Full-time - 90'
1 - 1
15:00 +00:00, April 28, 2013
Emirates Stadium, England
And now the game is over - a whirlwind start from Arsenal saw them lead through Walcott but, at the end of the first half, the returning Robin van Persie equalised from the spot and neither side could find a second-half winner.
United clear, and Van Persie is adjudged to have committed a foul as he battles for the ball. Arsenal play it forward. But time is running out...
Szczesny plays the ball forward. A minute of added time remaining.
United happy just to keep the ball now. But suddenly Ferdinand springs forward. United cross and Arsenal - not without a degree of difficulty - clear.
There will be four added minutes at the Emirates as Oxlade-Chamberlain comes forward once more. Gervinho tries to engineer crossing space, but can't find any.
Last minute of the 90. Arsenal on the ball halfway inside the United half. Walcott and Wilshere try to combine, but the ball is out of play for a United throw.
Szczesny kicks downfield. United have made a late change - Rooney comes off and Hernandez is on for the closing moments.
Flowing football led to that corner. Evra meets it, but can only steer the header over the top.
A lovely break from United - brilliant play by Rooney frees Giggs on the left. He takes his time, then takes some more and finally curls a shot which is blocked for a corner.
Mertesacker gets his head to it and, as Arsenal come forward again, Oxlade-Chamberlain has a shot deflected behind for a corner to the home side.
Good play by Arsenal again, freeing Cazorla to try his luck from outside the box. De Gea tips it round the post for a corner.
Wilshere plays the ball into the area. It's cleared and, when it comes back in, Ferdinand tidies up for United.
Good spell of pressure from United, that - but now the home side try to find some attacking momentum of their own.
Mertesacker heads the corner away, and then clears the follow-up cross from substitute Giggs.
And here he comes - Nani the United player to make way for the Welshman.
United win a corner, and are preparing to bring on Ryan Giggs.
Oxlade-Chamberlain gets a yellow for an earlier challenge after which Phil Dowd had played advantage.
Last ten minutes. Arsenal try to spread the ball out to Gibbs on the left, but it's overhit.
Rooney tries to flick the ball through to Nani inside the area, but Arsenal crowd him out.
Chance for Valencia - lovely combination between Van Persie and Rooney finds Anderson, who wastes the crossing chance by finding absolutely nobody whatsoever.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is on and Ramsey off.
The ball in is easily headed clear by United, and Arsene Wenger is about to make another change.
Walcott to take this one. Time ticking towards the last ten minutes.
A bit of a scramble in the United box as Walcott challenges but, in the end, the ball is back with De Gea. But Arsenal come again and Walcott fires in a shot which deflects behind for a corner.
Evra, up in attack, battles with Sagna on the byline. The Arsenal man wins that tussle, and his side have a goal-kick.
Into the final 15 minutes of what has been a good contest at the Emirates.
Koscielny, back in his more accustomed part of the field, starts an attack that sees Wilshere angle a ball back across the area for Arsenal. No fellow Gunners are available to take advantage, though.
United change: Anderson on for Rafael.
It falls for Koscielny, who hooks a shot over. Half-chance at best.
Gibbs for Arsenal, a little over half way. The ball is worked out to the other side and Ramsey lurks, 25 yards out and central. He's found, and shoots, but it's blocked. Arsenal corner.
Another Arsenal change: Podolski off and Gervinho on.
Valencia crosses from the right, but to nobody in particular.
Podolski finds Walcott, who hooks in a cross. Fine defensive work from Phil Jones snuffs out the danger. United break, the ball hits the corner flag and stays in, Van Persie chases and tries to make something happen, but Arsenal clear.
Carrick slides the ball back to De Gea after a Rafael run is thwarted more through lack of support from his team-mates than lack of willing.
Wilshere for Arsenal, finding Gibbs on the left and midway inside the United half. They give it away and Rooney tries to curl a pass over to Nani. It's overhit, though, and out of play.
Cazorla tries to curl the free-kick into the corner - and curls it wide of the far post.
Another United yellow as Valencia goes into the book.
Gibbs takes the ball down and it hits Valencia on the hand as he challenges. It's just outside the area, and dangerous.
Evra makes a strong run into the area and Arsenal - just - deal with it.
Wilshere is blocked by Valencia as he tries to make a run. Free-kick to Arsenal, which comes to nothing and United look to come forward with Jones.
Arteta fouls Jones on the left. It's a little bit bitty all of a sudden.
It is Wilshere, with Rosicky making way for him.
There'll be a change by Arsenal here, and it looks like Jack Wilshere.
Sagna makes a heavy challenge on Evra. He's already been booked... but the referee takes no action.
Rosicky is found by Podolski, shoots - and Evans blocked.
They, too, are forced back. Then Van Persie tangles with Mertesacker and is adjudged to have fouled him. Arsenal free-kick.
And now the ball is played out towards Sagna, but that breaks down and United can spring forward.
Arsenal's turn to put together some good passing as we inch towards the hour mark. Walcott and Rosicky combine...
Evra gives it away and Arsenal might be able to break. They find Sagna, who crosses from the right, only to see that ball cleared.
Lull nearly broken - Evra crosses, Rooney heads down, but it's too close to Szczesny, who deals with it.
Ferdinand knocks the ball back to his goalkeeper. A little lull just at the moment, in terms of both action and noise.
At the other end, Arsenal try to thread one through for Podolski, but De Gea is there to claim ahead of the striker.
Crisp football from United again, working space for Nani. His cross is cleared but only as far as Rafael who tries his luck from the edge of the box and sees the effort sail over the top.
Arsene Wenger is cutting a slightly concerned figure on the touchline, shifting from foot to foot in his rather nice suit.
Good football from United, who are playing much better in this second period than they did in the first. Sir Alex Ferguson can't have been at all happy with much of what he saw before the break.
Rooney frees Van Persie wide on the left and he fizzes in a low cross that only just eludes his colleagues.
Another deep cross from United, but that one drifts out and drifts in again, and Arsenal have a goal-kick.
Rooney tries to play the ball out to the left and gets it all wrong - that one sails into touch.
The United 'keeper kicks long. Back comes the ball and good work by Podolski tees up Ramsey from 30 yards. He scuffs in a shot, which is easily stopped.
...he curls a shot with the outside of his right foot. De Gea is worried, but the ball drifts wide.
Koscielny ushers the ball back to Szczesny, and Rosicky tries to get his team going with a determined run. He gets the ball back on the edge of the area...
A better start by United in this half - more determination, and they're knocking the ball around nicely.
Arsenal win possession back, though. Not for long and, when they lose it, Rooney tries to chip through for Van Persie. The Gunners clear.
Off we go - Van Persie and Rooney kick things off.
The players are back out at the Emirates, and United will get things started in this second period.
Full-time at the Bridge and 2-0 to Chelsea, who are back in third... as things stand.
At Stamford Bridge, incidentally, Chelsea are still 2-0 up with only a minute or two remaining.
And that's half-time - Arsenal were on top for so long, but their old hero Robin van Persie put his name on the scoresheet from the penalty spot to cancel out Theo Walcott's early effort and leave us all square at half-time.
Crossfield by Rooney, but United lose the ball. So, too, do Arsenal and Nani threatens. United can't get a decent cross in, and time is almost up in this half.
Three extra minutes at the end of this half: Nani hooks the ball forward and Evra tries to make something of it. He can't, though, and the ball is cleared.
Into stoppage time at the end of the first half. The Van Persie songs ring out from the United supporters.
And so, thanks to that Sagna error Arsenal have undone so much of their good work. Cazorla tries a shot, which is blocked. Rosicky hits one from distance, which is saved easily enough.
Sagna was booked for his earlier challenge - Arsenal's second booking.
GOAL: Van Persie belts it to the left of Szczesny. A great penalty, and a very muted celebration from the returning striker.
This is right in front of the Arsenal fans...
PENALTY TO UNITED, says the referee. The stage is set for Van Persie...
Rooney tries to get on the end of a through ball, but again Arsenal stand firm. Sagna gives the ball away and Van Persie is in the area. Sagna fouls him...
But wait a moment - Sagna and Jones contest a cross, and the ball bounces wide of the Arsenal goal. Goal-kick, says the referee.
The action restarts, with a shade over five minutes - plus a dash of injury-time - to play in a first half that Arsenal will be very pleased with.
That looked every inch the equaliser from Van Persie. Szczesny gets back to his feet, to storms of applause from the home crowd.
Nani crosses, Van Persie heads from point-blank range - and it crashes to safety off Szczesny's face. The 'keeper is on the floor, dazed.
Cazorla has his heels clipped in midfield as he tries to jink a way through. Free-kick. Arteta takes, and Arsenal play a long ball down the left which is dealt with supremely coolly by Rio Ferdinand.
United counter, and Nani has a shot from the edge of the D blocked. So much determination on show from the Gunners this afternoon.
Nani, after some good United passing, has an easy ball out wide. Instead, he tries to thread a difficult one through to Van Persie, and Arsenal intercept.
Cazorla floats it in, and it's cleared with no great difficulty.
Good work by Sagna on the left - he forces the ball off the covering Evra and wins a corner for the Gunners. Can they get a second in a half they have dominated?
Szczesny claims the free-kick easily, though. That was wasted by United.
And that's the first booking of the afternoon for Arsenal.
He opts for Podolski, whose shot is beaten away. Walcott is furious and, seconds later, has a hack at Evra as the left-back comes forward.
He floats it in, but United deal well with that one. But suddenly Arsenal have a break - Ramsey has Walcott unmarked on his right and Podolski at an angle on his left...
Arsenal can put a dangerous ball in from this - on the right, Cazorla presiding.
And it sparks a yellow card as well - four (and counting) for United now.
A foul by Evans on Walcott in a dangerous position sparks a touch of handbags at the Emirates.
Arteta and Rosicky combine to look for Gibbs down the left, but an inadvertent touch by Podolski sees that break down.
Rooney shuffles the ball back to Evra and the defender plays it forward. Again, it comes to nothing. United can't keep possession, and they can't find a way into this match.
And it is. Three United bookings, less than half an hour in.
Van Persie fouls Mertesacker. His unhappy return - so far - may be made worse with a booking... and he did rather dive in.
Forward it comes from Arsenal again, and Evra is forced to knock the ball out for a throw.
Ferdinand plays a long and rather aimless ball towards Nani, who can't make anything of it.
Evra nips in as Sagna tries to find Walcott on the right. Ferdinand plays it forward and Van Persie fouls Koscielny. Boos from the stands. It's like pantomime season has come very early.
Rafael is in the book - the second United player to go there.
United have hardly been seen as any kind of attacking force so far. Rafael fouls Rosicky as he tries to get away, and ref Phil Dowd doesn't like that one.
Ramsey's buzzing around again, this time trying to unsettle Carrick. He's doing it too much, says the referee, and gives United a free-kick deep inside their own half.
That one, however, comes to nothing.
Rosicky finds Cazorla on the edge of the area. He can't quite get his shot in, but he gets a corner after Rafael stumbles.
Ramsey's turn to get his pass wrong. He has time and space to pick someone out, but puts the ball out of play for a United throw.
Walcott tries a subtle little ball across the area. It's beyond everyone. The Arsenal man thinks he should have had a corner, but he's wrong, say the officials.
Walcott's running wide on the right again. Rosicky sees him and sweeps the ball out that way - but sweeps it too much and it goes into touch.
Van Persie crosses well after a flowing move, and Jones heads wide. It was a good chance, and should probably have brought a United equaliser.
Walcott takes the free-kick and wastes it utterly, drifting the ball behind the goal.
And the United man becomes the first person to go into the book this afternoon.
Sagna is involved again, but this time Arsenal are forced back. When they come forward, Jones is adjudged to have clattered Arteta.
Moments later, Sagna crosses again - but this one is much too long.
Sagna tries to combine with Walcott inside the penalty area, but it doesn't quite work and United get it away.
Szczesny kicks long, Sagna jumps, Podolski hassles Jones - and hassles him too much, says the referee. Free-kick United.
An offside flag against Van Persie. Another cheer from the home hordes.
And they enjoy a strong challenge by Ramsey on Nani on the left-hand side. Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't too delighted with that one.
Jones finds a ball through to Van Persie on the left of the area - and the Dutchman, from a tough angle, blazes the ball into the stands. The home fans enjoyed that.
Ten minutes gone, and we can safely stay this has been a barnstorming start from the home side. Perhaps the home side disliked having to provide that guard of honour even more than we suspected they might.
Still snappy from Arsenal. A flick from Cazorla goes awry, though, and United have the ball back.
It's headed away and, as United loom to build, Rosicky gets in with an excellent challenge.
Jones is fouled by Rosicky inside the Arsenal half. Free-kick for United. Can they make anything of this one?
When they do, Gibbs cuts out a dangerous pass that had looked destined for Nani down the United right.
United hack the corner away. They have hardly been able to get out of defensive mode so far.
Then Cazorla tries his luck from outside the box - it's beautifully hit and De Gea tips it away well.
Good passing by Arsenal. Walcott feeds Sagna, whose cross is headed away for a throw.
Then Evans has to usher the ball away from Podolski on the left-hand side of the area. Pacey stuff from the home team again.
Arsenal are very, very up for this. They drift another ball towards Walcott, pulling away on the left, but it just eludes him and goes out of play.
Rooney on the ball as United try to hit back. They lose the ball and good pressure from Arsenal forces Carrick to play the ball all the way back to his 'keeper.
And, Arsenal fans will note, all that stemmed from Van Persie's misplaced pass. Well well well.
What a start for Arsenal, but United will be unhappy - Walcott looked just in front of Evra there.
GOAL: Walcott goes through, looking a shade offside, and bangs the ball home off De Gea at the near post. Arsenal lead inside two minutes!
Boos for Van Persie as he takes possession on the halfway line. Cheers as his pass goes astray and Arsenal break...
Arsenal back in possession, playing the ball around at the back. Now it's with Szczesny, who plays it into the United half. Rafael gets rid.
United fans are already into a chorus of songs in praise of Van Persie as David de Gea gathers the ball for United.
Arsenal get us under way - big noise at the Emirates now as the ball goes forward early...
A couple of minutes remaining until kick-off - let's see what Van Persie can come up with against the club for which he dazzled last season.
Let's say the guard of honour got a mixed reception from the home fans. That's not entirely unexpected...
Chelsea now have a second - Frank Lampard inching closer to Bobby Tambling's record by converting from the penalty spot.
That, as things stand, puts Chelsea in front of Arsenal in third.
And more pressure for Arsenal: Chelsea have gone in front against Swansea at Stamford Bridge, with Oscar the man on target.
Twenty minutes or so remaining until kick-off as fans stroll to the Emirates. Relaxation and party atmosphere are the order of the day among the travelling supporters. There's a bit more tension if you're a Gunner.
Musa Okwonga has a few thoughts on the man in the spotlight today - here's his take on the return of the ex.
Gunners blogger Sam Limbert, meanwhile, wonders how the whole guard of honour thing will go.
But inevitably, as the Gunners prepare to give their visitors, the runaway Premier League winners, a guard of honour, it's largely about Van Persie, as John Brewin explains.
Arsenal are a point ahead of Chelsea - playing as we speak, and 0-0 at home to Swansea - and the same margin in front of North London rivals Tottenham as the Champions League race hots up.
Runaway leaders United look like this: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Carrick, Jones, Valencia, Rooney, Nani, Van Persie.
Arsene Wenger's men are without Jack Wilshere, and will line up like this: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski.
A big, big afternoon coming up for Arsenal against the champions - and the big news is that Robin van Persie will be starting against his former club at the Emirates.
ESPN FC will bring you LIVE minute-by-minute commentary of Arsenal versus Manchester United, which kicks off at 16.00 BST. Team news will arrive around an hour before the game gets under way.
David De Gea
Robin Van Persie