Monday night, at the end of a pulsating cup tie, 14 Arsenal players became the first to win at Old Trafford since 2006.
Of the 14, only Danny Welbeck- for obvious reasons- had tasted victory in this particular fixture.
It is with Danny, Champion of Manchester, that I would like to start.
It would be unfair to say that Monday night marked the arrival of Welbeck as an Arsenal player.
After all, he has that hattrick against Galatasary and countless other very good performances to his name, but it might have marked the night Welbeck said a definitive goodbye to his former colleagues; a bit like Sol Campbell’s first performance for Arsenal at the Lane in 2001.
After a shaky start, the big defender never looked back. Not until that infamous half time meltdown against West Ham in 2006 anyway.
Whilst I think it’s unlikely Welbeck’s performance will be remembered down the years in the same way, his winning goal will be.
Particularly if May 30th ends with Mikel Arteta lifting the FA Cup.
On the winning goal; I wrote a few weeks back that I thought this would be our time, for the simple reason we wouldn’t do anything stupid.
Praise be! Not only did we not do anything stupid, but Manchester United put 10 years worth of stupid into one game.
Whether it was Valencia’s inadvertent assist for the lightning quick Welbeck, or the last 25 minutes which saw United concentrate on trying to reduce our numbers instead of trying to equalise.
Didn’t Welbeck take that goal well (wel?) though?
Yes, an open goal, but he saw the opportunity, had to sprint to beat De Gea.
Having done so, he had the presence of mind to take a quick look around before firing us into the semi final. All at full speed. Wel done, son!
OK, I’ll stop now.
Arsène Wenger said before the game that the history doesn’t make the result as much as the performance.
A positively awful record at Old Trafford said our manager was wrong. But, maybe, Monday night proved him right. Overcoming a shaky opening 10, I thought we played an almost perfect away game – soaking up lots of United pressure, but constantly dangerous breaking forward.
Coincidence that, as at Manchester City, we had Alexis and the marvellous, and unlucky, Oxlade- Chamberlain in front of the full backs?
How we missed those two at Spurs.
I think the passage of play that led to our opening goal really exemplified our approach last night.
Pass, move, pass, move, wait, do the right thing. We had the ball for what seemed like an age before Özil opened up the flank for the Ox; his dribble across the area a thing of beauty, the perfect pass to Monreal demanding a finish in kind.
It got it.
The referee and Arsene Wenger
I think we can legitimately question how Marcos Rojo was allowed to stay on the pitch after clotheslining the Ox and then clearing out Cazorla quite nastily.
However, when you think of games, and indeed referees, past, I also think we can be grateful that Mr Oliver did not fall for United’s theatrics – is this why their stadium is known as the Theatre of Dreams?
With another referee, it is easy to imagine Hector Bellerin being shown no leniency and, with Wayne Rooney contesting every single decision, the antics of Januzaj, Di Maria and Young being ignored.
But Michael Oliver was not swayed.
On that note, credit is due to Arsene Wenger for immediately removing Bellerin after his final foul of the night.
It may have seemed an obvious move, but our manager has not always acted so decisively.
Nice to see it
Alexis and Ozil
I’m wary of mentioning this.
I love Alexis, he’s been phenomenal and I’m very happy to have him in the team, but… I think he would be even more effective than he already is if he stopped trying to do everything himself.
It is a team game and I think needs to remember this sometimes.
It strikes me that his all action style may be pleasing for those of us raised on a diet of blood and thunder, but it’s not always the smartest way.
Contrast this with Mesut Ozil, who gives the impression of floating through games as if he were Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. He does so to the point where his every move is pilloried.
And yet Ozil covers as much distance as the Chilean and has, usually, done the right thing with the ball when he’s received it.
He’s just done it so quietly you haven’t even noticed.
To put it another way, Arsene Wenger always talks about doing what the game demands of you: can we honestly say that Alexis does this anymore than Ozil?
Not wishing to finish on even a slight whinge…
I have been a supporter of this lad ever since his emergence in the first team in 2011.
However, even I could not have grasped just how much of an impact he would make in the first team.
Despite having his nose Fellained early in the first half, he was an absolute warrior last night. Closing down play quickly, defensively aware and, actually, more than capable on the ball, he was a stand out performer. Again.
Are there people that still doubt him? Two trips to Manchester for le Coq- two wins.
Coquelin’s time in the first team has seen Arsenal looking stronger than they have all season. Coincidence?
Or is Coquelin becoming a key figure in the re-emergence of Arsenal as a domestic force?