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United crush Arsenal 4-2 in Highbury thriller
Updated: 2005-02-02 08:27

Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals in four minutes to guide Manchester United to a thrilling 4-2 comeback victory over champions Arsenal at Highbury on Tuesday.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (L) celebrates his team's victory over Arsenal with teammates Roy Keane (2nd L) Rio Ferdidnand (C), Louis Saha (2nd R) and John O'Shea during their Premiership football match at Highbury in London. Manchester United won 4-2.[AFP]

United had to play the last 21 minutes with 10 men after a red card for French defender Mikael Silvestre, but were not to be denied a famous victory that propelled them into second place in the Premier League behind runaway leaders Chelsea.

Victory left United with 53 points, eight behind a Chelsea side who face Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday, and dealt a massive blow to Arsenal's already faint hopes of retaining their title.

Arsenal slip to third, on 51 points, and must now look to leapfrog United at the end of the season to claim the other automatic slot in next season's Champions League.

Captain Patrick Vieira headed Arsenal into an eighth-minute lead, Ryan Giggs levelled for United 10 minutes later with a deflected shot and Dennis Bergkamp, in outstanding form, restored Arsenal's lead before the break.

But Ronaldo's goals in the 54th and 58th minutes, along with an 88th-minute strike by substitute John O'Shea, completed a United double over the champions after Arsenal's record 49-match unbeaten league run ended in a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in October.

In the night's other games, Liverpool won 2-1 at Charlton Athletic, Bolton Wanderers beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1, Portsmouth were 2-1 winners against Middlesbrough and 10-man Crystal Palace drew 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion.

The showcase game though was at Highbury, where a rampant United had both the determination and the finishing needed to inflict another defeat on their bitter rivals.

Vieira, who had a verbal spat with United skipper Roy Keane in the tunnel before kickoff, put Arsenal in front after beating Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze to a Thierry Henry corner.


It was an ideal start for the Arsenal skipper, who was sent off when these two sides met in September 2003 for a 0-0 draw which led to four team mates being banned following a fracas after the final whistle.

Giggs soon checked the euphoria of the Highbury crowd when a Sol Campbell clearance was charged down by Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney flicked the ball into the Welshman's path and his shot flew in off Ashley Cole.

Arsenal rolled with the punch and hit back in the 36th minute when Thierry Henry laid the ball off for Bergkamp and the Dutchman rifled his angled shot between keeper Roy Carroll's legs.

Though both sides continued at full throttle after the break, it was United who came out on top as Ronaldo's two-goal salvo floored the champions.

He finished off a fine three-man move involving Rooney and Giggs with a shot into the far corner and then tapped in at the far post after keeper Manuel Almunia rashly tried to block Ryan Giggs on the edge of his area.

The rout, and Arsenal's first home league defeat since May 2003, was completed when O'Shea chipped Almunia.

Silvestre's red card for head-butting Freddie Ljungberg was one of three flourished in the five games being played.

Tottenham were drawing 1-1 at Bolton when their Mali international striker Frederic Kanoute was dismissed in the 68th minute. Bolton capitalised with goals from Tal Ben Haim and Kevin Davies in the last four minutes.

Palace lost Uruguayan defender Gonzalo Sorondo to a red card after 12 minutes but still took the lead through striker Andrew Johnson and then, having fallen 2-1 behind, equalised in stoppage time through Finnish midfielder Aki Riihilahti.

Spanish striker Fernando Morientes scored his first goal for Liverpool since joining last month from Real Madrid, getting the equaliser in their win at Charlton.

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