Bukayo Saka paid tribute to Arsenal fans and technical staff alike as the Gunners kept their run of form going and maintained a five-point gap between themselves and Man City at the top of the Premier League table.
The north London clubs came from behind to beat Manchester United 3-2 on Sunday, meaning they have lost just once in 19 top-flight games this term and not at all since September – at Old Trafford in against the same opponent.
It was Saka who put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the game this time shortly after half-time, with Eddie Nketiah poaching the winner in the final minute to spark scenes of joy among the home supporters.
“You can see how much it means to everyone, they are the only team we beat and we wanted to win in front of our fans,” Saka told Sky Sports after the game. “It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t our best start to a game but we showed a lot of character.”
Asked what were the key reasons behind Arsenal’s unbeaten streak, which now stretches to 13 games in the league, the winger pointed to a restless atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium even after Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for the visitors – before Saka managed to match himself with the former player. Gunners icons Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry as they scored in three consecutive games against United.
“Hello Freddie and Thierry!” he joked. “I’m happy I got the first one and it gave me the confidence to keep shooting. [The win] significant but we must remain humble because it is only half way [through the campaign]. If we keep going we’ll be in a good place at the end of the season so let’s keep it up.
“First the faith we have in the team [has played a big role in staying top], especially at the Emirates. You can see the fans cheering for us at 1-0 down and it makes a big difference. Also the way the coach has set us up.”
Match-winner Nketiah, who had earlier equalized 1-1, admitted he was ready for frustration when the VAR announcement went up on the scoreboard as he went to celebrate going into stoppage time.
“We wanted it badly, we kept pushing and thankfully we got the breakthrough. It’s just a matter of being aware and being around [the box]chances will drop when you have players like you [Saka] so I kept going and knew I would have a chance.
“I saw [Lisandro] Martinez next to me so I knew I was on the side! But your heart skips a beat when you see the purple [VAR sign] come up.”
Man United left-back Luke Shaw said the win reminded the team that there was still work to be done, but insisted they needed to bounce back quickly because of the run of games to come.
“In the second half we were a bit passive, we let them completely control it. To concede right at the end, we were fighting all the way and in games like this you need to be focused on the whole game,” he said.
“We were aggressive and when we won the ball high up the pitch, the first half went well, but we regressed a bit in the second half. They had chances and towards the end of the game they are always going to get another big one. You have to give Arsenal credit for what they have done this season, they deserve to be top.
“But we’re only halfway there, there’s a long way to go and we have a big semi-final ahead of us. It’s a reality check.”