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Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal: Talking points from Arsene Wenger's final Old Trafford trip
Last Updated: 29/04/18 9:18pm
We pick out the key discussion points from Manchester United's win over Arsenal - Arsene Wenger's final trip to Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba opened the scoring for the hosts, before Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired in a long-range leveller. However, Marouane Fellaini had the final say to clinch it for the hosts in second-half stoppage time.
Here are the talking points from the game...
Wenger's Old Trafford farewell
"When you're not a danger any more, people love you," joked Arsene Wenger in his post-match press conference. But the warm reception he received at Old Trafford on his final away day at Manchester United as Arsenal boss was a fitting tribute to the competition he has provided during his 22 years in the Premier League.
A standing ovation from much of the Manchester United home support was followed by Jose Mourinho leading Wenger to a surprise gift presentation from his old nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson. The Frenchman's duels with both men have not always been pleasant but, speaking to Sky Sports after the match, it was clear Wenger was touched by the gesture.
Despite the pre-match friendliness, it was a familiar story on the pitch, as Wenger suffered more pain at the Theatre of Dreams. He has won on just five of his 28 visits to Manchester United and defeat number 17 - courtesy of a last-gasp Marouane Fellaini header - was a painful finale to the story.
Fellaini's timely reminder of his importance
The Belgian did what he does best after being sent on by Mourinho with 25 minutes to play, causing chaos in the Arsenal penalty area as United switched to a more direct approach to capitalise on Fellaini's aerial threat.
One header cannoned off the post and in off Marcus Rashford. But while that attempt was ruled out by the linesman for offside, there was no saviour for Arsenal one minute into stoppage time when Fellaini, with the help of a slight deflection off Granit Xhaka, looped the ball beyond David Ospina.
It was not pretty but Fellaini provides Mourinho with another way of winning when the clock is ticking and options are running out. The midfielder is yet to sign a new contract but given his passionate, badge-grabbing celebration and Mourinho's clear affection for his abilities, that looks a matter of when, not if.
Captain Xhaka criticised
Arsenal captain Xhaka was out-jumped by Fellaini for that late winner, but it was a wild, off-target sliding challenge on Paul Pogba in the build-up to United's opener which irked Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness.
The Switzerland international did not get close to United's playmaker with his attempted tackle and then failed to follow Pogba into the six-yard box, where the Frenchman tucked in a rebound. For Souness, Xhaka's behaviour was a reflection of poor coaching and poor leadership.
"It's more of the same from Arsenal," he said. "Xhaka is 25 years old, he's been at Arsenal two years. Is that the first time he's done that in a game? I would question no. Does he do it in training? Yes. Why has it not been pointed out to him you don't do those things?
"That cost them that goal. Arsenal have been neat and tidy. But they've been like this for a decade: when it comes to the critical things in the game, they're not professional. I said this a decade ago, they need a couple of men to sort these things out.
"No one is pointing the finger at Xhaka saying you don't do that, stay on your feet you fool. They're naïve in the basics of football."
Xhaka responded well in the second half, finding Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Arsenal's equaliser, but as captain he should have set a better tone.
Mkhitaryan and Sanchez face their old team-mates
Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez swapped clubs in January but were back up against their former team-mates on Sunday, with the former finding the net with a fine second-half strike to level the match at 1-1.
The Arsenal man's strike - low, from 25 yards and through the legs of Victor Lindelof and into the bottom corner - meant Mkhitaryan has been involved in as many goals (six) in eight Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season as he had in 15 for Manchester United. His rapid return from injury was worth it.
For Sanchez - who made a point of shaking Wenger's hand before kick-off - it was a more low-key performance. When Xhaka planted his studs into Sanchez's foot early on the Chilean will have realised he would not be in for any favours from his old side, but he will have been frustrated not to have had greater impact.
The pair were involved, though, in two quick-fire penalty appeals from Arsenal. First Mkhitaryan hit the deck in the United area when he was bumped by Chris Smalling, before Sanchez tangled with Ainsley Maitland-Niles moments later. Both close calls, both waved away.
The result means Manchester United have guaranteed a top-four finish, while Arsenal definitely cannot make it into those Champions League qualifying spots.
The Gunners - facing up to a sixth-placed finish, their lowest-ever under Wenger - had been resigned to that fate for some time and Wenger's decision to field his youngest Premier League starting XI for seven years was a clear indication he has prioritised Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid, where the score stands at 1-1.
For United, they move a step closer to their aim of a second-placed finish behind runaway champions Manchester City. And with an FA Cup final to look forward to, there is every chance they can finish this season on a high before building again in the summer for a sustained tilt at the title.
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