Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott wasteful in Arsenal loss at Man United
Just a fortnight after a rousing and dramatic win against Leicester City, Arsenal's title challenge suffered significant damage as they fell 3-2 to Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford.
Eighteen-year-old Marcus Rashford seized the moment in a way that a desperately poor Arsenal simply could not as he scored twice in the space of three minutes in the first half, both times profiting from some poor defending as he found too much space in the box, giving United a convincing lead.
But on 40 minutes, another former United youth product was on the score sheet, as Danny Welbeck headed home from a Mesut Ozil cross -- the German's 18th Premier League assist of the season.
The inspiring Rashford claimed his own assist in the second half, laying the ball off for Ander Herrera to drive a shot against Laurent Koscielny and past goalkeeper Petr Cech as Arsenal slipped two goals behind again at Old Trafford.
Ozil finished messily from a loose ball in the box to pull Arsenal back to within a goal, but they lacked the character or quality to press on any further, a limp defeat inviting searching questions about their ability to win the league -- particularly on a weekend when Leicester and Tottenham both won.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Got a glove to Rashford's first goal but the youngster hit it with pace and from close range; Cech had little chance. He was equally helpless for the second, and indeed the third. Not for the first or probably last time, his teammates let him down.
DF Hector Bellerin, 5 -- Bellerin's passing was careless at times and he had a tough afternoon against Memphis Depay, who looked dangerous on the United left. The United winger has disappeared for long spells this season but he enjoyed himself on Sunday against the highly-rated Bellerin.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 4 -- Along with Gabriel, Koscielny allowed Rashford to nip inside him for the second goal as he was outfoxed by the movement of the Premier League debutant. The Frenchman's disappointing afternoon continued when Herrera's shot took a big deflection off him to bypass Cech and find the net. Well below his usual standard.
DF Gabriel Paulista, 3 -- One theory was that Gabriel played in place of Per Mertesacker to counter the threat posed by the pacy Rashford. The Brazilian almost gave away a penalty on 12 minutes when fouling Rashford just outside the box, made a big mess of an attempted intervention when gifting him the first goal and then reacted too late as he headed in the second. It was a disastrous afternoon's work.
DF Nacho Monreal, 5 -- The Spaniard had a huge chance to open the scoring after seven minutes when played in by a sumptuous Ozil flick, but looked hesitant as United goalkeeper David de Gea repelled his shot. Was caught out in the build-up to United's opener but otherwise looked composed in defence and attack.
MF Francis Coquelin, 5 -- Had the most tidy passing stats of any midfielder in the first half with 91 percent completed and no one made more tackles than his three before the break. But Coquelin was unable to keep United quiet in midfield and didn't perform at the level he is capable of. Was removed for Mohamed Elneny with Arsenal in search of goals with 20 minutes remaining.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 5 -- Toiled a bit alongside Coquelin. Ramsey is more capable of influencing a game than he showed at Old Trafford and he risked a punishment worse than the yellow card he was shown when being drawn into a spat with Herrera and pushing the Spaniard to the floor. On an afternoon when Arsenal limped aimlessly towards defeat, Ramsey was one of many culprits.
MF Danny Welbeck, 6 -- Deservedly returned to the starting lineup in the Premier League after his late, late winner against Leicester City on Feb. 14 and pulled Arsenal back into the game on 40 minutes with a neat header from Ozil's free kick. Did his job, unlike the majority of his teammates.
MF Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Showed his intent early on with a brilliant flick over the top for Monreal to run onto and moved to within two of the all-time Premier League season assist record when his free kick found Welbeck's head. He also scored with a scuffed finish after De Gea had kept out a Welbeck effort from close range.
MF Alexis Sanchez, 4 -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in the build-up to the match that Sanchez knew his form hadn't been up to standard and the Chilean's despair only deepened here. Nothing was easy for Sanchez; frequently it was very difficult. This was a horrid, wasteful performance where little went to plan.
FW Theo Walcott, 4 -- Took advantage of an injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return to the starting XI but only succeeded in showing why he has been benched of late. Barely had any impact on the match before being replaced by Olivier Giroud as Wenger made his first change just after the hour.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5 -- Replaced Walcott in the 63rd minute. Hardly had a chance after coming on as Arsenal's expected siege on the United goal never materialised.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 -- On for Coquelin in the 70th minute. Possesses a good shot from range but didn't get an opportunity to show it. Couldn't turn the tide of the game.
MF Alex Iwobi, NR -- Replaced Welbeck in the 83rd minute. Made little appreciable impact on the match.