Danny Welbeck netted the winner against his former club as ten-man Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal in a pulsating game this evening.
Wayne Rooney had cancelled out Nacho Monreal’s opener before Welbeck grabbed what would be the winning goal following a crucial error by Antonio Valencia. Angel Di Maria was then sent off for United when he received two yellow cards in the space of a minute.
Alexis Sanchez had the first chance of the match when he took on Valencia down Arsenal’s left flank but his effort deflected off Chris Smalling and floated safely into the hands of David de Gea. Minutes later, Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin gave himself a problem after receiving a yellow card for a cynical hack on Ashley Young.
United’s best chance of the opening exchanges fell to Marouane Fellaini, who was slipped into Arsenal’s box by Chris Smalling. However, instead of shooting with his left, the Belgian tried to get it onto his right and the chance went begging.
It was a relatively quiet opening 25 minutes in terms of presentable chances but a dramatic five minute period burst the game into life. Firstly, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain danced his way past several United defenders before teeing up Monreal, who slotted past De Gea to open the scoring for Arsenal.
Rooney then got in between Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to score his 14th goal against Arsenal four minutes later with a header from Angel di Maria’s fantastic whipped ball into the box.
The excitement didn’t stop there as, almost immediately after the goal, Welbeck went down inside the box under a challenge from Marcos Rojo. Fortunately for United, referee Michael Oliver waved away the Arsenal players’ protests.
From then on, the game was end-to-end as both sides looked to edge in front. Di Maria, Rooney, Fellaini and Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla all went close and the game took on a frantic pace just before half time.
After the break, the game was slowed down by a couple of injuries for either side. The dangerous Oxlade-Chamberlain had to come off for Aaron Ramsey while Di Maria carried on after a tangle with Monreal. The quiet period didn’t last long, with Di Maria spurning a good chance seconds before Arsenal went in front again through Welbeck. The 24-year-old capitalised on an awful backpass by Valencia to round De Gea and slot into an empty net.
United should have got another quick equaliser but Chris Smalling fired over from four yard following a corner. The ball came to him quickly but it was an awful miss from the defender and one that he should have scored. De Gea produced a brilliant save from Cazorla before things went from bad to worse for United fifteen minutes from time when Di Maria received two yellow cards in quick succession. His first, for diving, was swiftly doubled when the Argentine needlessly grabbed at Oliver’s shirt.
The ten men of United continued to battle and substitute Adnan Januzaj went down in the box under a challenge from Monreal but the Belgian was adjudged to have dived. Sanchez had a final chance to seal the game for Arsenal but he fired just wide of the post seconds before the full time whistle.