Arsenal closed the gap on Manchester City and Chelsea at the top of the Women's Superleague to just three points as a stunning first-half display against Manchester United.

The Gunners cruised to a comprehensive 3-1 win at the Emirates and having started the weekend six points off the summit of the WSL and had to win to close the gap on City and Emma Hayes’ side, with both teams level on points at the top.

Jonas Eidevall made six changes to the team that beat the London City Lionesses 4-0 just four days prior, but it was the absence of Leah Willamson that made the pre-match headlines.

The England international, who only returned to action a fortnight ago after a lengthy lay-off with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, was struggling with a hamstring strain and wasn’t risked by Eidevall and his coaching staff.

The early stages saw United take control, and the away side should have been ahead after just five minutes played when Arsenal goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo dropped Ella Toone’s free kick right under her crossbar, but no United player reacted quickly enough to convert.

Despite the impressive efforts of United, it was the Gunners who took an early lead thanks to an own goal from Maya Le Tissier.

Beth Mead’s corner floated into the United penalty area, and before Mary Earps could attempt to claim the ball, Le Tissier went for it and inadvertently tapped the ball past her goalkeeper to gift the Gunners an early advantage.

Shortly after the goal, Jonas Eidevall’s side began to regain some control.

Beth Mead fired a free kick over Mary Earps’ goal after the excellent Chloe Lacasse had been brought down by Hannah Blundell just outside the United penalty area, and Mead had a run at goal of her own just before the half-hour mark, but she couldn’t find the target from an acute angle to keep the score at 1-0.

Marc Skinner’s side then began to get a foothold in the game and came close to levelling the scores when Ella Toone’s deflected effort whispered just wide of Sabrina D’Angelo’s post.

Piling on the pressure, the Gunners extended their lead when Beth Mead’s eye of the needle pass set up Pelova, who had made a run from deep into the United box. Her cutback was initially squandered by Stina Blackstenius, but the Swede managed to find Chloe Lacasse at the back post, who was on hand to head into an empty net.

On the stroke of half-time, the Gunners were awarded a penalty. Goalscorer Lacasse’s marauding run down the left-hand side saw her cut-back find Mead, who was brought down by Evans, to give Arsenal the chance to go in 3-0 up at the break.

Captain Kim Little stepped up to send Earps the wrong way and put Arsenal in complete control, with the record-breaking crowd at the Emirates jubilant.

Eidevall’s side continued to dominate proceedings throughout the second half, with Mead and Lacasse instrumental once again.

On the hour mark, Katie McCabe’s in-swinging cross nearly caught out Mary Earps between the United posts, but the England international held well to prevent the possibility of another Arsenal goal.

Beth Mead twice struck the post with a pair of good efforts towards goal just minutes later, with the Gunners in total control.

A late defensive lapse in concentration saw United forward Lucia Garcia grab a consolation, but Arsenal emerged victorious and now sit just three points from the top of the WSL.