around the penalty spot, but Victor Lindelof nipped in to make a vital interception as the Frenchman laid in wait.
Arsenal looked the likelier of the two sides to break the deadlock before the break, and came within a matter of inches when Willian’s left-footed drive skimmed the top of the crossbar.
It was Bukayo Saka’s turn to try his luck next, with the versatile youngster inexplicably left unmarked in the centre of the Man Utd box from a cross.
His headed effort was off target, however, with the half-time whistle arriving at just the right time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
Thomas Partey for Arsenal in the first half vs. Man Utd:
◉ Most passes (33)
◉ Most passes in the opp half (23)
◉ Most take-ons completed (3)
◉ Most ball recoveries (8)
Dominating the middle of the park. pic.twitter.com/EyfuhsTJvO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 1, 2020
Despite Donny Van de Beek and Nemanja Matic both warming up in the interval, Man Utd emerged with the same starting eleven that had struggled so mightily in the first half.
A change of system was deployed, however, with the diamond abandoned in favour of the more conventional 4-2-3-1.
It almost paid immediate dividends when Wan-Bissaka forged forward for a rare run, and duly won a corner that ultimately came to nothing after his shot deflected wide.
A goal seemed an inevitability as Arsenal once again surged upfield in search of the opener.
Aubameyang floated a curling effort narrowly wide before Harry Maguire rose high to nod Luke Shaw’s free-kick wide by a similarly small margin.
Arsenal finally got the goal they deserved in the 68th minute after Pogba made an impact at the wrong end.
The Frenchman tracked back admirably to trace the run of Bellerin, but clipped the Spaniard’s achilles after Willian’s incisive through ball had set him away.
Pogba gives another penalty away. Another stupid challenge in his own area. Last time on Ben Davies, this time on Bellerin
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) November 1, 2020
Aubameyang stepped up to the spot and sent David de Gea the wrong way to break the deadlock.
Edinson Cavani and Van de Beek were introduced as Solskjaer shuffled his pack, while Gabriel Magalhaes appeared a touch fortunate to escape a second yellow card after clumsily bringing Rashford down.
Man Utd threw caution to the wind in the game’s dying embers in search of a late equaliser. Their efforts were nearly rewarded in unlikely fashion when Mohamed Elneny deflected Van De Beek’s cross onto the near post as Leno looked on rooted to the spot.
Arsenal’s defence stood firm, however, and Mikel Arteta’s side eventually ran out 1-0 winners to extend Man Utd’s poor league form at Old Trafford.