Scott McTominay’s superb goal on the stroke of half-time broke the deadlock after a dreadful opening 45 minutes.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then equalised just before the hour-mark following a VAR review after the assistant referee had initially put his flag up for offside. Replays showed the Gabonese striker was onside - and by some distance - and Arsenal subsequently found themselves right back in the contest.
No further goals were scored and the result means United climb up one place from 11th to 10th - leapfrogging Burnley in the process - and now find themselves three points behind fourth-placed West Ham.
Arsenal, on the other hand, move up to fourth place from eighth and the pressure is alleviated slightly on under-fire manager Unai Emery.
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United dominated the opening stages but quality was in short supply from both teams.
Andreas Pereira had the game’s first shot after 29 minutes following a fine run from the halfway line. It was the first bit of individual quality we’d seen all night.
Nicolas Pepe then forced David de Gea into the game’s second save five minutes later and the United goalkeeper was again called into action shortly before half-time when Bukayo Saka and then Mattéo Guendouzi both had shots on target.
The game needed a moment of inspiration to spark it into life and McTominay provided it with the best goal of his career so far.
The Scottish midfielder pulled the trigger from the edge of the box and watched on as the ball flew past Arsenal ‘keeper Bernd Leno via a slight deflection.
Granit Xhaka, who was appointed Arsenal’s new permanent captain last weekend, was blasted on social media for ducking when McTominay stuck the ball - although the Swiss midfielder wasn’t criticised too harshly by former Man Utd captain Roy Keane inside the Sky Sports’ studio, much to everybody’s surprise.
Aubameyang levelled the scores in the 58th minute - shortly after United felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Sead Kolasinac handled the ball inside his own box - although the moment was ruined somewhat by the assistant referee flagging for offside.
VAR correctly overruled the decision - and the match officials will probably be embarrassed when they watch it back.
Saka assisted the goal and the 18-year-old could - and probably should - have put Arsenal 2-1 up moments later when the ball rolled perfectly into his path inside the United box.
However, the teenager saw his effort deflect over the bar for a corner.
The second half was a lot more entertaining than the first and Paul Pogba then went close to putting United up with a decent effort from outside the box.
McTominay then should have doubled his - and United’s - tally in the 70th minute with a free header from a corner. It looked a harder chance to miss than score.
The hosts looked the most likely to take all three ponts in the closing stages, with Harry Maguire forcing Leno into a save with a fierce strike. The Arsenal goalkeeper then pulled off a fine save in stoppage time from Marcus Rashford's free-kick.
But no further goals were scored as the two top-four contenders shared the points.News Now - Sport News