Match Review - Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2 - FA Cup
I was quietly confident that it would be our time to get a victory last night. Almost every Arsenal supporter I came across, whether that be online or in person expected us to lose and that actually made me think we could do it. Works the other way around sometimes too, just look at the Monaco result.
Last night Arsenal were the better team and deserved everything we got. We were everything we were not against Monaco recently. Committed in the challenge, both on the floor and in the air. We moved the ball with confidence and you could see the difference between a team with cohesion and one who are struggling to find their identity.
So what of the team selection? Massive call not to select Giroud from the start, especially as he has two goals in his last two games. I assumed that Alexis would play as centre forward but Arsene went back to Welbeck to lead the line as he did so often earlier in the season. To be fair, it wasn't Welbeck's best performance with the ball, part of that can be explained by a lack of a run in the team of late, perhaps the occasion given the opposition also played a part in his performance. But what you can never doubt is his commitment to the team when we do not have the ball. More on that later.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was perhaps the surprise selection on the right and it must give him a massive boost to be given the nod in such an important game.
It was Chamberlain who forced our opening. After a good move Chamberlain picked the ball up outside of the area and drove towards the heart of the Manchester United penalty box, after skipping past challenges he slipped in Nacho Monreal at the last moment, the Spaniard who had justified his inclusion with another excellent all round display, steadied himself and placed a left footed shot past the outstanding David de Gea.
Just when I was hoping for us to fashion another chance to get the second, Manchester United replied almost immediately when Rooney powered in a header following an in swinging cross from the right 1-1.
Some Arsenal sides in recent years might have crumbled from that position but our attitude was spot on. There were very good performances all across the pitch. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were superb, the former gave Rooney a little too much space for the goal but that aside they were back to the form of last season.
Monreal as mentioned above was solid and dependable, credit to him for upping his game and forcing himself into the starting line up. I think I enjoyed watching Francis Coquelin the most last night.
Marouane Fellaini is bigger, taller and stronger than Francis Coquelin yet the Frenchman did not back down in the face of physical intimidation. Fellaini for the most part was not able to cause us problems due to Coquelin contesting him whenever he received the ball to his chest or feet outside the box. Footballistically speaking, I am falling for Francis Coquelin I must say. I dare say, had we bought the exact same player with a different name in January for £23.5m from Germany then hardly anyone would be talking about buying an upgrade. I think there is more to come from him as well.
So onto Welbeck, his ability to force chances is incredible. He did so recently at Crystal Palace when he won Arsenal a penalty. Yesterday his closing pressured Valencia into a poor back pass. But it wasn't even that short. Most strikers would not have scored from that position but Welbeck sniffed a chance and sprinted after the ball before de Gea, poked the ball around him and scored into an empty net.
It was great to see him celebrate the way he did. It was obviously a goal that meant a lot to him. Certainly meant a lot to us.
I must say, I expected a much better reaction from Manchester United apart from playing long balls to Fellaini. They really are a shadow of their former self. Di Maria let his team down with two acts of stupidity to get sent off.
Manchester United's diving was embarrassing to say the least. It was all a little desperate.
So the final whistle blew and Arsenal are through to the semi finals of the cup for the second season running. Happy feelings just got even better when we were drawn against Bradford or Reading at Wembley.
We don't want to take anyone for granted but we've got a great chance to get to the final. There is a long way to go still though, if we manage to get past our opponents in the semi final we are more than likely going to have to face the form team of the Premier League at the time of writing this so there are certainly no guarantees, but at least we are there.. again.
An excellent evening or football and credit goes to Arsene Wenger for his selection, credit goes to the players for producing the goods and credit to our away fans for representing our fans so well.
Well done the Arsenal.
For more reaction to last night's match, check out the latest Q&A