[HIGHLIGHTS] The Reds Go Marching On – Crushing Arsenal’s Cup Hopes
Manchester United don’t lose three in a row. After two disappointing losses against Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League, there was a wave of relief around Old Trafford when Fabio da Silva smashed the ball into the roof of the net to set United on track to overcome Arsenal. It was a fantastic team performance from a very much altered United side which saw some magnificent individual displays all round in a team which contained seven defenders.
Arsenal began well, keeping possession well when they had it and creating more shots in the first ten minutes than they did in the whole 90 at Barcelona in midweek. However, despite a bright start, Arsenal could not get past the quite amazing Edwin van der Sar who even at 40 displayed millions of reasons throughout why Sir Alex Ferguson is still attempting to persuade him out of retirement.
The two starting wingers, Fabio and Rafael da Silva combined to create a wonderful chance early in the first half as Fabio’s cross was met by Rafael after a cutting run. Unfortunately, his header was not one from that of an experienced, prolific striker, but rather what he is; a right wing back, and his header went wildly over. It was however, a warning to Arsenal – these two were dangerous – and more was to come.
It was the goal that changed the game, and it came from Rafael. It was a brilliant move that would have been terrible if it wasn’t finished with a goal. Fabio began the attack on the right, and feeding it to Rooney, continued his run. Rooney spotted the ever energetic Hernandez, and dinked it to him, and the “Little Pea” duly directed his header towards the goal brilliantly. Almunia kept it out, but pushed it into the path of the onrushing Fabio who smashed it into the net for the opener.
From then on, United had control, and played with confidence going forward and wonderful solidity at the back, with the Smalling, Vidic and Van der Sar keeping out the intricate Arsenal attack superbly.
Arsenal didn’t create too much in retaliation, but a beautifully curling shot from van Persie which just dipped over the top corner of his compatriots goal, as well as a Samir Nasri’s volley which bounced into the ground into van der Sar’s safe hands. A Hernandez shot however, once again led to a United goal, doubling United’s lead and giving Arsenal no chance of getting back into it.
Hernandez hit it in the box, only for Johan Djourou to get in the way. The blocked ball bounced up awkwardly and Rooney met it with a soft header which crept into the corner from the post. A flailing Sagna leg could not stop it, and as the ball nestled into the net, Rooney wheeled away with United fans overjoyed at the very likely possbility of an FA Cup semi final.
United held on well, and really could have scored two or three more goals but for a solid Almunia performance. Arsenal fans will be distraught after yet another throphy has slipped away from them. Not only that, but despite the fantastic sight of both Antonio Valencia and Aaron Rasey returning to action after their terrible injuries, Johan Djourou was stretchered off with a dislocated shoulder. The process of fixing him up, putting him on the stretcher and so on, took around six minutes, and we all wish him well in his recovery.
It was however, nice to see a Manchester United – Arsenal clash which for 90 minutes contained no bad blood or controversy. Then Paul Scholes came on. He recieved a yellow card for a rash tackle straight after coming on, and a few minutes into the injury time produced another slightly late tackle. It wasn’t a bad tackle – he didn’t get the ball, but didn’t actually commit a foul. Arsenal players retaliated angrily, and a show of pushing and shoving began between a few players. Arsenal players were asking for a second yellow, but Chris Foy just gave him a stern talking to, which was a good decsision.
If he had been sent off, we wouldn’t have witnessed a truly beautiful volleyed pass to Rooney which saw United look for a third. Rooney crossed it to Chicharito but it was stopped by Almunia.
A fantastic game, which sees United cruise into the semi-finals of the FA Cup in search of their 12th win of the trophy. So many positives can be taken out of this game from Sir Alex, who may have been worried about a self destruction by his players towards te en of the season. It was quite the opposite however, and United have a great confidence boost going into their Marseille game on Tuesday. On the other hand, its time for Arsenal to push on and commit to winning the League.
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