Cristiano Ronaldo’s double, which included his 800th career goal, inspired Manchester United to a 3-2 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Watched from the stands by new interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who has been granted his permit to begin work at United, the hosts found themselves behind early on after Emile Smith Rowe’s controversial opener (13).
The England international’s shot found the back of the net with David de Gea down injured after his ankle was stood on by team-mate Fred, but with referee Martin Atkinson not blowing his whistle, the goal was eventually given after a VAR check.
United hit back through Bruno Fernandes just before the break before Ronaldo’s landmark goal turned the game on its head seven minutes into the second half.
In what was a topsy-turvy game, Arsenal found their own response just two minutes later through Martin Odegaard, but goal 800 was quickly followed by 801 as Ronaldo converted from the penalty spot after Odegaard was penalised for a foul on Fred after another VAR check.
800 – Cristiano Ronaldo has scored the 800th goal of his professional career for club and country, scoring 129 of those for Man Utd (also 5 for Sporting, 450 Real Madrid, 101 Juventus, 115 Portugal). Remarkable. pic.twitter.com/kU7Z3zObAQ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2021
It was enough to secure United a much-needed victory in what was Michael Carrick’s final game at the club: an announcement came shortly after the final whistle confirming Carrick had chosen to step down from his role as first team coach following the conclusion of his spell as caretaker manager.
The victory sees United, who ended a run of four games without a win in the league at Old Trafford, move up to seventh ahead of Rangnick’s first game in charge against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
United are now two points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, whose fifth defeat of the season meant they missed out on the opportunity to move into the top four.
How Ronaldo inspired United to victory over Arsenal…
Arsenal started on the front foot and Man Utd needed Marcus Rashford to hook Benjamin White’s goalbound header away from goal in the early stages.
The Gunners did take the lead in the 13th minute in bizarre circumstances through Smith Rowe’s strike.
United goalkeeper De Gea went down injured after Fred had stepped on his boot as the Gunners lined up a set-piece. United’s players, unaware of the contact with a team-mate, believed De Gea had been fouled and expected play to be stopped.
Man Utd: De Gea (6), Dalot (7), Lindelof (7), Maguire (6), Telles (7), Fred (7), McTominay (6), Sancho (6), Bruno Fernandes (8), Rashford (7), Ronaldo (8).
Subs: Lingard (n/a), Martial (n/a), Van de Beek (n/a).
Arsenal: Ramsdale (7), Tomiyasu (6), White (6), Gabriel (7), Tavares (6), Partey (6), Elneny (6), Smith Rowe (6), Odegaard (7), Martinelli (8), Aubameyang (5).
Subs: Saka (6), Lacazette (n/a), Nketiah (n/a).
Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, there was no whistle from referee Martin Atkinson with Smith Rowe’s strike flying past De Gea, who was on the ground, and the goal was allowed to stand after a long check.
After the goal, it was the hosts who began to take control of the game, dominating possession as Arsenal dropped further and further back in an attempt to defend their lead.
However, it backfired for Arteta’s side as United equalised just before the interval through Fernandes.
After White’s poor attempted clearance, Jadon Sancho played in Fred and the Brazilian cut the ball back for Fernandes to finish from close range.
United started the second half brightly and claimed the lead after 52 minutes through Ronaldo, who took up a good position in the box as Rashford broke down the right and was in the right place to sweep home the England forward’s cross for his landmark goal.
- Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the starting line-up as Michael Carrick made three changes for his final match as caretaker Manchester United boss. The 36-year-old came into the side along with Diogo Dalot and captain Harry Maguire against Arsenal, with newly-appointed interim manager Ralf Rangnick watching Thursday’s match from the stands.
- Arsenal made two alterations as Gabriel Martinelli and Mohamed Elneny came in for Bukayo Saka and Albert Sambi Lokonga
But the smile was quickly wiped from Ronaldo’s face as Arsenal hit back two minutes later. Gabriel Martinelli was picked out down the right and the Brazilian fired the ball into the box for Odegaard to guide the ball past De Gea for the equaliser.
All Odegaard’s good work was undone though when the Norwegian’s rash challenge on Fred handed United a penalty.
Referee Atkinson awarded the penalty after the VAR advised he watch the pitchside monitor, with Ronaldo keeping his cool in front of the Stretford End to lash home what proved to be the winner.
Opta stats: Carrick ends United career on a high…
Man Utd scored three goals in a home Premier League game versus Arsenal for the first time since February 2016, with current caretaker manager Michael Carrick completing all 90 minutes that day.
Arsenal have lost more Premier League matches versus Manchester United (25) than they have versus any other opponent in the competition’s history (Liverpool, 24).
Following the opening goal of the game, Man Utd had conceded nine consecutive Premier League goals at Old Trafford without scoring themselves in between, their longest home league run of goals conceded without reply since November 1961 (also nine).
Man Utd have conceded in 15 consecutive home games in all competitions, their second-longest such run, after only a 21-game streak ending in March 1959.
Manchester United now host Crystal Palace at 2pm on Sunday in the Premier League, while Arsenal are at Everton on Monday Night Football at 8pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League.