Manchester United blitzed Arsenal with two quick-fire goals in a breathless encounter to close the gap on Manchester City on Saturday.
With Pep Guardiola’s Premier League 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.
Jose Mourinho took his team to the Emirates with questions over how they would approach the fixture after a poor recent away record and a shortage of goals 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.
In a thrilling end-to-end contest, United looked irresistible on the break but Arsenal, with Alexandre Lacazette a surprise inclusion after injury fears, enjoyed more than 70 percent of possession in the first half, hitting 15 shots as David de Gea’s goal led a charmed life.
Arsenal sent the decibel level soaring after a lightning-quick start to the second half as Lacazette lashed home Aaron Ramsey’s pass to pull a goal back.
And the home side came forward in waves, forcing De Gea to pull off an astounding double save to maintain United’s lead.
But just as the home side threatened to overwhelm United, Paul Pogba burst into the box and squared for Lingard to net his second and silence the crowd.
As the match lost some of its high-octane momentum, referee Andre Marriner sent off Pogba for a studs-up tackle on Hector Bellerin to change the balance of the contest, but Arsenal could not take advantage.
It was De Gea, however, who Mourinho singled out for special praise, telling BT Sport: “I told him after the match, what I saw today was the best from a goalkeeper in the world.
“You need the keeper to be there for you when the team needs,” the Portuguese boss added.
“All the effort from the players was magnificent. The game, we started in one way and they started in another, then we changed and went down to 10 men and changed again.”
As for Pogba’s dismissal, which will rule him out of the Manchester derby, Mourinho said Arsenal had been fortunate not to go a man down as well following a challenge by Laurent Koscielny on Romelu Lukaku.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I leave for you the Lukaku situation with Koscielny, I leave for you the Arsenal players on the grass. The grass is absolutely beautiful – I think there is a desire to go on to the grass.”
There was no hiding former Chelsea manager Mourinho’s joy, however, at an impressive all-round United display.
“I loved the way my team played and fought,” he said. “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.”