Man Utd 2-0 Arsenal
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 Arsenalin 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.
Latest Forum Comments
Im glad we got them in the semi rather then the final, the thought of them finally winning a trophy and beating us in the final would have made the run up to that that game absolutely horrible! Hopefully we'll get rid of them in the semi and then we have a great chance to go on and beat Stoke or Bolton in the final.- Munsterman
With the midfield we started out with that was a great result and Smalling was excellent again. Great to see Valencia get 45 minutes under his belt as well. I thought Scholesy was very lucky not to get sent off at the end that was a wreckless challenge just after getting booked but it was a joy to watch some of the balls he played while he was on. Hopefully Reading can pull off the shock against City tomorrow!- Munsterman
Always nice to get one over Arsenal. Was extremely worried before kickoff after seeing the midfield of Fabio, Rafael, O'Shea and Gibson and thought we'd lack creativity. Unsurprisingly Arsenal dominated the middle of the park and I don't really remember Gibson or O'Shea being involved all that much apart from one nice bit of skill from Gibson and him misplacing a pass but they protected the defence well when we didn't have the ball and Arsenal only really looked dangerous when they got the ball wide (particularly to Sagna). The twins did really well though and I wasn't surprised at their contribution as they're always good going forward and remember Fabio playing on the wing a lot in the reserves so it's great that we have that option but also shows how much faith Fergie has in Obertan and Bebe after their recent performances. Rooney and Hernandez looked great together up front so hopefully we'll see more of that. The defence were pretty solid though, Smalling was man of the match for me, Van der Sar was solid and Vidic was his usual self. It was also great to see Valencia back so hopefully he'll have a big part to play once he gets back up to speed. Arsenal will always have chances but they were limited to half chances and after so much has been made of our weak reserves, it was good to see us put in a decent display with a pretty much second string midfield with no Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Nani or Valencia starting. And we could have had two or three more goals if Fabio had put his early header away and Rooney and Hernandez had taken their chances so the signs going forward are encouraging again. Hopefully that'll put a dent in Arsenal's confidence but could just as well see them put a run together now that they only have the league to play for. Hopefully West Brom can add to the damage in their next game. Encouraging to see us return to winning ways after a difficult few weeks and the signs are good for the rest of the season.- Dave
Current Premiership Table