Fabio da Silva and Wayne Rooney scored the goals as Manchester United progressed to the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over Arsenal in the quarter-finals at Old Trafford today.
It rounded off a miserable week for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, who were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at Barcelona on Tuesday after losing the League Cup final against Birmingham last month. The Gunners now have just the Premier League title to aim for, while United are still on course for a treble.
"United were much more clinical, we have had a very difficult week," said Wenger. "The team will recover from that and refocus."
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sprung a major surprise by selecting seven defenders, with Rafael da Silva, his twin brother Fabio and John O'Shea all playing in midfield. But Fabio opened the scoring after a quick counter attack in the 28th minute and Rooney added a second just after half time, with his sixth goal in nine matches.
Arsenal dominated possession early on, with Andrei Arshavin testing Edwin van der Sar with a low effort after swapping passes with Samir Nasri. The Russian also dragged a shot wide from just outside the area before Fabio headed over from a cross from Rafael at the other end.
Fabio strikes first
The visitors continued to look the better side going forward and Van der Sar took two attempts to get hold of Robin van Persie's curing effort before saving Abou Diaby's deflected shot. But United took the lead just before the half-hour mark with a swift counter attack. Rafael guided the ball out to Fabio on the right and he laid the ball off for Rooney.
The England striker lifted a cross into the area and Javier Hernandez's header was palmed away by Manuel Almunia, only for Fabio to tap in to an empty net from six yards. After more fine work from Nasri, Van Persie's cross-shot was pushed past the post by Van der Sar and from the corner that followed, Van Persie headed narrowly wide after meeting the ball unmarked. Nasri went even closer when he cut in from the left and managed to squeeze a low shot towards the near post, only for Van der Sar to make another decent save.
United winger Antonio Valencia replaced Fabio at half time, making his first appearance since suffering a broken ankle against Rangers in September. Van der Sar pulled off an impressive double save after Laurent Koscielny's shot span off Wes Brown and then the French defender produced another effort from the loose ball.
But three minutes after half time, United doubled their advantage. Rafael ran past Kieran Gibbs and when his cross was met by Johan Djourou ahead of Hernandez, Rooney was on hand to head in the rebound from close range.
Valiant Van der Sar
Van der Sar denied Nasri after the Frenchman met a loose clearance on the volley on the edge of the area. Van Persie just missed the top corner with a curling effort from the right as Arsenal searched for a way back into the game. Substitute Marouane Chamakh also had a low effort held by the impressive Van der Sar.
"We got our goals, luckily I pulled off a couple of saves and we defended well," Van der Sar said. "It was important of course because we lost to Chelsea and Liverpool so the gap in the league is now non-existent. We needed to win tonight for another chance of silverware."
Van der Sar, who will retire at the end of the season, pulled off another fine stop, getting a hand to Chamakh's downward header to again deny Arsenal. He rescued United again, when he blocked Tomas Rosicky's thumping drive from just outside the area.
Almunia prevented United making it three when Hernandez got a foot on Rooney's cross only for the Spaniard to claw the ball away. The visitors were then reduced to ten men late on. Djourou was stretchered off after appearing to injure his shoulder while colliding with Bakary Sagna before the game ebbed away for an ultimately convincing home win