United heap pain on Arsenal
Arsenal suffered a third major disappointment in the space of a fortnight as Man Utd advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals courtesy of a 2-0 victory.
Last Updated: 13/03/11 3:32pm
Arsenal bowed out of a third competition in the space of a fortnight as Manchester United bounced back from a difficult period of their own to advance to the FA Cup semi-finals courtesy of a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Having lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham and gone down to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, the Gunners were desperate to at least keep their dreams of a domestic Double alive with a win over their fierce rivals.
However, United have held sway over Arsenal in recent times and they exposed familiar shortcomings in a thrilling tie on Saturday with a devastating display of counter-attack football.
Edwin van der Sar produced a series of smart stops to keep Arsene Wenger's men at bay, while Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling were imperious at the heart of the back four and a makeshift midfield proved effective.
Arsenal started brightly without creating a clear chance and United hit them on the break to take the lead on 28 minutes, Fabio providing the finish after Javier Hernandez's firm header had been saved by Manuel Almunia.
Wayne Rooney then doubled United's advantage early in the second half and Arsenal, who lost Johan Djourou to a suspected season-ending dislocated shoulder late on, were repelled in their efforts to get back into the game.
United went into the game having suffered back-to-back defeats in the Premier League and, with a Champions League clash against Marseille next Tuesday, rang the changes.
Seven defenders for a game at Old Trafford is hardly the norm for a man such as Sir Alex Ferguson who has never been scared of attacking the best opposition.
However, as so often in the past, Ferguson clearly knows far more about his players than anyone else.
In truth, Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael have often caught the eye offensively, even though they have been occupying full-back berths.
Given the opportunity to express their ability from more advanced positions, knowing Rooney had dropped back to fill a midfield hole, they duly did just that.
Rafael could easily have put United ahead when he met Fabio's cross with a header he was unable to keep down.
There was no such escape for Arsenal when Fabio surged forward later on, setting in motion a move that ended with a smart Rooney cross for Hernandez.
The Mexican's header was aimed for the far corner. Almunia could do no better than palm it away, straight to Fabio, who slid in and found the roof of the Arsenal net.
On the touchline, Wenger must have had an awful sinking feeling, knowing another trophy was being snatched away from him after Birmingham and Barcelona had snuffed out their hopes on two other fronts.
Skippering a very strong line-up, Robin van Persie saw a curling shot turned round the post by fellow Dutchman Van der Sar, the striker then heading the corner narrowly wide.
Just before the interval, Samir Nasri fired a precise shot through Wes Brown's legs, forcing Van der Sar into another excellent save.
At the very start of the second half it appeared Wenger's words had produced a positive effect.
Van der Sar was twice called upon to keep Arsenal out, first when Brown turned the ball goalwards as he tried to intercept a Laurent Koscielny cut-back, the second when the Frenchman curled a shot to the far corner with the rebound.
The onslaught did not last. Or at least it was immediately halted by a second United goal.
In sticking out a leg to stop Rafael's cross, Djourou could only loop the ball high into the air.
Rooney escaped Bacary Sagna's attentions and although his header lacked power, the direction was perfect, far enough away from Almunia but not too far to prevent him finding the corner from an acute angle.
Antonio Valencia had played a part in the move after making his reappearance after sustaining a serious ankle injury in September.
The Ecuador star diligently patrolled his wing as Arsenal threw caution to the wind.
But with Van der Sar producing four outstanding saves to deny the visitors, one to deny substitute Marouane Chamakh, who had been presented with a free header by Sagna, there was no way back for the shell-shocked Gunners.In fact, their evening got even worse as they ended the game with 10 men after Djourou had been stretchered off following a nasty collision with Sagna.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||9|
|4||Shots off Target||6|