Arsenal march on to the semi-finals after a pulsating game at Old Trafford finished 2-1, with plenty of drama in what was another thrilling encounter between these two clubs. The Gunners will face Bradford or Reading in the semis and will see themselves as firm favourites to lift the trophy, whilst United must quickly regain focus before a season defining period of games, beginning next week with a visit from Spurs.
The action came thick and fast from the get-go, with both teams getting forward at every opportunity. Arsenal struck first when Monreal fired past David De Gea after a fine piece of play from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but their lead would last just 4 minutes after Rooney smartly headed home from an exquisite cross from Angel Di Maria.
The frenetic pace continued, with both teams going close to adding to their tally before the whistle blew to end the first half. Two half-time substitutions from Louis Van Gaal showed that the Dutchman was not happy with how things were playing out, introducing Michael Carrick and Phil Jones to sharpen the team up defensively. Arsenal’s high pressure continued to disrupt United’s flow, and they were soon struggling to string passes together. This high pressure from Arsenal soon paid off, and it was Danny Welbeck who has able to capitalise and haunt his former employers just after the hour mark. Welbeck pounced once Valencia sold De Gea short on a back pass, allowing the former United player to beat the Spanish keeper to the ball and calmly stroke it into the back of an empty net.
Signs of frustration soon began to show for the home side, who were dominating possession but struggling to create any clear cut chances. Arsenal nearly added a 3rd when Cazorla volleyed from Sanchez’s cross, but De Gea made a sensational stop to keep his team in the game.
Frustration soon turned to desperation for United, most notably from Di Maria, who was booked for diving and then immediately given his marching orders after inexplicably grabbing referee Michael Oliver’s shirt. Oliver was then again called into action, this time booking substitute Adnan Januzaj for simulation in another brave and assured decision from the referee.
United began to run out of ideas as the match came to a conclusion, with Arsenal holding on to ensure it would be a second season with no silverware for the Manchester club.
Pressure now mounts on Van Gaal, with games against Spurs, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea just around the corner. How they fare in this stretch will define their season, with Champions League qualification a necessity and the only way to alleviate pressure from fans and the media. Arsenal will be thrilled with a victory at Old Trafford as well as their favourable draw for the semis, and they will be confident that they can add another trophy to their collection in addition to finishing in the all important top 4 spots.