Premier League - Van Persie scores on return to Arsenal as Manchester United earn draw

Premier League, Emirates Stadium - Arsenal 1 (Walcott 2), Manchester United 1 (Van Persie pen 44).

Premier League - Van Persie scores on return to Arsenal as Manchester United earn draw

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Manchester United's Robin van Persie (left) celebrates with team-mate Wayne Rooney after scoring his side's first goal of the gam from the penalty spot

Robin van Persie scored on his return to the Emirates Stadium as Premier League champions Manchester United drew 1-1 against Arsenal.

The Dutchman earned and converted a 44th minute penalty to cancel out Theo Walcott's second minute opener.

United were seeking the first of four wins that would set a Premier League points record but the result is more damaging to the Gunners who drop to fourth, a point behind Chelsea and two ahead of Tottenham Hotspur who both have a game in hand.

Arsenal kept with tradition and formed a guard of honour for the new champions but showed United little respect in the opening quarter, snapping into every challenge, and they were full value for their early lead.

It came after van Persie gave the ball away on the halfway line. An interchange of passes followed before Tomas Rosicky sent Walcott behind Patrice Evra and the England forward smuggled his shot under David De Gea from the angle.

Walcott may have strayed offside but the Gunners cared little and continued to trouble the United defence, with Rosicky's 25-yard skidder going wide before Santi Cazorla's effort warmed the fingers of De Gea.

Van Persie's first effort at goal from the left side of the penalty area was high, wide and not very handsome but he then picked out Phil Jones on the penalty spot with a lovely cross, only for the former Blackburn player to mis-time the header.

The Dutchman then received the third United yellow card of the opening half hour for a sliding tackle on Per Mertesacker but almost equalised when his header from four yards out was smothered by Wojciech Szczesny, who denied his former team-mate with his face.

Another chance came and went for Jones as he made a late run into the box to meet Antonio Valencia's cross from the right with a stooping header, but then a double blunder by Bacary Sagna saw United on level terms on the stroke of half-time.

The French full-back gifted the ball away to van Persie with a sloppy back pass and, in attempting to win the ball back, brought him down. The former Gunners favourite got up to smash the ball into the corner past Szczesny, although he resisted the temptation to celebrate his 25th Premier League goal of the season.

Rosicky had an early chance after the break as United backed off but the Czech curled the ball with the outside of his boot past the post.

The visitors then took charge. Rafael looked towards the heavens as his 20-yard fizzer flew over the crossbar, and soon after Wayne Rooney found space between two defenders - but his downward header was straight at Szczesny.

Arsene Wenger could smell the danger and brought on Jack Wilshere, and after Valencia handled on the edge of the penalty area Cazorla curled a free-kick past the post.

The home fans begged for a late winner and wanted a penalty when Kieran Gibbs went down after nutmegging Rio Ferdinand. It was a collision of bodies that might have been given, but Arsenal continued pressing and De Gea pushed away a Cazorla effort from 20 yards.

United nearly grabbed a winner on the break late on after a majestic pass from Rooney found sub Ryan Giggs. The veteran's shot was headed for the corner of the net but came off the thigh of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - who was born three years after Giggs - and went for a corner.

A draw was a fair result and although a point ends United's hopes of setting a new Premier League points record it could be more damaging to Arsenal. The Gunnners have their North London neighbours breathing down their necks in the chase for Champions League football next season.


Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) - Won every tackle and made more interceptions than any other player. Fully justified his place ahead of club captain Thomas Vermaelen.


ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Sagna 5, Mertesacker 6, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 6, Arteta 5, Ramsey 5, Rosicky 7, Cazorla 7, Walcott 7, Podolski 5. Subs: Wilshere 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Gervinho 6.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 7, Rafael 7, Evans, Ferdinand 6, Evra 6, Valencia 6, Carrick 6, Jones 7, Nani 6, Rooney 7, Van Persie 7. Subs: Anderson 6, Giggs 6, Hernandez 6

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