That’s eight straight wins under the former United striker now, whose application to land the managerial job full time is only getting stronger by the week!
Arsenal are left with just the Europa League to compete in now as they tumble out the cup, although given the defensive injuries they have picked up tonight that may prove a blessing in the long run.
Sometimes the stars align for a man, and it is starting to feel that way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘Another game, another win, there is not a player who is not responding to his stewardship, or a stratagem that does not go according to plan.
‘It also helps when both of your opponents centre-halves go off injured in either half – and you can bring players of the quality of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial from the bench to test that makeshift back four out. See? Stars aligned.’
The Emirates began to empty and Manchester United began to conserve energy and minimise rise. When Sead Kolasinac clashed with Marcus Rashford, leaning his head in, and Jesse Lingard got involved, the mood turned nasty.
Lingard appeared to be further angered by the reaction of the crowd – either something thrown, or something said – and had to be held back by a steward. Minutes later, Solskjaer sensibly took him off, his final change of the night. Everything he does right now is shot through with common sense.
He is taking on some of the best coaches in Europe – Unai Emery, Mauricio Pochettino – and winning, and that is not purely down to hosting a party with a happy atmosphere. This was a tactical victory, too, split strikers producing Alexis Sanchez’s first United goal away from home, and a man of the match display from Romelu Lukaku, as a creator, not a goalscorer. Solskjaer is making it look easy, and his appointment increasingly irresistible. What more can he do?
Not a bad plan B, Lukaku and Sanchez – Solskjaer’s second string forward selection exposing the myth of Manchester United’s weak squad.
On the bench and given a well-earned rest, Rashford and Martial, promoted for FA Cup duty, Lukaku and Sanchez, two players whose wages alone will take close to £600,000 out of the club each week.
With the possible exception of Manchester City, no other club has that level of strength in reserve, and City certainly don’t have it in the forward line alone.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Arsenal (4-3-3): Cech; Cech, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis (Mustafi 21), Koscielny (Guendouzi 64), Torreira, Xhaka, Iwobi (Ozil 64), Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs not used: Leno, Monreal, Lichtsteiner, Elneny
Goals: Aubameyang (43)
Booked: Koscielny, Kolasinac, Guendouzi
Manager: Unai Emery
Manchester United (4-3-3): Romero, Young, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw, Herrera, Matic, Pogba, Lukaku (Rashford 72), Lingard (Jones 88), Sanchez (Martial 72)
Subs not used: Grant, Mata, Dalot, Fred
Goals: Sanchez (31), Lingard (33), Martial (82)
Booked: Lingard, Rashford
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Referee: Craig Pawson
MOM: Romelu Lukaku
Yet it isn’t just the players at Solskjaer’s disposal, but the way he deploys them, that has transformed Manchester United. As he did against Tottenham earlier this month, Solskjaer played his forwards wide and used Jesse Lingard as a false nine, arriving from deep. It worked perfectly, too. Lukaku was quite brilliant on the right, creating both goals with a talent for invention few imagine he possesses.
Sanchez and Lingard scored within two minutes of each other, the goals sweetly taken, Solskjaer’s strategy vindicated in a period of dominance that left Arsenal playing catch-up after a promising start.
They had a lot of possession without threatening, although Alex Iwobi should have done more with a 24th minute shot put straight at goalkeeper Sergio Romero. A pass to the better positioned Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would have been the wiser choice.
The loss of defender Sokratis, however, seemed to unsettle them. He landed awkwardly having jumped with Lingard, tried to carry on, but could not. With the movement of Manchester United’s front line so dangerous, there is no way Arsenal could have got away with anything less than a fully fit defensive line. Shkodran Mustafi came on but, soon, Manchester United were two up.
The threat had been signalled early when a one-two between Paul Pogba and Sanchez brought United’s first chance after 11 minutes. Petr Cech, playing what might be his final FA Cup game having announced his retirement at the end of the season, came swiftly from his line and smothered the ball at Sanchez’s feet.