Match Analysis: Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

Man United's Chris Smalling and Arsenal's Santi Cazorla battle for the ball on November 10, 2013
© Getty Images
Sports Mole casts its eye over Manchester United's narrow victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Manchester United have closed within five points of Premier League leaders Arsenal by inflicting a first league defeat on the Gunners since the opening day of the season.

The game was settled by a 27th-minute looping header by former Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who rose highest to meet Wayne Rooney's corner.

Here, Sports Mole digs a little deeper to analyse a fifth straight home win in the league for United over Arsenal.

Match statistics:

United:
Shots 5
On target 2
Possession 41%
Corners 5
Fouls 12

Arsenal:
Shots 10
On target 2
Possession 59%
Corners 6
Fouls 10

Was the result fair?

Hard to say. The whole match had an overriding feeling of both sides not wanting to lose. United were the team who looked more threatening in the first half but they offered very little going forward in the second. Arsenal took their time to get going and when they did, they still could not really test David de Gea in the Red Devils' goal.

United's performance

David Moyes's men began the match on the front foot and it had to be Van Persie to score the goal. Strong rumours circulated before the game that the Dutchman was to sit out but he was able to start and his presence proved vital as he found the far corner with a combination of head and shoulder. Arsenal's insipidness in attack throughout wasn't just because of an off-day on their part. United's defending was excellent as they quietened the on-form likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in particular were terrific.

Arsenal's performance

Arsene Wenger is sure to be angry that his side did so little in the final third today but when he looks over the past week, he will reflect on a largely successful one after wins over Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund preceded today's loss. Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky missed today's game because of a bug and reports suggest that many of Arsenal's camp may have been affected. That would certainly explain their lacklustre start to the match. They grew into it in the second half as United sat back but still could not cause the hosts many problems. A pair of dangerous Bacary Sagna crosses were the closest they came to a goal as Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner failed to get a touch in the area.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Wayne Rooney: The United number 10 provided the cross that Van Persie headed home but it was his industry that made him stand out today. He constantly chased back and provided energy at both ends of the pitch as the Red Devils eked out a tough win.

Biggest gaffe

Hard to pick an obvious gaffe from this game but Ozil should be embarrassed for simply giving up on a ball over the top that if he'd committed to, would have presented a golden chance to equalise.

Referee performance

It was a big game for 28-year-old Michael Oliver and he handled the occasion well. Giroud might have been booked for an ugly stamp on Evans early in the match but apart from that, Oliver was solid.

What next?

United: A two-week international break is next but once that's all done, United will head to Cardiff City on Sunday, November 24.

Arsenal: The Gunners, meanwhile, return to the Emirates Stadium to host high-flying Southampton on Saturday, November 23.

Man United's Robin van Persie heads in the opening goal against Arsenal on November 10, 2013
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