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Man Utd, Arsenal Earn Vital Points As EPL Table Changes Shape

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Manchester United extended their unbeaten run to eight matches with a 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford. One day shy of his 25th birthday, Marcus Rashford became the first player since Wayne Rooney in 2009 to bring up a century of United goals, moving his side into fifth place in the process.

Erik ten Hag’s men made a bright start as they looked to build on a series of positive displays in recent weeks. Cristiano Ronaldo fired from range but Łukasz Fabiański was equal to it, before Rashford’s powerful header was directed straight at the goalkeeper. The Hammers began to gain a foothold after the early exchanges, with the elusive Saïd Benrahma proving particularly dangerous, but there was very little for David De Gea to do in the hosts’ goal.

With anxiety spreading around Old Trafford, a sleek move from the Red Devils alleviated the tension and broke the deadlock as HT approached. Christian Eriksen’s gorgeous cross was powered home by Rashford at the back post through a Ronaldo-esque bullet header. Remarkably, United have now netted four of their last five goals in all competitions through headers, the only exception in that run being Ronaldo’s strike against Sheriff Tiraspol.

Meanwhile, Arsenal got back to winning ways, defeating Nottingham Forest 5-0 at the Emirates Stadium to retake their place atop the Premier League (PL) table. The Gunners have now won their last eight PL games against newly-promoted sides.

After going two games without a win in all competitions, Arsenal needed to get back on track to avoid talk of a slump in form. Thankfully for the Gunners, they made a fast start, going a goal up inside five minutes when Gabriel Martinelli showed plenty of desire to get his head on the end of a Bukayo Saka cross. The host maintained that early momentum, and came close to doubling their lead after Granit Xhaka’s pull-back found Martinelli, whose low shot was cleared off the line by Renan Lodi. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Mikel Arteta’s side in the first half, with a late self-inflicted scare almost leveling up the game.

The Gunners have now led at HT in nine of their 12 PL fixtures this season, but they didn’t rest on their laurels, effectively killing the game off with two more quickfire goals. Reiss Nelson replaced the injured Saka in the first half and took his rare opportunity in the side by netting twice, first following in his parried shot with a composed finish, then smartly flicking in Gabriel Jesus’ ball from close range. Arsenal kept their foot on the gas, adding a fourth before the hour mark when Nelson laid off Thomas Partey, who sent a rocket into the top-right corner, leaving Dean Henderson with no chance.

Jesus squandered several chances to get himself on the scoresheet for the first time in seven matches, but certainly atoned by providing his second assist of the afternoon, laying off Martin Ødegaard for Arsenal’s fifth. The hosts’ second-half blitz took them two points above Manchester City, claiming their first home clean sheet in 11 league outings in the process. Meanwhile, Forest remain rooted to the bottom of the PL table, having scored just one goal in their seven PL away trips this campaign.

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