Arsenal’s romance with the FA Cup continued last night after an epic quarter final win at Old Trafford to finally put an end to the hoodoo at the stadium which has cursed them in recent times.
A journey with three friends and my nephew was very fun indeed and we were all in good spirits despite our concerns about our record at Old Trafford. I was also buoyed by Bangladesh’s win in the cricket World Cup! But football was the focal point now.
Little did I know at this point I would witness one of the best games and atmospheres (only the Arsenal end) I have attended. A quick mix grill and off we were to the “Theatre of back passes” a term used to malign the Manchester teams style of play this season.
The game started with Arsenal giving away cheap possession and Fellaini putting his weight about much to the annoyance of the Arsenal supporters. In the East Stand where the Arsenal supporters were placed, there was a feeling of injustice when Hector Bellerin was booked for a foul on Ashley Young who seems to have been taking more diving lessons from British swimmer Tom Daley. This infuriated supporters with almost every Arsenal fan pondering why referee Michael Oliver booked the young Spaniard so early in the game for his first tackle.
The fans though rallied behind the team and there was a feeling of togetherness between the travelling faithful constantly singing in tune. Then the other Spanish full back, Nacho Monreal, who has become an unsung hero, was played in by Alex Chamberlain after a fantastic run, and there was Nacho to finish emphatically beating De Gea at his near post.
The joy amongst the Arsenal fans was short lived. Only moments later Di Maria found Shrek with a cross whose header found the back of the net. The Arsenal fans were seething and the inquest began between supporters about why Shrek was left with so much room and venting their frustration at Koscielney and Mertesacker.
Chesney then kept out Di Maria’s effort saving with his legs and then half time came and Arsenal were able to re-group.
The Arsenal fans were in fantastic voice mocking the hosts and hurling constant abuse at Manchester United supporters. This stemmed from the rivalry between the clubs and supporters even took a trip down memory lane in the stands by talking about past encounters where Arsenal got stuck into the dirty Mancs, notably the infamous brawl in 1990 and Keown’s swipe at the cheating Ruud Van Nistelrooy in 2003.
Arsenal came out in the second half and stood firm and then in the 61st minute a moment which stunned the Manchester United supporters. A back pass by Valencia was seized upon by the tireless Danny Welbeck. The forward rounded the hapless De Gea and slotted home to send 9,000 Arsenal supporters into absolute raptures.
The fact Danny scored against his former employers made it so much sweeter for the Arsenal fans. A few supporters began the chant with everyone then taking part –
‘He left coz your sh*t! He left coz your sh******t! Danny Welbeck! He left coz your sh*t!’
Security officers and stewards were called into Block E233 by this point as a section of Arsenal fans were standing on seats and on top of walls, causing havoc, such was their delight. The stewards had a difficult job to contain them during this jamboree but who could blame them?
The Arsenal fans were really now enjoying themselves and constantly taunting the Manchester United supporters which would last until the final whistle and outside the ground. There was still over 30 mins left and Arsenal weathered the storm.
Di Maria was then sent off after putting his hands on the referee and then Arsenal absorbed many attacks, mainly long balls. Fellaini was up to his usual tricks of using hands and elbows and was finally booked, cue the sarcastic applause for Michael Oliver who finally brandished a yellow card to him. Arsenal then hit United on the break with Santi Cazorla drawing a fantastic save from compatriot De Gea, who then denied Alexis.
After 5 long minutes of injury time the final whistle came and the night belonged to the North Londoners. Arsenal booked another trip to Wembley but it was not over there..
This was one of the best results in recent years and despite there being a split fan base over the season there were no signs of it on this night. The Arsenal fans went mental, singing, mocking Manchester United fans, dancing in the stands and then outside the ground much to the anger of the police who could not usher the Arsenal fans away.
Nine thousand fans who made a long trip despite the fixture being on a Monday night causing chaos for people who had work, school and other commitments. Miserable Manchester United fans walked past the dancing Arsenal fans singing “WEMBLEY” and the look on their face was priceless, knowing that Arsenal ended their season.
Maybe now these United fans were off to the supermarket to get those sour grapes before going home. Arsenal players, Manager and fans can be very proud after their performances on this night. Everyone associated with the club played their part.
Victoria, Concordia, Cresit.
Next stop.. WEMBLEY!