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 following another VAR check.
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 Ben 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.
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.
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.
However, there was no whistle from referee Atkinson as Smith Rowe’s strike flew past the grounded De Gea, 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.
It backfired for Mikel Arteta’s side as United equalised just before the interval through Fernandes.
White’s attempted clearance was poor, 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 pointed to the spot 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.
Michael Carrick has stepped down as Manchester United first-team coach and will leave the club following the conclusion of his spell as caretaker manager.
The 40-year-old’s decision to walk away ahead of interim boss Ralf Rangnick’s arrival was announced just minutes after the 3-2 Premier League victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Carrick, who played 464 games for United between 2006 and 2018 and won five Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champions League, the Europa League and the Club World Cup, served on the staff under both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United football director John Murtough said: “Michael leaves with the sincerest thanks and best wishes of everyone at Manchester United after 15 years of exceptional service to the club as a player and as a coach. While we are sad to see him go, we respect and understand Michael’s decision.
“He will always be known as one of the finest midfielders in the history of Manchester United, and, more recently, as an excellent coach who has worked tirelessly under two managers to help develop the strong squad which Ralf will now take charge of.
“We are grateful for the steady leadership Michael has shown through this period of managerial transition, and, while he is now stepping away from day-to-day involvement, he will always be welcome back as a legend of the club.”
What the managers said…
Michael Carrick explains his decision to leave Man Utd to Amazon Prime: “It’s not been an easy decision to make to be honest but I feel it’s the right one and I feel quite happy.
“I’ve meant to take some time off after I finished playing and I promised the family that we would have some time together and it’s never happened. It feels like the right time to step away. I’ll be back around the place. I’m not disappearing. But it’s just the right time and what a way to finish. It’s a perfect night really.
“It’s 100 per cent my decision. I respected the club and I respected the new manager coming in and I wanted to make the decision before I had any contact with him or spoke to him.
“There was no crossover whatsoever. I thought it was the right thing to do for the club and for Ralf. Once I made the decision, that was final and I was happy with that.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to Amazon Prime: “It is what it is. If you concede three goals at Old Trafford, you make it very difficult to get a result.
“I’m disappointed with the way we conceded some of the goals. We had some really good periods. We got back in the game. When we scored the second one, we were in total control, but we threw it [away] again. We needed another two goals to win it and we were incapable of doing it.
“If you look at the game, you would say we deserved much more than what we got. But you get punished. Against this level of opponent, you cannot do some of the things we did.”
‘Ronaldo the difference for Man Utd’
Kevin Campbell on Sky Sports News:
“Michael Carrick has done a really good job organising the team, getting a response from the team and getting two wins and a draw during what could have been a really difficult period for Man Utd.
“But the team has bounced back under him and they’ve got a win over a decent Arsenal side.
Arsenal made a couple of mistakes and got punished and this is why you have Cristiano Ronaldo in your team.
“He’s a difference maker and it proved to be the difference for Man Utd against Arsenal.”
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.