United spectacularly banished memories of their derby defeat with a stunning 4-0 win over Arsenal to book a place in the FA Cup quarter finals.
The Reds oozed energy, class and goals to register a memorable Cup victory and, perhaps, strike a key psychological blow in the race for the title.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring on 16 minutes before Darren Fletcher made it two four minutes later. Nani put the Reds three-up seven minutes before half-time, while Fletcher grabbed his second on 74 minutes.
In his 100th FA Cup tie, Sir Alex made five changes to the side that lost to Manchester City last weekend. Rooney and Patrice Evra returned from suspension, while Ji-sung Park, Michael Carrick and Fletcher were all handed starts. Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo were rested, no doubt with Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Lyon in mind.
United lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney working the line as the lone striker. Support was close at hand from Fletcher, Nani, Carrick, Park and the outstanding Anderson and it was the Brazilian who produced the Reds’ first effort on goal. With nine minutes gone, Anderson lashed a first-time volley goalwards after Evra’s attempted cross was block. The shot was on target but Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saved well down to his right.
The Reds continued to press and both Rooney and Fletcher came close to capitalising on a stray Arsenal backpass. Luckily for the Gunners, their German stopper was alert to the situation as he sprinted from goal to clear.
Skipper for the day Rio Ferdinand had remarked in the matchday programme how the Reds were determined to banish the memories of last weekend’s derby defeat and they duly did that after just 16 minutes.
Arsenal failed to clear Nani’s left wing corner,