Manchester United players celebrate the opener against Arsenal
United went ahead early when RvP latched onto a mistake from Thomas Vermaelen and scored with his right foot. Patrice Evra scored the second goal on 67 minutes. Santi Cazorla pulled a goal back for Arsenal with the last touch of the match.
Ultimately, United ran out 2-1 winners after what was surely their easiest game this season against one of the Premier League's big teams.
The game lacked a masterclass performance from any particular player. In fact, United's win owed as much to Arsenal's lackluster performance as it did to their own showing. There could even be an argument that United made it difficult for themselves by not taking advantage of the many chances they created.
Here is a look at three key players for Manchester United, who were more critical than others to the win today.
The main subplot of the game was Robin van Persie's first meeting with his former club. And the Dutchman showed all the attributes which had endeared him to Arsenal fans for eight years.
His first contribution was to pounce on a mistake by Thomas Vermaelen and score Manchester United's opener with a precise finish.
Throughout the game, RvP was United's biggest goal threat. He had a game high four shots on target and also linked up well with Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia. A noticeable feature of his game was his strength in the air as he managed to win three out of six aerial duels (all statistics via the FourFourTwo StatsZone app).
However, all this is not to say that RvP had a perfect game. He missed an easy one-on-one against Vito Mannone in the second half at a time when United were looking for a second goal to put the tie beyond Arsenal.
RvP's goal now means that he has 10 goals for United in 13 appearances. Even more impressively, he has scored against three of United's biggest rivals in Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Surely, the £24 million is starting to look like a steal now.
Wayne Rooney was the fulcrum on which Sir Alex Ferguson based his tactics against Arsenal. Rooney had the dual responsibility of contributing to attacks as well as keeping tabs on Arsenal's midfield fulcrum, Mikel Arteta.
The Arsenal midfielder has had an amazing start to the current season, averaging 91 passes a game with a success rate of 93% (stat via whoscored.com). His performances as the deep-lying playmaker for Arsenal were every bit as important for the Gunners as Santi Cazorla's introduction to the team.
Sir Alex seemed to acknowledge this from the way he deployed Rooney. This move turned out to be a masterstroke as Arteta could only attempt 65 passes in the game. In addition, only 9 of those attempted passes were in the attacking third.
Overall, Rooney's defensive performance today was a masterclass in how a forward can help his team by defending from the front. The United No. 10 made four interceptions and four successful tackles.
Offensively, Rooney made the assist for Patrice Evra's goal and also dovetailed well with Robin van Persie. The fluid interplay between the two was especially evident in the first half, when United were much the dominant team.
The only blot on Rooney's performance today was his missed penalty towards the end of the first half. His missed penalty (United's fourth missed spot-kick this season) let the Gunners off the hook.
Thankfully for Rooney and United, the penalty miss didn't really influence the result of the game in the end.
Patrice Evra had what was surely his best game for Manchester United this season. Of course, he was helped by having to keep tabs on a largely ineffectual Aaron Ramsey in the first half and a muted Theo Walcott in the second half.
Evra did his defensive duties well in this game, although he (like the rest of the United defence) was helped by an Arsenal side which lacked the invention and running to create any chances. Except for one time in the first half when Ramsey made a run behind him, Evra didn't allow the Gunners any joy down his flank.
However, Evra's most telling contribution of the game came at the attacking end of the pitch. He scored United's second goal from a header following a good leap.
The goal brought back memories of the other goal he scored this season against Newcastle. On both occasions, Evra dodged his marker and met the incoming cross with thumping headers.
It must be said that Evra is now on something of a goalscoring streak now. After all, two goals from 11 appearances this season represents a flood for a player who scored three goals in seven seasons for United before this.