LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho labelled goalkeeper David de Gea as the best in the world after the Spaniard equalled a Premier League record during his side's exhilarating 3-1 victory at Arsenal on Saturday.
De Gea made 14 saves as Arsenal threw everything at United after conceding goals by Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard in the opening 11 minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
"I told him after the match, what I saw today was the best from a goalkeeper in the world," said Mourinho, whose side provisionally closed the gap on Manchester City to five points before the leaders' clash against West Ham yesterday.
De Gea made some classically excellent dives and parries, stretches to tip shots over the crossbar, but his brilliance extended to all four limbs.
There was the stop with his shin, almost point-blank, when Alexandre Lacazette stabbed at an effort midway through the first half; then another reflex response to deflect a Lacazette shot against his bar.
Striker Romelu Lukaku had to thank de Gea, too, for keeping out his miscued clearance when every United outfielder was corralled in the penalty area.
So deep were United obliged to defend at times, wary of Arsenal's quick, slick passing triangles, that de Gea was making his interventions from close range, instantly.
Shots Manchester United faced on Saturday - the most by a side managed by Jose Mourinho
There was a dazzling double save as Arsenal pressed to add a second goal after Lacazette halved the deficit - de Gea sprang to his right to block from the Frenchman and, still grounded, denied Alexis Sanchez with his foot as the Chilean followed up.
It proved a turning point, with United landing a sucker punch soon after Lingard got his second.
With a two-goal cushion restored and Paul Pogba sent off in the 74th minute, United fully soaked up the pressure late on.
"The team defended well for 90 minutes," de Gea replied to a question about whether he had ever played better. "We scored three goals but then lost control. It was difficult, but it was a good game."
The only other goalkeepers to make as many saves in a Premier League match were Tim Krul for Newcastle United (against Tottenham Hotspur in November 2013) and Vito Mannone for Sunderland (against Chelsea in April 2014).
"We had 10 chances to score, and their goalkeeper was outstanding," said Arsene Wenger after Arsenal's 12-match home winning run in the Premier League was snapped, despite having 75 per cent of the ball and taking 33 shots.
"We played well but there is nothing more frustrating than when you have that quality of performance and nothing to show for it at the end. The attitude was impeccable until the end. But you cannot make the mistakes we made at the beginning."
United had scored only once in seven previous away games under Mourinho against top six clubs and the nature of their vibrant display answered critics who have accused the Portuguese of "parking the bus" in big games on the road.
"I loved the way my team played and fought," Mourinho said.
"Arsenal also played amazing, created difficulties for us."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS