|1||Van der Sar|
The Dutchman's dream of winning the globally-famous competition for the first time, in his final season, is now very much on and deservedly so after his string of saves - some of them world-class - denied a Gunners team desperate not to flunk a third trophy quest in a fortnight.
Sir Alex Ferguson rang the changes for this heavyweight contest, some of them forced, following last Sunday's disappointing league display at Anfield. His response to the expected absence of Nani was an intriguing one, as he opted to field the Da Silva twins on the left and right flanks. Nemanja Vidic returned at the heart of the defence after suspension; Irish pair Darron Gibson and John O'Shea were drafted into central midfield with Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes rested altogether, possibly with Marseille on Tuesday in mind. Meanwhile Antonio Valencia was named in the 18 for the first time since breaking a leg last September.
Looking far from leggy after their Champions League chasing in Barcelona, the Gunners took the game to United in the early stages with Andrey Arshavin fashioning the first attempt on target from the left flank and Nasri knitting things together neatly on the right. The Reds seemed the more sluggish side and were relieved when Edwin van der Sar’s off-beam bowl-out led to Arshavin striking wide of the left-hand post.
Fans’ excitement at seeing the Da Silvas in attacking positions was heightened in the 15th minute when Fabio whipped in a terrific ball from the left and Rafael, running in behind Javier Hernandez, just failed to keep his powerful header under the crossbar.