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Saturday, 7 December, 2002, 14:10 GMT
Man Utd's surge continues
Juan Sebastian Veron turns away after putting Man Utd ahead
Veron turns away after putting Man Utd ahead
Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal

Manchester United's Premiership challenge is gathering ominous momentum after leaders Arsenal were well beaten at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side followed up the victory at Liverpool with another decisive triumph against title rivals, courtesy of goals from Juan Sebastian Veron and Paul Scholes.

Arsene Wenger's side clinched the double at Old Trafford last term - but they left empty-handed this time as United confirmed they remain fierce contenders for the championship.

It was also the first time in 55 league games that Arsenal had failed to score.

Arsenal lost goalkeeper Rami Shaaban though injury just before half-time, but they can have no complaints as United deserved their win to move within three points of the champions.

Arsenal's Rami Shabaan limps off
Arsenal's Rami Shabaan limps off
The much-maligned Veron swept United into a first-half lead, and the three points were settled once Scholes fired a second past substitute goalkeeper Stuart Taylor after 72 minutes.

Ferguson dropped United's two-goal Anfield hero Diego Forlan to bench, drafting Veron back into midfield to replace injured Quinton Fortune.

And it proved a wise decision as the Argentine emerged as an influential figure in the opening period.

Wenger recalled the experienced Martin Keown in place of the suspended Sol Campbell.

There was no debate about the first goal - it was a definite handball

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal's Shaaban was in early action, plunging to his right to block Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But it was United keeper Fabien Barthez who produced the real heroics as Arsenal pressed for an early advantage.

Gary Neville's incompetent application of the offside trap left Thierry Henry clear in front of goal, but his fellow countryman blocked crucially to save United in the 11th minute.

And seven minutes later he finger-tipped away a Robert Pires lob after a brilliant link with Henry, even though referee Dermot Gallagher awarded a goal kick.

United's resilience received its reward after 21 minutes, when Veron crowned a superb passage of play with the opener.

Pascal Cygan's poor clearance presented United with possession, and Veron tapped home from close range after Van Nistelrooy released Scholes into space.

Martin Keown rises above Ruud van Nistelrooy
Martin Keown rises above Ruud van Nistelrooy

Arsenal had claims for both handball against Van Nistelrooy - and offside - in the build-up, but they were ignored.

The Gunners suffered another blow five minutes before the interval when Shaaban pulled a thigh muscle taking a goal-kick and was replaced by Taylor

The result could be very significant, just like our win at Liverpool

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

United were keeping Arsenal's potent attack at arm's length - and they doubled their lead with 18 minutes left.

Van Nistelrooy was the creator again, setting up Scholes for a finish that took a slight deflection off Keown to deceive Taylor.

It was the crucial moment, confirming United's recent title resurgence.


Man Utd: Barthez, Gary Neville, Brown, Silvestre, O'Shea, Veron, Phil Neville, Scholes, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Solskjaer.

Subs Not Used: Ricardo, May, Chadwick, Stewart, Forlan.
Booked: Phil Neville.

Arsenal: Shaaban (Taylor 43), Cole, Cygan, Keown, Luzhny, Pires (Toure 77), Silva, Vieira, Ljungberg, Henry, Wiltord (Bergkamp 68).

Subs Not Used: Lauren, van Bronckhorst.
Booked: Luzhny, Cygan.

Attendance: 67,650

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Mike Ingham
"Phil Neville had his most effective game in midfield"
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"I'm proud of my players"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"Manchester United looked sharper"
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