Wayne Rooney's second goal proved a killer blow to Arsenal's FA Cup ambitions
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Old Trafford
Manchester United piled on the agony for Arsene Wenger as Arsenal's rapidly deteriorating season took another blow with defeat in the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford.
Fabio da Silva and Wayne Rooney struck in each half to take Manchester United to Wembley with a victory that sent Arsenal crashing out of a third major competition inside a fortnight.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who rounded defiantly on his critics in his programme notes, demanded a response from United after Premier League defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool.
And a team that included seven defenders in a reshuffled starting line-up delivered the win he craved.
Arsenal followed the predictable pattern of many recent meetings with United by controlling possession for long periods but failing to take advantage.
Their FA Cup exit followed the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham City and the contentious Champions League loss to Barcelona last Tuesday.
When they did pierce United's rearguard, the Gunners found veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in outstanding form - he denied Robin van Persie in the first half as well as saving well from Laurent Koscielny, Marouane Chamakh and Tomas Rosicky after the interval.
Wenger's problems increased as defender Johan Djourou was stretchered off late on after he appeared to collide with team-mate Bacary Sagna as he attempted to stop Javier Hernandez adding a third for United.
Ferguson will be satisfied that United's season has moved closer to being back on course with a vital triumph and the boost of a Wembley appearance, but counterpart Wenger cut a dejected and despairing figure at the final whistle.
Arsenal still have the Premier League title to aim for, but Wenger must sift through what may well be heavy psychological blows to his players as three targets have been removed from their sights in swift succession.
Wenger always hails the mental strength contained within Arsenal's squad - and that faith and resolve will now be tested to the full after a nightmare spell.
Ferguson's starting line-up carried an unfamiliar look - but his side performed in highly effective fashion, despite Arsenal enjoying a large share of possession in the first 45 minutes.
Brazilian brothers Rafael and Fabio were relieved of their familiar defensive duties and utilised wide on the flanks, a ploy that should have brought United an early lead.
Fabio's cross from the left was an open invitation for Rafael to score but he headed wastefully over the top from close range.
Fabio did not make the same mistake when presented with the chance to give United a crucial advantage after 27 minutes.
Rooney's delicate cross was met by Hernandez and when his header was pushed out by Manuel Almunia the youngster slid in to prod the rebound into the roof of the net.
Van Persie led the Arsenal response with a low angled effort that was turned around the post by Van der Sar, then heading just wide from the resulting corner.
There was a welcome sight for United and their supporters at the start of the second half as Antonio Valencia returned as a substitute for the first time since breaking his leg in the Champions League tie against Glasgow Rangers at Old Trafford in September.
United keeper Van der Sar kept them on terms with an instinctive double save right after the break, twice denying Koscielny after he linked with Van Persie inside the area.
The value of Van der Sar's saves was quickly illustrated as Rooney doubled United's lead shortly after.
Rafael was instrumental with a surge into the area and when another Hernandez effort was blocked Rooney pounced to head home.
Arsenal once again resumed territorial advantage but simply could not find a way past Van der Sar, who distinguished himself with further fine saves from substitute Chamakh's header and Rosicky's swerving 20-yard shot.
As Arsenal pushed forward in desperation, they inevitably left spaces at the back and United almost cashed in as Almunia clawed out a shot from Hernandez.
Defender Djourou was injured in the scramble and was stretchered off after lengthy treatment - during which he was given oxygen - that left eight minutes of stoppage time.
Manchester United substitute Paul Scholes enlivened proceedings with a needlessly hot-headed cameo that brought a yellow card and a separate rebuke from referee Chris Foy.
But nothing could take the gloss off United's win as they sealed their place in the last four of the FA Cup.
70:58 Marouane Chamakh produces a header from inside the area that goes over the bar.
69:33 The ball is delivered by Ryan Giggs, save by Manuel Almunia.
68:00 Corner taken left-footed by Ryan Giggs from the left by-line, Johan Djourou manages to make a clearance.
66:14 Marouane Chamakh takes a shot. Save made by Edwin Van der Sar.
65:37 Samir Nasri sends in a cross, Patrice Evra manages to make a clearance.
64:47 Antonio Valencia crosses the ball, Header by Javier Hernandez from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the
64:13 Corner taken by Ryan Giggs from the left by-line to the near post, Robin van Persie makes a clearance.
63:28 Substitution Rafael Da Silva leaves the field to be replaced by Ryan Giggs.
63:15 Robin van Persie takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.
62:54 Corner crossed in by Bacary Sagna, clearance made by Chris Smalling.
62:50 The ball is delivered by Bacary Sagna, clearance by Nemanja Vidic.
60:57 Unfair challenge on Robin van Persie by John O'Shea results in a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Robin van Persie
from the free kick.
60:22 Darron Gibson produces a cross, clearance made by Laurent Koscielny.
60:17 The ball is crossed by Antonio Valencia.
59:00 Substitution Marouane Chamakh on for Neves Denilson.
58:50 Vassiriki Diaby has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
56:37 The ball is crossed by Bacary Sagna, Chris Smalling manages to make a clearance. Effort on goal by Samir Nasri from 18 yards.
Save by Edwin Van der Sar.
55:34 Corner taken by Antonio Valencia from the right by-line, Header by Nemanja Vidic from deep inside the penalty area misses
to the left of the goal.
51:19 Nemanja Vidic challenges Andrey Arshavin unfairly and gives away a free kick. Bacary Sagna restarts play with the free kick.
50:59 The referee blows for offside against Javier Hernandez. Bacary Sagna restarts play with the free kick.
49:30 The ball is delivered by Andrey Arshavin, Patrice Evra makes a clearance. Robin van Persie decides to take a short corner.
48:15 GOAL - Wayne Rooney:Man Utd 2 - 0 Arsenal Wayne Rooney finds the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Man Utd 2-0 Arsenal.
47:35 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Nemanja Vidic manages to make a clearance.
47:09 Laurent Koscielny takes a shot. Edwin Van der Sar makes a brilliant save.
45:01 The match restarts for the second half.
45:01 Substitution (Man Utd) makes a substitution, with Antonio Valencia coming on for Fabio Da Silva.
45:00+1:09 The whistle is blown to end the first half.
44:07 Samir Nasri takes a shot. Save by Edwin Van der Sar.
43:35 Javier Hernandez is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Laurent Koscielny.
39:51 Foul by Wes Brown on Jack Wilshere, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Andrey Arshavin, clearance by Wes Brown.
35:09 Vassiriki Diaby is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Edwin Van der Sar.
33:19 Corner taken by Rafael Da Silva, Johan Djourou manages to make a clearance.
32:31 Robin van Persie takes a shot. Edwin Van der Sar makes a save. Corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri from the left by-line
to the near post, Robin van Persie has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the target.
31:28 Vassiriki Diaby concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Rooney. Darron Gibson takes the free kick.
29:43 The ball is sent over by Wayne Rooney, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Fabio Da Silva misses to the left of the
27:40 Javier Hernandez takes a shot. Save made by Manuel Almunia. Javier Hernandez provided the assist for the goal.
27:40 GOAL - Fabio Da Silva:Man Utd 1 - 0 Arsenal Fabio Da Silva finds the back of the net with a goal from close in high into the middle of the goal. Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal.
27:06 Vassiriki Diaby takes a shot. Save made by Edwin Van der Sar.
24:39 The official flags Fabio Da Silva offside. Manuel Almunia restarts play with the free kick.
23:57 Robin van Persie takes a shot. Edwin Van der Sar makes a save.
22:34 Kieran Gibbs crosses the ball, Chris Smalling manages to make a clearance.
22:29 The ball is sent over by Bacary Sagna, clearance made by Nemanja Vidic.
21:21 The assistant referee flags for offside against Javier Hernandez. Manuel Almunia takes the free kick.
19:08 Bacary Sagna produces a cross, clearance made by Chris Smalling.
17:24 Vassiriki Diaby challenges Wayne Rooney unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Wayne Rooney.
14:48 The ball is swung over by Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva produces a header from deep inside the six-yard box that clears
13:07 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Rafael Da Silva by Samir Nasri. Free kick taken by Chris Smalling.
11:30 Andrey Arshavin is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Chris Smalling.
10:26 Andrey Arshavin has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box which goes wide left of the goal.
7:19 The ball is swung over by Kieran Gibbs, save by Edwin Van der Sar.
6:16 The referee blows for offside against Fabio Da Silva. Free kick taken by Manuel Almunia.
4:39 Free kick awarded for a foul by Wayne Rooney on Jack Wilshere. Laurent Koscielny restarts play with the free kick.
2:35 Andrey Arshavin takes a shot. Save by Edwin Van der Sar.
0:48 The offside flag is raised against Javier Hernandez. Manuel Almunia restarts play with the free kick.
0:00 The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.