Tony Adams outjumps Jaap Stam and Peter Schmeichel to open the scoring.

Stephen Hughes leads the congratulations.

New boy Fredrik Ljungberg scores just five minutes into his debut.

3 - 0
Attendance : 38,142

By David Alexander

A display of power, passion and skill over our greatest rivals in the race for the Premiership ensured the Arsenal three points on Sunday.

If our opening games have been tentative, lacking confidence and somewhat stale, so this was all about proving the Gunners are still the team to beat.

The dispirited look of United's players after they had been swept aside suggested we're really back in business.

Arsene Wenger admitted the win was vital. He said: "Maybe psychologically we knew we could beat United. If we had lost, we would not have won for five games but a win puts us up towards the top.

"We found our game in Lens last week and today was our best of the season. The crowd were really behind us and it reminded me of the Everton game last season when we won the title.

"We have now got our offensive power back and had United under a lot of pressure."

And United manager Alex Ferguson conceded that he could not remember losing so convincingly: "In terms of sheer effort and determination, Arsenal were always better than us.

"We were second best in every challenge and it was a really disappointing performance. They wanted it more than we did."

Arsenal started far the better side and never looked back seeming to carve openings with ease.

Ray Parlour found space early on and Dennis Bergkamp volleyed over after hesitancy in the United defence. We were quicker to every ball and when David Beckham got a free kick 30 yards out David Seaman was equal to it.

The flowing football continued and United were torn apart by a lovely move involving Parlour and Nicolas Anelka, with Bergkamp caught just offside.

A brilliant run by Patrick Vieira, making mincemeat of Ryan Giggs down the Arsenal right, left Dixon with a fine volley which Schmeichel did well to save and Stephen Hughes fed Overmars who struck well at the near post.

Seaman was largely a spectator and when a misplaced pass did allow Giggs a run at the defence, Vieira was there to clean up, prompting deafening chants around the stadium. No wonder Wenger described this as one of Vieira's best ever performances.

We took the lead 14 minutes into the game when Dixon won a free kick on the right. Stephen Hughes swept the ball over and Tony Adams beat Schmeichel to the ball and headed in. It was certainly deserved.

The pressure was unrelenting with a header from bergkamp testing Schmeichel after a fine ball from Keown.

While Arsenal played crisp, flowing football, United were limited to a long ball game tainted by niggly fouls and misplaced passes lacking any sort of cohesion.

But with only one goal separating the sides, it was never a comfortable cushion.

Bergkamp almost added to the lead with a low shot which went just wide of the post. The approach play had been Arsenal at their best, with Hughes feeding Overmars and Anelka eventually chipping the ball into Bergkamp's path.

And United should have equalised after half an hour. Beckham received the ball 25 yards out and hit a wonderful shot which had Seaman beaten. It looked a goal but hit the inside of the post and crept along the goal-line before rolling out for a goal kick. It was a real let-off.

But we hit back through Parlour, who ran from the left hand channel and hit a speculative shot which drifted just wide. It looked certain to have taken a deflection but a goal kick was given.

Vieira was commanding, doing the defensive midfield work of two players while Hughes pinged the ball around with the class that makes him such a great prospect.

Anelka almost added to our lead with a shot on the break after Overmars had seen United backpedaling, but Schmeichel was equal to it.

And Anelka had the Highbury crowd in delusion just on half time with our second goal. He beat the offside trap, latching onto Overmars' pass and had only Schmeichel to beat, slotting home his second effort after the Danish keeper had saved the first shot.

Three goals in four games for the young Frenchman underlines why Wenger holds him in such high esteem. In injury time, Beckham took another of his lethal free kicks from the edge of the area, which Seaman nonchalantly picked out of the air to prove his doubters that none of the old magic has gone.

Bergkamp almost put the game beyond reach with a volley into the side netting after Anelka had flicked the ball on.

Hughes was booked for an innocuous challenge on Beckham who then escaped a yellow card for a late tackle on our young midfielder.

Beckham should learn from the petulance that cost him so dear during the World Cup.

But United were down to ten men five minutes into the second half. Nicky Butt earned his second red card in less than a week for a professional foul on the edge of the box after Vieira looked set to run through.

As in the first half, we were first to every ball, and making United look second best in every department.

When they did threaten, and it was a rarity, Seaman was always behind the ball, notably when Jesper Blomqvist ran through on a forceful run. Anelka should have made it three after 65 minutes when he found himself with only the keeper to beat after a delightful pass by Bergkamp, but he pulled his shot wide.

Overmars could put on a show, playing neat and tidy football and giving an exhibition to United, making a mockery of international opponents.

Some inconsistent refereeing started to irritate the home fans and Beckham took advantage with another free kick on the edge of the box that Seaman was equal to. Fredrik Ljungberg came on for Anelka with just over ten minutes to go, the French striker going off to a standing ovation.

And the Swede made sure he will always be a favourite at Highbury with a delicate lob over Schmeichel to make it three-nil.

"Freddy Freddy" they chanted and after a performance like this, he and Arsenal are going to cause a few nightmares to many more opponents over the next few months.

AFCi's Newsroom is brought to you by the official Arsenal FC Magazine
Subscribe Now