Returning Welbeck strike seals Arsenal’s FA Cup progression
Arsenal capitalised on fatal defensive errors from Manchester United to continue on the path to retaining their FA Cup crown this season, thanks to strikes from Nacho Monreal and former Old Trafford striker Danny Welbeck.
Arsene Wenger’s reigning cup champions, odds-on 8/11 favourites to lift this year’s trophy, secured a crucial 2-1 triumph over Louis van Gaal’s 10-man United outfit, with Welbeck pouncing on the hour mark to confirm progression to the semi-final, where a meeting with either Reading or Bradford awaits.
The hosts dominated the opening stages, but it was makeshift right back Antonio Valencia that was caught out after 25 minutes, when Chilean Alexis Sanchez dragged the wideman completely out of position, with the Arsenal attacker’s fellow South American unable to recover ground.
This left space for Gunners full back Monreal to attack and slot home impressively past a despairing David de Gea, after great individual play from winger Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain gifted the chance.
However, the visitors’ lead lasted only four minutes as recently faltering forward Angel Di Maria whipped in a deadly cross from the right, finding Wayne Rooney who headed home an immediate equaliser from close-range.
Although, just after an hour of enthralling action at Old Trafford, Welbeck was played through on goal by a disastrous back-pass from serial-mistake offender Valencia, with the former United man rounding a helpless De Gea and firing in the winner, much to his jubilation.
Any hope of silverware success for Van Gaal on his debut season in charge of the Red Devils then quickly faded, as Di Maria was shown successive yellow cards. The Argentine was originally cautioned for simulation, before being sent off for aggressively lashing out at referee Michael Oliver.
Despite Van Gaal’s managerial credentials and apparent tactical prowess, his side ended the game pumping long, lofted balls towards towering target men Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling, with Juan Mata and Radamel Falcao surprisingly remaining as unused substitutions.
Belgian winger Adnan Januzaj was introduced as United’s cup hopes drifted rapidly out of reach, but the promising forward was unable to save his side, with a yellow card for diving being his only impact on proceedings.
Things could have been a lot worse for the home side, if not for their super Spanish stopper De Gea, who pulled off two spectacular saves to deny Santi Cazorla and Sanchez late on, but his teammates were unable to reward his heroics at the other end as any hope of silverware this term faded with the final whistle.
The Gunners are now favourites to win a second consecutive FA Cup trophy, after drawing either Reading or Bradford City in the semi-final stage, with main challengers Liverpool having to overcome Blackburn Rovers in a replay, before a possible clash with Aston Villa.
United’s focus will now be primarily claiming a top four spot, and they are odds-on 5/6 to do so as the Premier League season draws to a thrilling finish.