LONDON -- Manchester United caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has refused to blame David De Gea for Arsenal's opener during the 2-0 defeat at the Emirates, while rejecting suggestions from Gary Neville that the Spaniard's form is suffering because of uncertainty over his future.
De Gea, who is approaching the final year of his deal at Old Trafford, was wrong-footed by Granit Xhaka's speculative 25-yard strike after 12 minutes to set United on their way to a first Premier League defeat under Solskjaer.
Neville suggested "noise in his ear" surrounding the contract stand-off might be affecting the 28-year-old, but Solskjaer insisted his goalkeeper, the club's player of the year in four-of-the-last-five seasons, is focused.
United have been negotiating a new five-year contract with De Gea for more than a year but without fresh terms he will be allowed to leave for free in 2020.
"I don't class [the goal] as a mistake," Solskjaer told a news conference. "I'm stood right behind the ball. We don't put pressure on Xhaka, he must be Brazilian because the way he struck the ball and it swerves and moves in the air, goes towards David's left and then changes direction completely. That's just one of those things.
"David is really focused and concentrated. He's too professional to let his mind wander. The best players know how to focus and he's been absolutely fantastic."
After Xhaka's opener, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a second-half penalty to make the game safe after Fred had been penalised for bringing down Alexandre Lacazette.
Solskjaer insisted referee Jon Moss had got the decision wrong but the Norwegian was far from disappointed with his team's performance despite a run of nine successive away wins coming to an end.
"You have to be disappointed with the result but the performance was a good one," said Solskjaer. "We created miles more chances than compared to the cup game when we played them.
"The first goal always determines how the game will go. But we created chances, big chances and hit the woodwork twice. In terms of what you can control as your own performance we shouldn't be too disappointed, but then again they've got three points and we haven't."
Fred, whose been given more opportunity under Solskjaer, weighed in on the loss and the penalty he conceded that gave Arsenal their second.
"It wasn't a penalty, I touched Lacazette on his upside on a normal game situation," Fred told ESPN after the game. "If it was in the middle of the field, I believe he wouldn't whistle, but he decided to give the penalty.
"Unfortunately, defeats are part of the game. We were on a great run since Ole arrived, with no losses. It serves as a lesson to us, we have had a beautiful victory on last Wednesday [in the Champions League], but today we suffered two goals and got the defeat.
"But we must put our heads up, because next game will be difficult for FA Cup [against Wolverhampton], so we must work this week, focus on mistakes of today, not let them happen again and go for the win always."
The result moved Arsenal back up to fourth in the table, two points clear of United in the race for a place in next season's Champions League.
There are just four points separating Tottenham in third and Chelsea in sixth and Solskjaer believes the battle for a top-four finish could go down to the final games.
"It's going to be down to the wire, the last few games, definitely," said Solskjaer. "We've given ourselves a great chance to be in that fight, two points behind fourth, three points behind third, it's a good position to be in."