FA Cup: Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
ManUtd: Wayne Rooney (29)
Arsenal: Nacho Monreal (25), Danny Welbeck (61)
Danny Welbeck returned to haunt Old Trafford as Arsenal booked a place in the FA Cup semi-finals at the expense of Manchester United, who had Angel Di Maria sent off.
Wayne Rooney quickly cancelled out Nacho Monreal’s opener in the first half, but Welbeck latched onto a loose Antonio Valencia backpass to restore the Gunners’ lead, before Di Maria was dismissed for two bookable offences - simulation and then dissent.
United were fully involved in an absorbing clash at Old Trafford but fell short and the wait to lift the cup will be extended beyond 11 years, although the Reds' fans continued to sing loudly after the final whistle.
There was a terrific atmosphere at kick-off but the home fans’ noise was almost silenced inside three minutes by Alexis Sanchez, who cut in from the left and fired a shot that was partially blocked and then scrambled away.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, Marouane Fellaini received the ball in a good position inside the box but Laurent Koscielny put in a boot to prevent him shooting and the Reds midfielder then fouled Per Mertesacker. Fellaini was involved again soon after when he controlled a Di Maria cross on his chest and laid the ball off to Ashley Young, who was off-balance as he skewed his shot wide.
The first half was settling into the exciting, end-to-end fare you’d expect from a cup tie and, after a dangerous Arsenal break down the right, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain crossed poorly. But the Gunners winger was instrumental in the opening goal, slaloming his way along the edge of the box before finding Monreal, who finished calmly past David De Gea.
The 8,500 travelling fans were jubilant but United were level within four minutes as an unmarked Rooney headed home Di Maria’s pin-point cross, sparking an almighty din inside Old Trafford.
Both sides continued to attack with vigour and, as half-time approached, Di Maria latched onto a long ball and hit a right-footed shot from a tight angle that Wojciech Szczesny saved with his legs.
Ander Herrera, who had earlier been booked for a tackle on Sanchez, was replaced by Michael Carrick at the break, with Phil Jones also coming on for Luke Shaw, who had replaced the suspended Jonny Evans in the only change to the team that won at Newcastle United.
The Reds' chances were boosted by the sight of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had caused problems in the first half, gingerly leaving the field, with Aaron Ramsey taking his place. But the Gunners had the first real opening of the second period through Sanchez, whose shot was well blocked by Valencia and then swept up by De Gea.
Di Maria fired inches wide before Welbeck, who had been relatively quiet in the first half, grabbed the headlines by capitalising on a short Valencia backpass, rounding De Gea and slotting home. It was a goal of some magnitude but the ex-Red’s celebrations were understandably muted.
Chris Smalling missed a great chance to level the scores once more when he could only sidefoot over a close-range volley from a corner.
With under 20 minutes left, Louis van Gaal brought on Adnan Januzaj in place of Marcos Rojo, who was one of six Reds to be booked on the night, and Welbeck was generously applauded around the ground when he was replaced by Olivier Giroud.
De Gea made a superb save from a Santi Cazorla volley but United’s hopes were dealt a severe blow when Di Maria was sent off by referee Michael Oliver for dissent, moments after being booked for diving.
The Reds refused to give in and Rooney fired a free-kick over as the home supporters roared van Gaal’s side on until the final whistle. De Gea made another great save, from Sanchez, but while it kept United in the cup for a little longer, Arsenal held firm at the other end and progressed.
United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo (Januzaj 73), Shaw (Jones 46); Blind, Herrera (Carrick 46); Di Maria, Fellaini, Young; Rooney.
Subs not used: Valdes, Rafael, Mata, Falcao.
Booked: Herrera, Fellaini, Young, Rojo, Di Maria, Januzaj.
Sent off: Di Maria.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Bellerin (Chambers 66), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ramsey 51), Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck (Giroud 74).
Subs not used: Martinez, Gibbs, Walcott, Akpom.
Booked: Bellerin, Ramsey.