Quickfire first-half goals from Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard set Manchester United on their way to a pulsating 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over Arsenal at the Emirates on Friday.
United were under the cosh for most of the opening half-hour but once they took the lead, when Romelu Lukaku fed Sanchez with a perfect slide-rule pass and he rounded Petr Cech to score, they never looked back.
Lukaku showed excellent composure again to make United’s second goal two minutes later, making the most of a rapid counter-attack from the edge of the visitors’ own box to spot Lingard’s run into the area, from where he finished smartly.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled a goal back two minutes before the break from Aaron Ramsey’s pass but, despite plenty of possession in attacking areas, Arsenal failed to threaten enough.
Instead, United sealed their path into round five late on when Paul Pogba’s shot was spilled and Anthony Martial netted with a powerful finish to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an eighth win from as many games since taking over in December.
Arsenal turned the screw on the United defence from the off and overloaded them in wide areas, but the visitors’ penalty area proved impenetrable as they stood up to the early barrage of pressure.
Even as United began to feel their way into proceedings there was no sign of the sucker-punch which would follow for Unai Emery’s men, but the quick one-two owed as much to their own defending as anything else.
Three defenders raced to close down Lukaku as he feinted to shoot on the edge of the box, leaving space for Sanchez to ghost in behind and when the ball was played through to him, he rounded Cech before firing in from a tight angle for his first goal against his old club.
Arsenal committed men up-field as they searched for an immediate response but, once they lost the ball, Luke Shaw found Lukaku on the half-way line and he sprinted to the edge of the Arsenal area before spotting Lingard’s run, and the England midfielder took a touch inside the box before slotting home.
That knocked the stuffing out of the hosts and only in the moments before half-time did they begin to improve again. They finally put together a decent attack and Aubameyang netted with a shot he could not miss from close range after Ramsey had drifted in off the left and pulled the ball across.
The striker’s goal put the second half on a knife-edge but, despite long spells of possession, Arsenal could only fashion half-chances, with Alexandre Lacazette pulling a strong, but comfortable, save out of Sergio Romero.
Marcus Rashford and Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac were perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch when they went head-to-head as tempers boiled over with time running out, but more concerning was a coin thrown from the crowd towards the melee of players who became involved in the aftermath.
The visitors looked happy enough to soak up the Arsenal pressure and sprung another counter-attack late on to seal victory. Pogba picked off a square ball across midfield and paced out of his half towards the Arsenal box before shooting from 25 yards.
Cech’s save was unconvincing and provided the perfect set-up for Martial, who smashed in a third goal of the night for Solskjaer’s side.