Mikel Arteta had spoken about taking the handbrake off and this was the kind of committed, liberated football that Arsenal have craved for so long as they resoundingly earned their first win under their new head coach.
For Manchester United this was more about the wheels coming off – again – rather than any brake being put on their recovery as they delivered such a woefully inept performance for more than an hour that questions have to be asked about their own motivation and desire and the suitability of several of their players. They had a chance to push for the top four but, once more, blew it.
Meanwhile, the Emirates has not felt like this for some time with the home fans willing on their team rather than castigating them as they took the points that take them back into the top half of the table and delivered the first signs of palpable progress under Arteta in what was only his third game in charge. For them this was hugely encouraging.
It was the first time that Arsenal’s big-name attacking quartet had started a match together and the first time they attacked there was an immediate dividend when the newest arrival, Nicolas Pepe, scored. Arsenal broke down the left with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sliding a pass into the penalty area to Sead Kolasinac who had been allowed to run free to cut the ball back from the byline. It clipped off Victor Lindelof’s heels and ran to Pepe who adjusted to strike a first-time shot past David De Gea.
The atmosphere lifted. Up until then Arsenal had been nervy but, moments later, they almost doubled their advantage when Pepe twisted and turned and dumped Luke Shaw to the turf with Aubameyang volleying his cross over.