Bernd Leno revealed Jesse Lingard’s goal celebration in Arsenal‘s recent FA Cup defeat to Manchester United acted as motivation as the Gunners secured victory in Sunday’s Premier League clash between the top-four rivals.
A Granit Xhaka strike and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty saw Arsenal win 2-0 and end Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten domestic streak since taking caretaker charge at Old Trafford in December.
Arsenal leapfrog United into fourth place as a result as the chase for Champions League qualification took more twists with both Tottenham and Chelsea dropping points over the course of the weekend.
Lingard celebrated a goal in United’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round win at the Emirates Stadium back in January by moonwalking in front of the Arsenal supporters.
The England international had previously scored twice in the league clash in north London last season and irked Arsenal fans by posting his recent celebration on Instagram with the location set as “dancefloor”.
Mesut Ozil appeared to reference Lingard in a post-match tweet on Sunday evening which read: “Dancefloor huh?! Superb performance! Brilliant result! Thank you Emirates Stadium! Proud to be a Gunner!”
Lingard missed the game as he nurses a hamstring injury but Leno, who enjoyed another fine afternoon in goal for Arsenal, admitted the forward’s previous antics had spurred on the hosts.
“I don’t know but in your mind you will never forget something like that, when somebody is celebrating,” he said when asked if the win was revenge for the FA Cup loss and Lingard’s dance.
“You don’t want to see it again so we were motivated and we knew before the game about our chance because Man United had one point than us.
“Now we have two points and that was enough motivation for us. We are in the top four and the other teams now wait for our mistakes.
“There are still eight games and we want to win every game but we have to focus on each one because the other teams will wait for small mistakes.
“We don’t play against the other top six teams so I think we can beat the others. The next game is against Newcastle at home and it is an opportunity to win and stay in the top four.”
The defeat leaves United outside the top four with eight games remaining, although captain Ashley Young admits the club would have taken that position earlier in the season when they were well off the pace under former boss Jose Mourinho.
“Yes, of course,” he told manutd.com when asked if the race for a top-four finish could go down to the last day of the campaign.
“But I think there are so many points to pick up, so many games left. For me, if we were talking back in October, saying that we were going to be fighting for fourth place, we would have taken that with where we were.
“But, on a personal level, and everyone in the dressing room, I think the club a size of United should be higher up the league and that’s where I see it, but right now, obviously, we’re talking about finishing in the top four and we’re going to do everything we can to do that.”
Sterling hit a 13-minute hat-trick on Saturday as Manchester City took another step towards defending their Premier League title with a 3-1 defeat of Watford at the Etihad Stadium.
There was an offside debate over his first goal and his second was a tap-in, but his third highlighted his skill as he weaved into the area, cut back and fired past Ben Foster.
City captain Kompany said: “It’s incredible because his first year at City was tough, and then from the moment Pep (Guardiola) came in he just kicked on and went from strength to strength.
“For me, he is one of the best wingers in the world. He’s so important for us. To have the ability to unlock defences when they defend with so many bodies is the sign of a top, top, top player.”
Sterling’s quickfire treble shifted what had been a frustrating game decisively in City’s favour. As in their two previous games, the score was 0-0 at half-time and City, despite dominating possession, needed to work hard for openings.
“These kind of games are much trickier than what people can see from the outside,” said Kompany, who has featured in City’s last five games.
“It’s mentally demanding because it puts you to sleep that you have so much possession and are bouncing against the same wall.
“You can sometimes fall into a false sense of comfort because you don’t have anyone to mark and you have to be super, super careful.
“But we’ve done it against Bournemouth, against West Ham and we’ve done it again now. Hats off to the team.”
City boss Pep Guardiola was more measured in his praise for Sterling, 24, who has now scored 20 goals for club and country this season.
“He scored three goals, we’re delighted, but he can do better,” said Guardiola.
“The first half was not the best performance from him, but it’s good when not playing at the top level to be consistent and score the three goals.”
Guardiola hailed midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as an “incredible player in all senses” but again expressed concern over the German’s contract situation.
The 28-year-old has not been an automatic starter under Guardiola and has just one season remaining on his present deal.
Guardiola said: “I would prefer him to stay but at the same time I want to feel he wants to stay too. If he doesn’t want to stay, he has to leave.”
Guardiola was frustrated to be pulled into a debate about refereeing over Sterling’s first goal. Sterling was initially flagged offside but the strike was eventually awarded because defender Daryl Janmaat touched the ball before him.
Arguments continued over whether the decision was the correct one and whether VAR might have helped.
Guardiola pointed out, however, for such instances rules needed to be clarified first.
He said: “If you need the interpretation of the referee, always these types of situations will happen. If it’s confused in the rules, that is the problem.”
Opposite number Javi Gracia agreed.
He said: “I don’t think VAR is the solution. I think first of all the solution is to have clear rules. After that, VAR can help referees.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Arsenal inflicted a first Premier League defeat of caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United reign as Granit Xhaka’s swerving strike and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty strengthened hopes of a top-four finish.
Switzerland midfielder Xhaka tried his luck from 25-yards out at a windy Emirates Stadium in the 12th minute and was rewarded with a fourth Premier League goal of the campaign, although Spain No1 David De Gea’s footwork could be questioned.
Attempts against the woodwork came at the other end from Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku and Brazil midfielder Fred. The Gunners made it 2-0, however, in the second half when the latter barged over France striker Alexandre Lacazette and Gabon front man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did the business from 12 yards.
The result saw the hosts usurp United into fourth place, the final Champions League spot.
Here are the Arsenal player ratings:
Bernd Leno 8: Won his personal duel with Lukaku – in the process, winning the match for Arsenal. Best Arsenal display.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 7: Stayed on right side of the law after Thursday’s night rash dismissal in defeat at Rennes in Europa League.
Laurent Koscielny 7: Veteran centre-back dug in, even when a second-half knock threatened his removal.
Nacho Monreal 7: Also looked to pick up the loose ball and spring Gunners forward. Recovery from Rennes horror show.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 7: The wing-back role seems to suit his skill set. Kept busy throughout by Shaw.
Aaron Ramsey 6: Why did Arsenal decide to let him go, again? Sharp in the tackle and swift in the pass.
Granit Xhaka 7: Simply loves a strike from distance. Put devilish swerve on Arsenal’s only shot on target from first half.
Sead Kolasinac 6: Positive influence in both halves of the pitch. Plenty of energy in legs, as was late sub in Rennes.
Mesut Ozil 7: Led way for Gunners with four key passes. Important to repay Emery’s faith after so many snubs.
Alexandre Lacazette 7: A selfless foil up top for Aubameyang and won penalty. But three-match PL scoring run ended.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 7: Didn’t have a big role to play until spot-kick was given. Exorcised memories of Spurs miss.
Alex Iwobi N/A: Looked to spring on the counter-attack.
Denis Suarez N/A: Emirates career is yet to truly get going, but trusted for final throes.
Eddie Nketiah N/A: Teenager won smart, time-sapping foul from Shaw.