Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended goalkeeper David De Gea after he saw his unbeaten Premier League streak ended at Arsenal on Sunday.
The Gunners have an impressive home record this season and extended their run to 15 league games without defeat at the Emirates Stadium with a 2-0 win which moves them above United and into fourth.
Granit Xhaka’s long-range effort caught out De Gea before a contentious second-half penalty allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to seal three vital points in the race for Champions League qualification.
Solskjaer, who tasted domestic defeat for the first time since his appointment as caretaker manager in December, saw both Romelu Lukaku and Fred hit the woodwork.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 10, 2019
On a day where Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was attacked by a Birmingham fan, an Arsenal supporter appeared to push United’s Chris Smalling as he invaded the pitch after Aubameyang’s goal.
Metropolitan Police later confirmed one man had been “arrested on suspicion of common assault and pitch invasion”, with Arsenal condemning the incident and apologising to both Smalling and United.
In terms of the result, Solskjaer refused to blame De Gea for not keeping out Xhaka’s curling effort, instead questioning why his defence afforded the Switzerland international so much room.
“I don’t class it as a mistake by De Gea,” he said. “I was stood right behind the ball and we don’t put enough pressure on Xhaka, who must be Brazilian by the way because he struck the ball and it swerves and moves.
“It goes to David’s left and changes direction completely. It’s one of those things.”
Arsenal are now just a point behind Spurs in third and two ahead of United, who lie fifth with Chelsea a point further back, albeit with a game in hand.
“Spurs lose, we lose, Chelsea draw, it’s going to be down to the wire, the last few games definitely,” added Solskjaer.
“But we’ve given ourselves a great chance to be in that fight. Three points behind third, two behind fourth, it’s a good position to be in.”
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 10, 2019
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno enjoyed another fine display and did well to keep out Lukaku on two occasions, with Gunners head coach Unai Emery pleased with the progress he is witnessing.
“I don’t know if it was the best performance this season but we are improving, and being competitive in different matches,” he said.
“We can feel very proud of the players. I’ve only been here one year and Xhaka is a specialist with shooting and he can shoot from different positions on the pitch.”
Next up for Arsenal is the second leg of their Europa League round of 16 clash against Rennes on Thursday night, with the Ligue 1 outfit holding a 3-1 lead following the first meeting in France last week.