Manchester United’s never-say-die streak sealed a late win against Arsenal to wreck Arsene Wenger’s final match at Old Trafford as Gunners boss. Reds manager Jose Mourinho outsmarted his rival as substitute Marouane Fellaini headed in a late winner in front of the Stretford End.
The Belgian proved a handful for Arsenal’s defence late on and it proved a masterstroke from Mourinho. United had gone ahead early through Paul Pogba but Fellaini’s winner wiped out a potential point-winner for Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had equalised in the second half.
United’s three points confirmed Champions League football again at Old Trafford next season as it rubber-stamped a top-four finish. Old feuds were forgotten prior to kick-off with the club making a classy gesture of a special memento to Wenger, who clearly had one eye on the Europa League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid as he made eight changes to his side.
It didn’t take long for United to make Wenger’s last time as Gunners boss initially uncomfortable when taking a 16th-minute lead. Pogba started and finished the move. The France midfielder stroked a pass to Romelu Lukaku and went driving on into the area. Lukaku’s cross was met with a header from Alexis Sanchez. His hopes of a dream goal against his former employers were dashed as his effort hit Hector Bellerin and came off a post, only for Pogba to volley home.
Not surprisingly, there was none of the electrifying tension of those heady days that had characterised the Sir Alex and Wenger clashes from yesteryear. But there was still quality to be witnessed if only a small amount of penalty-box action in the first half.
If Alexis was searching for that satisfying goal against his old club it was the same scenario for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian went the opposite way up the M1 in January to the Chilean when the pair swapped clubs and he was the source of much of Arsenal’s fluent attacking moves. But it was still all pretty easy for David De Gea. His opposite number David Ospina also didn’t have a lot to do but he was saved by an upright in the 40th minute when an Ashley Young cross crashed against the woodwork.
The second 45 minutes was barely underway before Lukaku suffered an injury after a challenge by Konstantinos Mavropanos. The Belgium striker attempted to run off the knock and tested it as play went on but he had to give up and was replaced in the 50th minute by Marcus Rashford. Almost immediately, Arsenal were level and it was Mkhitaryan who had the gratification of scoring for the Gunners. United gave away possession loosely in our own half and, with the help of Granit Xhaka, Mkhitaryan seized on the error to stride forward and place a low right-foot shot past De Gea.
The last time the midfielder had scored at Old Trafford was for the Reds against Everton in September and he barely celebrated this time. There was a stream of substitutions in the 64th minute. Mourinho took off Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard for Anthony Martial and eventual matchwinner Fellaini. Wenger brought on ex-United striker Danny Welbeck and Nacho Monreal for Reiss Nelson and the injured Sead Kolasinac.
Mancunian Welbeck was first to make an impact with a full blooded long-range shot that was saved by De Gea. Chris Smalling had the chance to keep up his recent scoring form but the defender couldn’t connect properly with a side-foot chance provided by a dangerous pass from Martial.
United fans gave Mkhitaryan a warm round of applause when he was substituted to make way for Joe Willock in the 76th minute. Old Trafford thought United had delivered the final blow to Wenger in the 87th minute when sub Rashford bundled the ball into the net off a post from Fellaini’s header, and a terrific inviting cross from Martial, but the striker was ruled offside.
The disappointment was short lived as a similar move reaped its reward a minute into added time. Young sent over the cross and Fellaini was able to connect and divert a header past Ospina for the winner.