Here we are, just two steps away from becoming the most successful team ever in the FA Cup. In what was a very eventful match we managed to beat our fierce league rivals on their own soil for the first time in nine years, knock them out of the competition and book our place at Wembley for the second season in a row. Here are the key points from the game.
1.It was quality that prevailed.
Louis Van Gaal might have sent a very expensive team out onto the pitch but the real quality came out in dark blue. We were visibly much more comfortable with the ball and with just a little bit more composure in the execution of our counter-attacks, it would have been a worse evening for United fans. It’s not like the Red Devils didn’t have chances of their own but the gulf in quality was there to be seen. Most of the things authors on this web-site had published before the game turned out to be true – United have a lot of players past their prime, some of their players are not good enough for the required level and Jonny Evans was a big miss for them as well. Our players – mostly in their best years, strong on the ball and with pace to burn The Milky Way should simply forget about Ferguson’s United and hand them another beating in the penultimate match of the league season.
2.Danny Welbeck got his revenge…
Let’s start this one with possibly the longest one-sentence-trivia ever: it wasn’t the first time Danny Welbeck scored a winning goal after an assist from Valencia, whilst with the visiting team wearing blue in a clash between Arsenal and Manchester United – he did exactly the same thing in 2011-12, except it happened at the Emirates and he was playing for the bad guys.
Danny took his goal well, showing quick-thinking, pace and composure to restore our lead. What followed afterwards might make Danny our legend in the making – he didn’t show a false respect for his former club like Robin van Persie by refusing to celebrate. No, Welbeck celebrated his goal and perhaps did the same thing to Louis Van Gaal as the Dutch manager had done to him in the summer – Danny’s goal might mean the end of Van Gaal’s Manchester United career. It had to be the sweetest of revenges for the English striker, especially after Van Gaal’s comments regarding Welbeck’s quality.
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3…and Arsene Wenger got his own too.
There hasn’t been a single home victory for either Arsene Wenger or Louis Van Gaal in their four duels. After Davor Šuker’s late equalizer at Camp Nou in 2000, Van Gaal had won the next two games against Wenger in London – one at Wembley with Barcelona (2:4) and the other one last November with United (1:2). Now Wenger replied with an away victory.
Wenger outsmarted his counterpart by putting Danny Welbeck in the starting eleven in place of in-form Olivier Giroud and Van Gaal admitted that he wasn’t prepared for that.
4.Has Nacho Monreal cemented his place in the starting eleven?
Last season we were awful in big away matches in the league and the Spanish left full-back was usually one of the worst performers in those games. And, his performance against Everton in the second league match of the season wasn’t something to write home about either.
However, with a proper left hard-working winger that is Alexis Sánchez in front of him, Monreal has done a fantastic job so far. In both of our big away victories in Manchester this season it was Nacho who drew the first blood – he earned a penalty for Cazorla’s opener against City and scored himself against United last night. But, even if you scrap his attacking final product, it’s his defending that you have to respect.
5.Francis Coquelin is pure gold.
The Frenchman had a difficult start with Marouane Fellaini performing his usual dirty tricks. That didn’t stop from running away with the official MOTM-award though. He was making tackles (4), winning aerial duels (3) and enabling Cazorla and Özil to control the midfield. Bravo, Le Coq!
6.Wojciech Szczesny made a huge save tonight.
The Polish goalkeeper had a couple of not-so-convincing moments tonight but his save of Angel Di Maria’s right-footed shot at 1:1 was huge. It was Szczesny’s first victory at Old Trafford but hopefully not the only one this season.
7.Santi Cazorla has become a real leader of this team.
Le Coq was (deservedly) praised for his contribution tonight but there was another man in our midfield who made more tackles than the energetic Frenchman. Santi Cazorla made six tackles and was unlucky not to score his second goal at Old Trafford since his arrival from Malaga in 2012. His volley following Alexis’ cross was brilliantly saved by De Gea and he was unable wrap his foot around the ball to seal our victory in injury time.
8.Have we earned the “two-one to the Arsenal”-chant yet?
Since the defeat against Spuds we have managed to make a huge improvement on the road – we have beaten Crystal Palace, QPR and Manchester United respectively with the same 2:1 score-line. Perhaps a chant “two-one for the Arsenal” might be on the cards.
9.Di Maria should get a serious punishment.
Now, there are a lot of contradictory reports regarding Di Maria’s sending off. He was booked in the first half and his dive meant he would get his marching orders from the ref. Di Maria decided to pull Michael Oliver’s shirt and it should be seriously punished. Last season Howard Webb failed to deal properly with Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling but Di Maria shouldn’t get off the hook for his behaviour.
10.The momentum should work in our favour from now on.
This victory should work in our favour when it comes to the league race too. United are just one point behind us but their next few opponents might knock them out of the Champions League race.
On the other hand, our run-in looks easier and a fifth consecutive victory in domestic competitions sounds nice.
Next match – West Ham at home. They’ve struggled to repeat the form from the first months of the season and we should do our third double since their return to the top tier.