Date: 23rd January 2012 at 4:33pm
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United ‘s win over Arsenal at the Emirates kept the Reds three points behind leaders City and all but ended any feint hopes the Gunners may have had of mounting a title challenge. Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck’s goals, either side of the obligatory Robin Van Persie strike saw the Reds win 2-1.

Although it was by no means a vintage United performance it was an important win and one that should we emerge title winners in May will be looked back upon as being vital.

Here’s how the United players rated:

Anders Lindegaard: Wasn’t kept nearly as busy as Arsenal fans would have liked and was a tad unfortunate not to keep Van Persie’s goal out which he got a hand to. My only gripe was towards the end of the game, Lindegaard’s ‘hoof it upfield’ kicking, cost United possession unnecessarily – but that’s just a minor quibble on an otherwise fairly uneventful day for the United keeper. Rating 6

Phil Jones: The big teenager, started at right back but barely had chance to get settled into the game when he twisted his ankle after barely quarter of an hour gone. Rating 6

jonny Evans: The whipping boy for many Reds, gave his detractors no ammo whatsoever with a rock solid display at the back. Marshalled RVP well and was instrumental in keeping the Gunners at bay as they chased the game. Although his good games seem to get far less press than his bad ones, Evan’s deserves a lot of praise for a classy performance. Rating 8

Chris Smalling: The young defender plays with the confidence of a seasoned pro and his return from injury couldn’t have come soon enough. Despite a slip in the second half that could have been costly, it was an otherwise dominant display from the former  Fulham man who was exceptional in the air. Rating 7

Patrice Evra: United’s skipper was superb at the Emirates and although at times he was caused the odd problem from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who swapped over  to the left, it was the sort of performance we’re used to from the Frenchman who slowly but surely seems to be putting  all th drama s of the past few weeks behind him. Rating 8

Ryan Giggs: The most decorated player in the history of the universe didn’t have his best day in a United shirt, yet still managed to have a say. Giggs’ sublime cross for United’s opener was probably the only high point in a frustrating first half which saw him wasteful in possession. Giggs improved in the second half and showed that despite being 102 years old, he can still last 90 minutes in a high-octane game. Rating 6

Michael Carrick: Unlike most Reds I neither think Carrick is the messiah, or the worst player on the pitch, which seems to be the polarising nature of the former Spurs man. I judge Carrick by his performances and there was nothing to criticise him for at the Emirates. Carrick did his job well and is enjoying a great fun of form that may just be his best in a Red shirt. Rating 7.

Nani: His usual erratic self. Wasted some glorious opportunities yet still looked dangerous and capable of causing Arsenal problems. Nani and Evra linked up well together down the left at times. Rating 6

Antonio Valencia: A few months ago, some United fans were questioning whether the Ecuadorian was good enough for the Reds, how silly must that small minority feel now? Valencia has been quite simply awesome for the past two months and caused the Gunners all kinds  of problems. The former Wigan man took his goal well with a cracking header and was a constant thorn in the Gunners side all day. When Valencia is on the ball you feel confident that something is going to happen  and more often than not it does. Superb. Rating 9 [Man of the Match]

Wayne Rooney: Up until the last twenty minutes, it was arguably the worst Wayne Rooney performance I’ve seen all season. Wazza seemed totally off the pace for much of the game, squandering possession, getting caught dithering and not seeming at the races one bit. As Arsenal tired though, Rooney seemed to get his act together and was able to run at the Gunners defence with much more freedom and confidence. Rating 6

Danny Welbeck: Even when the youngster isn’t completely firing on all cylinders, you cannot fault his work rate and his desire as Welbeck, hustled, harris and chased all game. The Longsight-born lad was rewarded with a goal and could have had a couple more, twice going through on goal only to be denied by a goal line clearance and his own legs going late on. Rating 7

Rafael – on for Jones- Despite losing possession in the Arsenal box which led to their goal and even though the sub, actually got subbed, t wasn’t a terrible day at the office for the young Brazilian. Managed to tame his aggression enough not to cost United anything too costly and injected some much needed energy into proceedings at times. Rating 6

Paul Scholes -on for Nani- Although the Ginger Prince only had fifteen minutes on the pitch it was still enough to influence the game as his pass to Valencia led to United’s second goal. Rating 7

Ji-Sung Park- on for Rafael- Had even less time than Scholes but still managed to have a say against his favourite opponents. Played a lovely one-two with Valencia in the build-up to Welbeck’s goal. Rating 7