By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Marcus Rashford’s brace and a dream debut goal for Antony secured Manchester United a fourth successive victory as Premier League leaders Arsenal saw their winning start to the season ended at Old Trafford.
Huge rivals back when Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s sides tussled for titles, it has been a long time since these clubs met with a sense of hope and optimism.
Arsenal had won their first five matches of the campaign and United have recovered well after a wretched start to life under Erik ten Hag, with Sunday’s hard-fought 3-1 triumph their latest success.
Deadline-day signing Antony was brought in for his debut and took just 35 minutes to open his account, with the big-money arrival from Ajax coolly dispatching a left-footed effort.
Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli had seen a goal ruled out by that point after VAR Lee Mason advised referee Paul Tierney to review Martin Odegaard’s challenge on man-of-the-match Christian Eriksen.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners returned from half-time with the bit between their teeth and deservedly equalised through Bukayo Saka, only for United to strike back as Rashford was sent racing through to score.
The 24-year-old grabbed his second after former Tottenham man Eriksen teed him up in the 75th minute as United won four consecutive Premier League games for the first time since April 2021.
There was a crackling atmosphere at Old Trafford and play got off to a lively start to a backdrop of anti-Glazer chants that persisted throughout.
Eriksen volleyed narrowly wide at the far post having met a deep Diogo Dalot cross early on, while at the other end William Saliba wasted a good chance when the ball fell to him inside the box.
Jadon Sancho followed some quick footwork with a low drive that Aaron Ramsdale kept out and a frantic opening reached a crescendo in the 12th minute.
Odegaard dispossessed Eriksen and Saka put Martinelli through, with the in-form forward keeping cool under pressure to slot past David de Gea.
But Arsenal’s celebrations were brought to a halt by a VAR review, with referee Tierney ruling the goal out after going to the monitor and deeming Odegaard to have fouled Eriksen.
Antony wastefully bent wide from distance as play became broken up by fouls and periods of treatment before Arsenal had some decent chances.
Martinelli got away a low attempt from an acute angle that De Gea stopped from creeping in at the near post, then soon after produced a superb save to prevent him heading home.
Those stops provided United with the platform to take the lead.
Eriksen played through the lines to Bruno Fernandes and referee Tierney played advantage as the Portuguese had passed onto Sancho before being fouled by Gabriel.
The winger fed Rashford, whose delicate pass put Antony in to curl a left-footed strike past Ramsdale. The new boy made the most of the celebrations.
There were a few half-chances as half-time approached before Arsenal returned from the break with renewed intensity.
Gabriel Jesus found Odegaard with a cross he could not make a clean connection with and Saka rifled across the face of goal as the visitors worked another opening. Tyrell Malacia’s attempt to stop the latter ended in penalty appeals that were ignored.
A floated Saka cross then landed on the crossbar as United remained under the cosh.
Cristiano Ronaldo came on for Antony but in the 60th minute Arsenal’s pressure told.
Having intercepted the ball, the Gunners quickly launched an attack. Odegaard slipped in Jesus, with Dalot’s tackle on him inadvertently putting the ball into Saka’s path to strike.
It was no less than the league leaders deserved but they were only level for six minutes.
United picked up a loose pass and launched a break, with Fernandes’ excellent ball putting Rashford through to hit a drive that beat Ramsdale and rippled the back of the net in front of the Stretford End.
The Arsenal goalkeeper batted away a Fernandes chip and – after Jesus went close at the other end – was picking the ball out of his net again in the 75th minute.
Fernandes superbly capitalised on the visitors’ high line with a pass that put Eriksen free, with the experienced midfielder squaring for Rashford to score his second.
It was another superb team goal that put the result to bed. Arsenal tried to reduce the deficit but their frustration was clear as United defended doggedly to the final whistle.