Manchester United’s elusive search for a first away win in 2014/15 came to what had initially seemed like an unlikely end with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Antonio Valencia’s low shot after 56 minutes was inadvertently deflected by Gibbs into his own net to give the Reds the lead, then Rooney finished off an incisive counter-attack to make it 2-0. Angel Di Maria could have made it 3-0 late on but missed a good chance and Olivier Giroud pulled a goal back to make it a nervy finish. But this was a commendable performance of persistence from United in testing circumstances.
With a host of ailments debilitating United’s squad, Louis van Gaal was again forced into personnel and formation changes – this time 3-4-1-2 – with Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett forming a back three, flanked by Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia. Even that lasted just 15 minutes as Shaw picked up a knock from a challenge by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ashley Young replaced him and United switched to 4-4-2.
Danny Welbeck, facing United for the first time since leaving Old Trafford in the summer, had a shot blocked in the fourth minute, before Per Mertesacker headed wide. Welbeck then missed the target with a header of his own and, with Arsenal cranking up the pressure, the former Reds forward teed up Jack Wilshere, who forced a brilliant point-blank range save from United’s outstanding no.1.
United’s first opening came from a set-piece on 21 minutes as Wayne Rooney fired over the bar. It was scant relief from previous one-way traffic…