As Robbie Fowler stated in his autobiography, there is no sentiment in football. Arsene Wenger’s last visit to Old Trafford as a manager, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal-scoring return, saw their Arsenal side lose 2-1 to an injury-time winner from Marouane Fellaini — and, of course, this loss came against Jose Mourinho, who emerged as Wenger’s most brutal adversary.
This didn’t feel like a grudge match, though — it lacked the intensity of most of their recent encounters, and only rarely surged into life. Yet United, with Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands, provided a late rally of which he would have been proud.
Nemanja Matic was impressive in midfield, and Victor Lindelof was promisingly positive in his play.
Some of United’s crossing could have been much better, and they didn’t manage to press home the initiative after their opening goal.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Mourinho’s substitutions made the difference, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford adding much needed urgency and Fellaini providing the penalty-box presence that eventually yielded the winner. Second place in the Premier League should really be secured from here, and that is greatly to his credit.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 7 — Helpless for Mkhitaryan’s goal. Claimed everything he could reach with confidence and his distribution was sound.
DF Antonio Valencia, 6 — His work ethic was not matched by the accuracy of his crossing, which was substandard. Good movement in the final third but end product was lacking.
DF Chris Smalling, 7 — Was not unduly threatened in this game; dealt competently with the few times he was in danger but his passing could have had greater ambition.
DF Victor Lindelof, 7 — His passing was more enterprising than that of Smalling and most of the time he dealt well with quicker opponents, but may be disappointed with how Mkhitaryan evaded him for his goal.
DF Ashley Young, 6 — Final ball was lacking until the finish, when he delivered a perfect cross to Fellaini for the winner — a reward for his industry in attack and defence, where he was again impressive.
MF Nemanja Matic, 8 — Quietly gained control of midfield, passing forwards with purpose and precision, stepping high upfield and constantly spreading the attack.
MF Ander Herrera, 7 — A bustling creative presence, again a major source of impetus when his team sometimes looked sluggish.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 — A slow start to the game, then surged into life with his goal. A good performance, with passages of transcendent play, though one in which he didn’t consistently find the extra gear.
FW Jesse Lingard, 6 — Was hardworking in the final third but his passing lacked the inspiration of recent games, and it was no shock when he was withdrawn.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 7 — His understanding with his fellow attackers is improving all the time, and he eluded his markers with ease throughout. His attacking intensity was key to United’s late rally for victory.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 — He can possibly claim to be United’s best crosser of the ball, dropping wide to deliver the centre that led to United’s opener. His hold-up play was a key feature of some of his team’s best attacks, and his work rate was excellent.
FW Marcus Rashford, 7 (for Lukaku, 50 minutes) — His runs were incessant and dangerous, stretching a tiring defence in the late stages.
FW Anthony Martial, 7 (for Lingard, 63 minutes) — Like Rashford, made crucial inroads against Arsenal’s rearguard, dragging their defenders across and creating room in the middle.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 8 (for Herrera, 63 minutes) — Another vital goal in a huge game, a startling collection for a player often maligned by his supporters. Showed tremendous character — if enjoying no small fortune — to produce the winner just after a glaring close-range miss.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC’s Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.