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Six of the best: Rice twists knife into ex-club as Gunners smash West Ham, United leave it late

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11th February, 2024
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A record win for Arsenal – and an absolutely critical one for Manchester United.

After Arsenal hammered West Ham 6-0 for their biggest-ever Premier League away victory, United beat Aston Villa 2-1 in a huge result in the race for Champions League qualification on Sunday (Monday AEDT).

Arsenal might be in their best form this season. 

Last weekend, Mikel Arteta’s team were handing league leader Liverpool only their second loss to tighten up the title race and here they were running amok inside the Olympic Stadium, which rapidly emptied after West Ham fell 4-0 behind just before halftime.

Bukayo Saka scored twice and Declan Rice — a former West Ham favourite — added the sixth goal almost apologetically.

Arsenal joined Manchester City just two points behind Liverpool. All three of the big title contenders won this weekend.

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United’s aspirations are simply to finish in the top four — or five — to get into the Champions League and that would have been a long shot had the visitors lost at Villa Park.

Instead, there’s only five points — rather than 11 — between United in sixth and Villa in fifth after Scott McTominay headed in an 86th-minute winner to earn his team a third straight league victory. 

Rasmus Hojlund opened the scoring for United and has now netted in five straight league matches.

Disgruntled West Ham fans streamed out of their ground in their hundreds prior to the halftime whistle, well before their former star player condemned the team to their joint-heaviest loss of all-time.

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It just had to be Rice running onto the ball and curling a long-range strike into the top corner to put the seal on an almost embarrassingly easy win for Arsenal.

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Rice used to be West Ham’s best player, with his relentless energy, lung-busting runs and covering tackles. Now here he was, playing a big part in a clinic by Arsenal, with the home supporters’ booing of his every touch, which may have spurred him on.

Rice’s set-piece deliveries set up first-half goals for William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, with Saka and Leandro Trossard also scoring before the break. 

After Saka’s second, Rice scored and didn’t even celebrate, holding up both of his hands apologetically instead. He was even applauded by some home supporters when he was substituted moments later.

Signed in July for Stg 105 million ($A203 million), it is looking like money well spent by Arsenal.

© AAP

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