Robin Van Persie Manchester United
Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie scores against his former club Arsenal in the English Premier League, November 10. Reuters

Robin Van Persie, whenever he is on the pitch in a game involving Arsenal, he scores; be that for them or against them. An astute exercise of the neck muscles in the 27th minute this time around yet again dented his former side as Manchester United grabbed a monumental three points in a nerve-wracking English Premier League game at Old Trafford.

The ultimate test of Arsenal's title credentials at the home of the defending champions saw them fall short as United, on the back of an impressive first half performance, came away with a 1-0 victory, with Van Persie and David Moyes' smiles at the final whistle wider than the Grand Canyon.

The result, on a day that Tottenham and Manchester City also lost, sees United close the gap to Arsenal to just five points, while also moving ahead of City and Spurs. The Gunners head into the international break still top of the tree, but with a feeling of having missed out on a big chance to probably take United out of the running at such an early stage.

The big team news before kickoff was the absence of Per Mertesacker for Arsenal, the central defender who was a colossus against Borussia Dortmund in midweek. The Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen came in his stead, but the breaking up of arguably the best partnership in the Premier League at the moment was going to be a problem for the away side.

Moyes decided to keep it tight in midfield, choosing Phil Jones for the screening role, with the Englishman doing his job admirably in the first half.

It was either going to be an end-to-end free-for-all encounter, or a cagey, technical chess match and it proved to be the latter.

United, though, were the much better side going forward, attacking with much more purpose than Arsenal, whose verve in the final third was missing like in the first half of the Borussia Dortmund game.

Chances, however, were very much at a premium, with both sides really failing to test the goalkeepers to any real extent.

So, it was not much of a surprise when the deadlock was broken from a setpiece in the 27th minute. Wayne Rooney, who won the corner with a nice cross initially, swung in another gem from the left flag, with Van Persie getting a run on the Arsenal defender and guiding it over the head of Kieran Gibbs, who to his and his side's detriment, had just taken a couple of steps off the line.

There were no muted celebrations this time from the Dutchman, after his third goal in as many games against Arsenal, as he sprinted towards the creator Rooney to celebrate the vital opener.

The first and only test for United goalkeeper De Gea in the first half came via an Olivier Giroud header, which was comfortably held by the Spaniard, as the Gunners failed to find any kind of attacking rhythm.

Aaron Ramsey, the best player in the Premier League so far this year, was having a poor game, giving away the ball a few times, while the two gifted playmakers -- Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil was very much in the periphery, with the latter having a game to forget.

It was United that continued to look more dangerous, and the home side should have perhaps had a penalty in the 38th minute. Giroud carelessly gave the ball away near his own penalty area with Rooney seizing on it and looking to turn inside the box to get a shot away.

Giroud, looking to atone for his mistake, made a rash-looking challenge on the United forward, but referee Michael Oliver, all of 28-years-old, waved play on.

Had United been given a penalty there, then the match might have just gone out of Arsenal's reach.

The Gunners started with much more purpose in the second half, seeing a lot more of the ball in the United half, and looking like at least capable of causing the home side's defence a few problems.

Ozil had the first attempt in the second 45, smashing a left-footed strike into the side-netting, before Ramsey looked to bring that magical boot into the reckoning, striking a 30-yarder straight at De Gea.

With Van Persie and Rooney at the other end, United, who were forced to replace Nemanja Vidic at halftime due to a head injury with Tom Cleverley coming in and Jones pushing back in defence, would always pose a threat of the second killer goal, and it nearly came about just before the hour.

A clever header from Shinji Kagawa almost put Van Persie through, before the ball broke for Rooney, who did really well to create space for the shot, before striking his left-footer narrowly wide.

The tight belt that had been clasped on the game tightly in the first half was let loose, as the match started to get stretched with Wenger showing his attacking intentions by bringing on Jack Wilshere for Mathieu Flamini.

After pressing and probing, a peach of a Bacary Sagna delivery from the right was a whisker away from an Arsenal touch and sure-fire goal as the Gunners looked to find that we-want-an-equaliser gear.

It was gung-ho time now for Arsenal as Wenger replaced his second holding midfielder - Mikel Arteta - for Serge Gnabry with the away team throwing the kitchen sink.

Giroud came close a couple of times, but desperate United defending held the striker at bay as, with five minutes remaining, Van Persie came out to thunderous applause.

With the match dying out, another stunning cross from Sagna went begging as United clung on, and how, for a massive three points.

Other results: Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle; Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City; Swansea 3-3 Stoke.