Manchester, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Manchester United returned to the thick of the English Premier League title race with a 2-0 victory over champions Arsenal at Old Trafford Saturday.
Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron and Englandís Paul Scholes struck in each half of a pulsating encounter as United eased painful memories of the 0-1 home defeat to Arsenal in May that handed their rivals last seasonís championship.
Although Arsene Wengerís side enjoyed large spells of possession, Thierry Henry was kept in check by a United side bristling with intent and the Highbury club was left contemplating a potentially ruinous fourth defeat of the campaign. It also ended their run of scoring in 55 consecutive league games.
Unitedís win was fully deserved by Alex Fergusonís side and their third league success on the trot takes them to second spot on 32 points ó just three points behind leaders Arsenal.
Arsenalís exuberance couldnít be subdued for long, and they twice went close.
After 10 minutes, Henry saw his sidefooted effort well saved by Fabien Barthez in front of goal. The move of the match moments later involved a lightning one-two between Robert Pires and Henry before Pires cheekily lobbed Barthez from 20 metres only for the Frenchman to fingertip the ball just wide.
However, in the 22nd minute, United forced themselves into the lead after French defender Pascal Cygan gave the ball away on the edge of his area.
Although there was a suggestion of handball from Van Nistelrooy, the Dutch striker quickly released Scholes down the right and the England midfielder crossed low for Veron, who slid the ball home from close range.
Arsenalís Martin Keown, returning for the suspended Sol Campbell, escaped punishment when he appeared to slap Van Nistelrooy on the face.
Shaaban then suffered a muscle strain while taking a goal kick and was replaced by Stuart Taylor just before half-time.
The visitors emerged in the second half with great purpose and urgency, although they had to rely on Taylorís alertness to deny Giggs from a quick-free kick on 59 minutes.
But as in the first half, Unitedís second ó 18 minutes from time -- arrived out of nothing. Van Nistelrooy turned and fed Scholes, who advanced into the area before driving a right-footed shot past Taylor with the aid of a slight deflection.
ďThereís a long way to go yet, but weíre hopeful that if we get a few players back, we should be in good fettle,Ē he said.