Under pressure from a dreadful midweek Champions League defeat, Arsenal bounced back in some style to take a 3-0 lead against Manchester United inside 20 minutes on Sunday. Manager Arsene Wenger faced strong criticism from his side’s 3-2 home loss to Olympiakos that left their European hopes in tatters, but could hardly have dreamt of a better response from his squad than what they produced in the early stages at the Emirates Stadium.

From the opening exchanges, Arsenal set about the visitors, who had been top of the table heading into the weekend, with real purpose. In just the sixth minute the hosts were in front, when Mesut Özil’s low cross was brilliantly flicked inside the near post by Alexis Sánchez. It took only a minute for Arsenal to double their advantage. This time it was Özil who provided the finish, coolly slotting home from 12 yards after Theo Walcott had shown composure to pick him out following another incisive attack.

The best, though, was yet to come. After a scoreless start to the season, Sánchez made it six goals in his last three games with an unstoppable drive into the top corner of the net from 20 yards. David de Gea was bewildered in goal and his teammates were shell-shocked.

Having surely come into the fixture with confidence after four straight victories in all competitions, Louis van Gaal’s men had simply been overwhelmed by Arsenal’s pace, quality and intensity. Already the winning margin was enough to take Arsenal ahead of Manchester United and into second place in the Premier League table. And the damage could have been even greater before the halftime interval if Aaron Ramsey had not volleyed over with a clear sight of goal.

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