LONDON // Samir Nasri fired an impressive brace to help Arsenal get their title hopes firmly back on track and give Arsene Wenger something to smile about again as they recorded an impressive victory over the champions. Wenger was left fuming earlier in the week after he had accused opponents of deliberately trying to injure his players, while his side had suffered a barren run of form going three games without a win, which included a shock 2-1 defeat against Stoke last weekend. But Wenger's young side were back to their best at Emirates Stadium and dispelled any theories that they don't have the experience to compete at the top of the table. Despite missing first-choice strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin Van Persie, Arsenal showed they have the quality to battle with the very best and in the process dented Manchester United's hopes of closing the gap on Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table. United have now taken just one point from their games against the top three clubs this season which will come as a major worry to Sir Alex Ferguson. Nasri was the difference between the two teams and is starting to show his true potential following his £11m (Dh 63m) move from Marseille in the summer. The Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia got off to the worst possible start inside the opening sixty seconds when he picked up a back-pass from former United defender Mikael Silvestre. Referee Howard Webb had no hesitation in awarding a free-kick. Anderson struck the ball into the wall. The rebound fell to Michael Carrick who fired wide. Arsenal fought their way back into the game and could have opened the scoring on 11 minutes. Gael Clichy's cross picked out Nicklas Bendtner who had a free header inside the box, but flashed his close-range effort over the bar. The home side went close again on 14 minutes when Nasri caused all kind of problems for Gary Neville down the left hand side and put in a dangerous cross which Bendtner and Theo Walcott just failed to connect with. No-one could accuse this game of lacking in entertainment as both teams were desperate to come away with the three points. United had a golden chance to take the lead on 19 minutes. Dimitar Berbatov's pass picked out Ronaldo who squared the ball across to Rooney. The England striker was completely unmarked inside the box but he fired his effort high over the bar. Rooney was made to pay for his wastefulness as Arsenal took the lead in the 22nd minute. A Cesc Fabregas corner was headed away by Berbatov into the path of Nasri. The French midfielder fired a powerful shot which took a wicked deflection off Gary Neville and flew past the wrongfooted goalkeeper Edwin van Der Sar. Fabregas was involved in the heart of the action once again on seven minutes later when he broke clear on the edge of the box and saw his deflected shot fall inches past the post. Ji-Sung Park forced a fine save from Almunia before the interval as United tried to hit back, but it was Arsenal who doubled their lead on 48 minutes. Fabregas was the provider once again as his ball picked out Nasri who smashed a right-foot shot past Van Der Sar into the corner of the net. Ferguson must have known it was not going to be his day after Ronaldo fired agonisingly wide with the goal at his mercy from close range. Arsenal's nerves were not helped as goalkeeper Almunia had to be replaced by Lukasz Fabianski after the Spaniard was hurt in a challenge from Michael Carrick. United did set up a tense finish as a minute from time substitute Rafael da Silva pulled a goal back when he fired an impressive volley past Fabianski. Despite six minutes of stoppage time being played Wenger's side stayed strong to claim the vital victory.
* PA Sport