The FA Cup is back. At least for 90 minutes on Monday, it sure felt like the FA Cup of old, as did the almost-forgotten Manchester United-Arsenal rivalry of the early-2000s, when the two sides regularly finished one-two in the Premier League title race.
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10,000 traveling Arsenal fans made for a pulsating atmosphere inside Old Trafford, and it was the Londoners who left the Theater of Dreams happy Monday, as Arsenal booked their place in the FA Cup semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Man United.
Nacho Monreal opened the scoring, putting Arsenal ahead with 25 minutes on the clock. Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain did his best Lionel Messi impersonation, weaving his way through the entire United defense before laying the ball off for Monreal, who after Oxlade-Chamberlain had drawn Chris Smalling centrally, was wide open at the corner of the six-yard box. Monreal fired past David de Gea from close range.
The lead was short-lived for Arsenal, though, as Wayne Rooney headed United back onto level terms, finishing Angel di Maria’s in-swinging, left-footed cross from the right. Di Maria’s ball found Rooney occupying space between Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker 10 yards out, and Rooney made no mistake with the finish.
Danny Welbeck reclaimed the lead for Arsenal, against his boyhood club, when De Gea made a horrendous error in the 61st minute, coming out of his penalty area and whiffing on a clearance attempt. Welbeck suddenly found himself with nothing more left to do than collect loose ball and slot it into an empty net.
United’s uphill battle was only compounded in the 77th minute when Di Maria was booked by referee Michael Oliver for diving after Aaron Ramsey made little to no contact with the Argentine’s arm. Upon being booked for the dive, Di Maria gave Oliver a slight shove in the back as he turned to walk away, earning himself a second yellow and sending off.
Adnan Januzaj was booked for diving in the 87th minute as well after he went down under no contact from Monreal inside the penalty area. Two contentious diving calls for Oliver, two call that were spot-on.
Monday’s victory was Arsenal’s first at Old Trafford since 2006, and just Arsene Wenger’s second victory in 16 games against United (all competitions).