Manchester United v Arsenal
Kick off: Monday March 09, 2015 – 7.45 PM BST
A game that potentially could have proved extremely controversial, but was kept in check with some fantastic refereeing by Michael Oliver.
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It was a tense affair throughout, with our current form combined with our Old Trafford history seeing Arsenal fans endure a strange mixture of quiet optimism and trepidation.
You could tell nerves were on end, and Hector Bellerin showed his inexperience by jumping rashly into a challenge on Ashley Young after just four minutes. He was rightly booked for the foul, and his defensive impact was limited for the rest of the game.
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Marouane Fellaini was up to his usual tricks, and gave Francis Coquelin an elbow to his already broken nose. The Frenchman was once again pouring blood, but he recovered quickly and got stuck in to his counterpart.
There were a couple of early scares, with Fellaini using his strength and aerial presence to cause us problems. The big Belgian set up Young as he raced into the box, but the ball was played slightly behind him and his shot was sliced high and wide.
He then had a chance of his own, and he looked to be through on goal after being played in by Chris Smalling. He seemed reluctant to take the shot on his left-foot however, and as he tried to cut inside he was dispossessed by Per Mertesacker.
We were looking dangerous when we had the ball, and the pace of Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right was a real problem for Man United. The Ox in particular looked really up for the game, and a fantastic run saw him breeze past several players before being brought down at the edge of the box.
He was immediately involved again, latching onto a pass from Mesut Özil. It looked to be the wrong choice from the German playmaker, but Chamberlain made sure it would prove to be the right one. He weaved his way through a sea of bodies, before releasing an unmarked Nacho Monreal on the left. The Spaniard bore down on goal, and calmly slotted past David de Gea at the near post. A superb finish to cap a fantastic move. 1-0.
Our lead didn’t last long unfortunately, as Wayne Rooney headed United level just four minutes later.
Angel Di Maria had looked suspect in the early goings, but he whipped in a superb cross for his captain. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker had inexplicably left a gaping hole for the Englishman to run into – the giant German seemingly more worried about Fellaini at the back post – and he was able to head past Wojciech Szczesny; who had absolutely no chance. 1-1.
Having been chosen ahead of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck had looked nervous against his former club. His touch was letting him down, and his runs lacked creativity.
He threatened just before the whistle however, first seeing a penalty shout turned down when he was pulled back by Marcos Rojo, and then forcing a save from David de Gea with a decent header.
We went into the break with honours even, and nothing had been done to lessen the tension from that start of the game.
Louis van Gaal made two changes at half time – Michael Carrick a like-for-like replacement for an under-performing Ander Herrera, and Phil Jones on for a presumably injured Luke Shaw.
Arsene Wenger left things unchanged, although Bellerin arguably should have been taken off to avoid a potential red card situation.
We were forced to make a change just minutes into the second half though, the Ox pulling up with a ham-string injury as he hurdled a challenge. He was replaced by Aaron Ramsey, with Özil being pushed out onto the wing.
Welbeck hadn’t looked much like scoring for most of the game, but his hard work eventually paid off when he pounced on a mistake by Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian’s pass back to de Gea was shocking, and Dat Guy was able to dink it past the Spanish shot-stopper and tap into an open net. He was ecstatic with his goal, and looked to be a true Gooner already as he celebrated in front of his old crowd. 2-1.
We could have thrown the game away when Bellerin came close to getting his marching orders – the teen right-back with another reckless challenge on Young. He was spared a second yellow however, and Wenger promptly replaced him with Calum Chambers. The versatile former Southampton man was a fantastic introduction, as United were panicking and relying mostly on long balls, and his aerial presence was hugely important.
The game should have been put to bed after a fantastic attacking move finished with a superb Santi Cazorla volley, but De Gea was on hand to save United once again with an excellent diving save.
Things were then made somewhat easier for us, with Angel Di Maria seeing red after a moment of madness.
The Argentine international was handed a yellow card for diving, and reacted extremely badly to Michael Oliver’s decision. He grabbed the referee by the shirt, forcing him to issue another yellow just seconds later and order the Man United man off the field.
Adnan Januzaj was introduced for the home side, and he was almost instantly booked for diving as well. That means the Belgian has now got more yellow cards for diving than he has goals in his short Manchester United career.
Olivier Giroud was introduced late on, and he really added some fluidity to our attack. We were helped by the fact that United were pushing for an equaliser, and we really should have grabbed a third. Alexis Sanchez had a superb chance to seal the win, but another fine save from De Gea kept him out.
There was talk of Fergie time as five minutes were added on, but we saw the game out to ensure the 2-1 win and our trip to Wembley for the semi-finals.
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