With Roberto Mancini’s side emerging victorious from a thrilling contest earlier in the day to move six points clear at the top it was left up to United to close the gap once again. The pressure looked like it was getting to Sir Alex Ferguson’s men as they laboured to break down a stubborn Gunners side with Antonio Valencia’s header on the stroke of half time loosening the restraints after the break. It was the hosts who upped their game in the second half and deservedly equalised through leading scorer Robin Van Persie just moments after he had missed a glorious opportunity. However Arsene Wenger’s decision to replace the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andriy Arshavin failed to pay dividends as he Russian allowed Valencia to ghost past him and cross for Danny Welbeck to secure the points for United and put them three points behind City.
Wenger certainly sprung a surprise before kick off as he opted to give 18-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain his full Premier League debut and it wasn’t long before the teenager was causing havoc robbing Phil Jones in possession on the left and driving into the penalty area only to be thwarted by Johnny Evans. The Gunners bright start saw them fashion the first real chance of the game through Aaron Ramsey’s tame strike that trickled into the arms of Anders Lindergaard. The visitors were struggling to create anything of note and they were dealt a blow just after the quarter hour as Jones landed awkwardly on his ankle and had to be stretchered off. Despite that United steadily increased the tempo as they took control of the first period but just couldn’t get the better of an uncompromising home defence. That was until the stroke of half time when Ryan Giggs whipped in a terrific cross for Valencia to nod in at the back post and give United a deserved lead going into the break.
To Arsenal’s credit that came out firing after the restart although their comeback was put into doubt when Van Persie went down under a challenge from Valencia and required lengthy treatment before returning to the fray. That injury scare seemed to have had an adverse reaction on the Dutchman as his usual composure deserted him seven minutes after half time as his wild effort strayed well wide after Thomas Rosicky’s selfish pull back. Ramsey then scuffed a shot over the bar after being picked out by a superb ball from Oxlade-Chamberlain who then flashed an effort wide of the post. The Gunners had their opponents on the rails and finally made the breakthrough with in the 71st minute as Van Persie atoned for his earlier miss calmly slotting home after being picked out by Oxlade-Chamberlain in the area. The former Southampton winger was then giving a standing ovation by the Emirates crowd as he replaced soon after by Arshavin but seven minutes later all the fingers were pointed at the Russian as United regained the lead. The winger allowed Valencia to skip inside him way too easily before the Ecuadorian played a neat one-two with Park Ji Sung and crossed for Welbeck who made no mistake with an emphatic finish. It was a hammer blow to Wenger’s side who’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season took a huge hit as Ferguson’s Red Devil’s kept themselves firmly in the title race.