Wenger was roundly criticised in the British press after his side's 3-2 loss to Olympiakos last week left them struggling to avoid a group-stage exit in the Champions League and hit out at the media for focusing on his decision to select blundering second-choice goalkeeper David Ospina.

But his players responded in dazzling fashion at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, scoring three times in the first 19 minutes en route to a win that sent them up to second place in the table. "That's what you want in games of that stature," Wenger said. "We started very strong, we decided to press very high, to play at a great pace, and we did that very well.

"In the second half we decided to be disciplined, control the result, and we did that very well as well, so we had two aspects in our game that are pleasing and were convincing today (Sunday). "It gives a strong answer to all the questions that were raised during the week."

Arsenal now trail leaders Manchester City by two points, with United below them on goal difference, and Wenger concurred when it was put to him that his side had sent out a message about their title credentials.

"To win in a big game is always a statement," said the Frenchman, whose side also hit the bar through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain late on.

"We are in it, we are two points off the leaders, Manchester City, so I hope that result today will give us belief and ambition to fight for it."

Alexis Sanchez scored Arsenal's first and third goals, a cheeky back-heel in the sixth minute followed by an 18-year thunderbolt, with Theo Walcott teeing up Mesut Ozil to slot home 74 seconds after the Chilean's opener.

Wenger revealed that Sanchez, who went off in the 81st minute, had sustained a "little groin problem", but said that he expected him to be fit for Chile's opening 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Peru.

United manager Louis van Gaal admitted that he was "amazed" by the lack of aggression shown by his side in the opening stages, particularly after a run of four successive wins in all competitions.

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