FA Cup – Brilliant United batter Arsenal
Eurosport – Sat, 16 Feb 19:43:00 2008
English football’s greatest modern rivalry produced a one-sided result as Manchester United thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at Old Trafford.
United romped into the FA Cup sixth round as two goals from Darren Fletcher and one each from Wayne Rooney and Nani embarrassed Arsene Wenger’s side, who will surely never produce a worse performance.
United were 3-0 up by the break and Emmanuel Eboue was sent off on 49 minutes as the home side showboated their way through the second period.
Fletcher, Park Ji-Sung and Nani were all drafted into a five-man midfield supporting lone striker Rooney.
But any thought that United would surrender meekly disappeared immediately, with the home side harrying, snapping into tackles and showing tremendous hunger.
However, that did not excuse the lack of edge that pervaded the side, including the normally superb Cesc Fabregas.
Anderson headed a half-cleared corner back into danger and Rooney was allowed the space to divert a glancing header past Lehmann from five yards out.
Three minutes later the home fans’ joy turned to near-disbelief, as Nani teased in a head-high cross from the left and Fletcher stole in front of Gallas to nod in at the near post.
Replays showed the ball came off the Arsenal skipper, who may find himself ‘credited’ with an own-goal depending on the mood of the disputed goals committee.
Time and again Rooney found space, and could easily have added to his tally but dragged shots wide with his left foot and then the right.
With 38 minutes gone it was three, when Carrick found Nani with a superb diagonal ball and the Portuguese buried a left-foot shot from the edge of the box.
Surely Arsenal could not play this badly in both halves? Indeed they could not – they were even worse after the break.
Hopes of a comeback went out of the window as Rooney went close twice before Eboue’s moment of madness, leading with his studs as he jumped for a header with Patrice Evra.
United peppered the visiting goal with shot after shot as Wenger slumped disconsolately in the dugout. Park miskicked when through on goal and Rooney registered several more shots on target without beating Lehmann.
Nani and Anderson also went close but there was no fourth goal until 74 minutes when Fletcher popped up again to head in from close range following a clipped cross from the left by Nani.
By that point Rooney and Anderson had been withdrawn, with an eye on Wednesday’s Champions League encounter with Lyon.
Meanwhile bad tackles flew in from the rattled visitors, with Nani provoking furious reactions from Justin Hoyte, Mathieu Flamini and Gallas as he juggled the ball – Gilberto Silva was lucky not to pick up a second yellow card while substitute Adebayor was carded for a ridiculous dive.
The only disappointments for Ferguson were the needless bookings picked up by captain Rio Ferdinand for a late tackle on Bendtner, and Rooney for refusing to give the ball to Arsenal following an offside.