Bernd Leno revealed Jesse Lingard’s goal celebration in Arsenal’s recent FA Cup defeat by Manchester United acted as motivation as the Gunners secured victory in Sunday’s Premier League clash between the top-four rivals.
A Granit Xhaka strike and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty saw Arsenal win 2-0 and end Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten domestic streak since taking caretaker charge at Old Trafford in December.
Arsenal leapfrog United into fourth place as a result as the chase for Champions League qualification took more twists with both Tottenham and Chelsea dropping points over the course of the weekend.
Lingard celebrated a goal in United’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round win at the Emirates Stadium back in January by moonwalking in front of the Arsenal supporters.
The England international had previously scored twice in the league clash in north London last season and irked Arsenal fans by posting his recent celebration on Instagram with the location set as ‘dancefloor’.
Mesut Ozil appeared to reference Lingard in a post-match tweet on Sunday evening which read: ‘Dancefloor huh?! Superb performance! Brilliant result! Thank you Emirates Stadium! Proud to be a Gunner!’
Lingard missed the game as he nurses a hamstring injury but Leno, who enjoyed another fine afternoon in goal for Arsenal, admitted the forward’s previous antics had spurred on the hosts.
‘I don’t know but in your mind you will never forget something like that, when somebody is celebrating,’ he said when asked if the win was revenge for the FA Cup loss and Lingard’s dance.
‘You don’t want to see it again so we were motivated and we knew before the game about our chance because Man United had one point than us.
‘Now we have two points and that was enough motivation for us. We are in the top four and the other teams now wait for our mistakes.
‘There are still eight games and we want to win every game but we have to focus on each on because the other teams will wait for small mistakes.
‘We don’t play against the other top six teams so I think we can beat the others. The next game is against Newcastle at home and it is an opportunity to win and stay in the top four.’
The defeat leaves United outside the top four with eight games remaining, although captain Ashley Young admits the club would have taken that position earlier in the season when they were well off the pace under former boss Jose Mourinho.
‘Yes, of course,’ he told manutd.com when asked if the race for a top-four finish could go down to the last day of the campaign.
‘But I think there are so many points to pick up, so many games left. For me, if we were talking back in October, saying that we were going to be fighting for fourth place, we would have taken that with where we were.
‘But, on a personal level, and everyone in the dressing room, I think the club a size of United should be higher up the league and that’s where I see it, but right now, obviously, we’re talking about finishing in the top four and we’re going to do everything we can to do that.’