Manchester United bounced back from conceding one of the most unusual goals you’re ever likely to see to eventually beat Arsenal 3-2 in Thursday’s Premier League clash.
With new interim head coach Ralf Rangnick set to be in the dugout for Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace, United’s final match under Michael Carrick got off to the worst – and strangest – possible start.
With less than 15 minutes gone, United goalkeeper David de Gea went down injured as the team defended an Arsenal corner.
Referee Martin Atikinson seemingly missed the incident and allowed play to go on, leaving Emile Smith Rowe to volley the ball into the open goal from the edge of the area as De Gea lay curled up in a ball on the goal line.
Atkinson initially blew his whistle to apparently signal the goal had been disallowed, but replays showed it was De Gea’s own teammate Fred that stood on his ankle and the goal was given.
United’s players angrily surrounded the referee but, in truth, they could have no complaints.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told broadcaster Amazon Prime Video after the match. “But that is the decision from the referee and VAR checked it – and it was a goal.”
United midfielder Bruno Fernandes said he believed the ball should have been put out of play when it was apparent De Gea was injured, as is often the case in football matches.
“Normally, when the keeper goes down, we should stop the game,” the Portuguese midfielder said. “But mistakes happen. Players make mistakes.
“I don’t know if it was a mistake from the referee. If it is, that can happen.”
United bounced back well from the incident and equalized through Fernandes just before half time following a period of sustained pressure on Arsenal’s defense.
Cristiano Ronaldo then gave United the lead after 52 minutes, sweeping home to finish a crisp United move.
But Arsenal was level just two minutes later as Martin Odegaard stroked the ball into the far corner after being found by Gabriel Martinelli.
However, the Norwegian midfielder would go from hero to zero as his inexplicable challenge on Fred in the area gifted United a penalty, which Ronaldo duly dispatched 20 minutes from time to give Carrick the perfect sendoff.