Marcus Rashford was again Manchester United's hero as he scored a first-half brace to help his side to a 3-2 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.
The teenage striker continued his sudden and rapid rise to stardom, while a limp Gunners team surrendered vital ground in the title race.
Danny Welbeck replied for Arsenal before the break, but Ander Herrera struck the game's eventual winner after half-time, assisted by Rashford, and a late Mesut Ozil goal failed to rescue Arsenal.
Rashford, a two-goal hero in United's recent UEFA Europa League win over FC Midtjylland, was included in a starting XI that also featured Marcos Rojo at left-back:
Wenger gave Welbeck the start, while also adding Theo Walcott to the XI, ensuring the Gunners had ample pace to terrorise United's makeshift defence:
The Gunners carved out a promising early chance when a slick combination of passes put left-back Nacho Monreal in behind the United back four. But the Spaniard delayed his shot, and returning goalkeeper David De Gea was able to block it.
Rashford then offered an ominous early sign of his threat by nearly winning a penalty on a clumsy challenge by Arsenal centre-back Gabriel on the edge of the box. But it wasn't long before the 18-year-old made a more decisive contribution.
After Walcott ran into traffic in midfield, United stole the ball and fashioned a low cross into the box that skidded beyond stretching limbs and fell for Rashford to scoop coolly beyond Petr Cech.
Sky Sports Football relayed images of the goal:
Three minutes later, a rapid-fire United passing move ended with a smart knock down from full-back Guillermo Varela that teed up Jesse Lingard to cross. The winger's delivery was met by a decisive header from Rashford, who doubled the home side's lead.
Here are images of the finish, via Sky Sports:
By scoring twice, Rashford joined United folklore, according to Sky Sports Statto:
Squawka hailed the youngster's ruthless start to his senior career:
Marcus Rashford has scored 4 goals from 5 shots on target in his Man Utd career so far.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 28, 2016
Welcome to the big time! pic.twitter.com/wPwZOoOOmG
However, James Benge of the London Evening Standard had a measured and more sarcastic response:
All aboard the Rashford hype train! Calling at promising youngster, future Ballon d'Or winner, useful squad player and West Brom transfer.— James Benge (@jamesbenge) February 28, 2016
Arsenal responded before the break when ex-United frontman Welbeck nodded home an Ozil free-kick. For the latter, it was one more notch in his quest for a league record, per WhoScored.com:
Mesut Özil: Has now registered 18 assists in the PL this season; only Thierry Henry (20 in 2002/03) has more in a single PL season #MUNARS— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 28, 2016
Still, Ozil's milestone couldn't mask how little Arsenal generated in attack. The Gunners weren't getting enough from their forwards, with one in particular having a very disappointing day, according to Squawka:
Theo Walcott completed just 4 passes in the first half vs. Man United, 2 of which were from kick off. pic.twitter.com/KdEJfBZYvg— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 28, 2016
Morgan Schneiderlin saw a fine shot blocked by Francis Coquelin as United comfortably controlled the early stages of the second half. Holding midfielder Schneiderlin roamed forward, which was a sign of United's growing confidence and attacking intent.
Their bravado was merited. Van Gaal's team passed the ball with greater pace and more accuracy than their sluggish visitors.
But United also stayed compact and in command at the back. Even an injury to Rojo and the introduction of another teenager, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, didn't disrupt things.
The makeup of United's patchwork defence, detailed by Squawka, only served as an indictment of Arsenal's struggles going forward:
Man United's defence is now made-up of two midfielders and two other defenders with a total of 6 senior games for the club before today.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 28, 2016
United, though, had no such problems. A swift break saw Rashford tee up Herrera. The Basque playmaker's shot was going wide but hit Laurent Koscielny in the chest to wrong-foot Cech and arrow into the net.
Wenger had introduced Olivier Giroud, hoping a more direct approach would solve Arsenal's problems up front. The tactic paid off somewhat when an Alexis Sanchez cross evaded Giroud but fell for Ozil to put in after De Gea had brilliantly denied Welbeck from close range.
Arsenal pressed for the rest of the game, but they continued to lack composure and class in the final third.
There was a comic moment when Van Gaal attempted to convince fourth official Mike Dean that Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez had dived, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
Van Gaal has just fallen over deliberately in front of fourth official Mike Dean to claim Sanchez dived. Never seen anything quite like that— James Olley (@JamesOlley) February 28, 2016
BBC's Match of the Day Twitter account found the humour in Van Gaal's antics:
Wenger's seen his side struggle for goals most of this season, but while the Gunners scored twice Sunday, he won't have expected what had been a resolute defence to desert his team the way it did on the big stage.
The Frenchman highlighted the defensive gaffes as his biggest regret, per the club's Twitter account:
Boss on #MUFCvAFC: "We conceded and it was difficult. The only regret is we had so much of the ball but conceded three goals."— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 28, 2016
Wenger also called on his players to make a quick recovery in a title race he apparently still believes his team is in:
Wenger on the title race: "We dropped three important points today. We need to bounce back on Wednesday night." pic.twitter.com/0FtxkfzX3r— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 28, 2016
Van Gaal chose to concentrate on Rashford's sensational progress, praising the youngster for not shying away from the high stakes of a critical league game, per BBC Sport's Simon Stone:
LVG on Rashford: "It is unbelievable.I can understand Thursday. The second time is always more difficult. Four goals in two matches."— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) February 28, 2016
He also referenced his mock fall and how he subsequently handled things with the officials, according to Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News:
Van Gaal to Sky on his dive: 'I'm always sitting on my bench but my emotion today was a bit too high. I apologised to the referee.' #mufc— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 28, 2016
United's three points have kept their top-four bid alive, though Van Gaal will surely struggle now to temper the Rashford hype. But it's Wenger who will face the tougher challenge of trying to convince his players they haven't already blown their chance of winning the title.