Manchester United v Arsenal: Five things we learnt in FA Cup tie
Was Danny Welbeck was right to celebrate, should Louis van Gaal should face the sack?
WELBECK WAS RIGHT TO CELEBRATE HIS TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO OLD TRAFFORD
It’s almost become frowned upon to celebrate a goal against a former club, but it’s worth remembering Danny Welbeck was forced out of Manchester United by Louis van Gaal when the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford.
Welbeck found pastures new at Arenal, and while he has not set the world alight just yet, he has shown enough this season to suggest he will be more than a useful squad member if the Gunners are to ever mount a serious tilt at the Premier League title. That said, he returned to haunt his former club when Antonio Valencia inexplicably sold David De Gea short and allowed Welbeck to nip in ahead of the goalkeeper, nudge the ball beyond his reach and tuck it away to knock United out of the FA Cup.
Welbeck immediately celebrated, evidently filled by passion given the emotion pouring out of him through his facial expression and his reaction with his teammates. But it was his departure in the 74th minute that as probably the most telling. Some sections of the home support booed the 24-year-old – which is no surprise having put them out of the Cup – but there were some who commendably applauded the Manchester-born striker off the field, full in knowledge that he had never asked to leave the club and only moved on because he had to.
DI MARIA GOES FROM HERO TO VILLAIN IN AN INSTANT
Much was said of Angel Di Maria’s fall from grace since joining United in the summer, but it was the Di maria that sparkled in Real Madrid’s Champions League-winning season that started the match on Monday night. The Argentinian winger looked an attacking threat from the off, and while he wasn’t able to take his chances when Wayne Rooney set him up twice, he was getting into dangerous positions and creating chances for his teammates.
It was his left-footed cross from the right that allowed Rooney to head in an immediate equaliser, but a short while later he would be trudging off the pitch having picked up two yellow cards in a handful of seconds. Having been penalised correctly for diving by referee Michael Oliver, Di Maria was brandished with a yellow card, but he let his frustration get the best of him as he grabbed the back of Oliver in protest. Oliver had no hesitation in giving him an immediate second booking, and United would play out the final 13 minutes-plus injury time with 10 men.
For Di Maria, he not only let himself and his teammates down, but he let the club down. And all this for £59.7m.
WENGER’S GAMBLE PAYS OFF TO END DROUGHT
Anything but a victory would have made it 11 consecutive matches that Arsenal had failed to win at Old Trafford, but Wenger decided to risk it all and rest the in-form Olivier Giroud and his No 1 goalkeeper David Ospina in place of Welbeck and Wojciech Szczesny. While Welbeck’s bet paid off handsomely as he netted the winning goal, Szczesny’s was a bit close for comfort for the Arsenal manager, especially when he repeatedly fluffed his clearances to those wearing red when he was a fair way off his line.
There’s no doubting that Ospina is currently ahead of the pecking order on merit, and while the 2-1 victory will have done all of those on show for the Gunners a world of good, Szczesny didn’t show anything to suggest he’s ready to return to the starting line-up on a permanent basis. In fact, such was his nervous display he showed exactly why he’s not ready, but luckily for Wenger the gamble didn’t come back to bite him.
VAN GAAL SHOULD BE SACKED IF HE FAILS TO FINISH IN THE TOP FOUR
Had a United side under the guidance of David Moyes crashed out of both cup competitions as well as put in number of lacklustre and uninspiring performances, the calls would be coming thick and fast to sack him as soon as possible. However, with Van Gaal now on the verge of a complete catastrophe should they fall out of the top four, there are no questions whatsoever about his future. Why?
Moyes spent just £27.5m in the summer transfer window when he joined, although paying such a large sum of money to sign Marouane Fellaini does raise separate questions of its own. He was given an additional £37.1m to bring in Juan Mata in January, but by this point the writing was on the wall and he was sacked at the start of April. Van Gaal arrived that summer on a £150m transfer influx, and yet United are not performing any better. There’s even talk that he could be given another £150m to invest in the squad at the end of this season, though very little suggestion that the buck stops with Van Gaal. It may be that some people are scared of his reaction, or perhaps feel intimidated by his cold hard stare at press conferences and volatile responses when things aren’t to his liking, but the simple fact is anything worse than fourth this season should see him pay the price for his own failings.
COQUELIN COMES OF AGE TO TAKE CENTRE STAGE
There aren’t too many success stories on the Arsenal loan department. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs all spent a short time away from the club before breaking into the first team, while Hector Bellerin, who spent part of last season with Watford, is suggesting he could have a long-term future with the Gunners. But none of them have been as resurgent as Francis Coquelin has been since he returned from Charlton Athletic towards the end of last year, and even that was due to an injury crisis at the club.
Coquelin was the most impressive man on the pitch last night as he did his best to try and shackle Fellaini while also protecting his back four. In a standout performance, it’s amazing to think that he was set to be released at the end of the season, yet not only managed to secure a new deal at the start of last month but has cemented his place in the first team.
Belfast Telegraph Digital