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Saturday, January 26, 2019

FA Cup: Alexis Sanchez scores on Arsenal return as Manchester United advance

Booed throughout his return to Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez responded to the rancor with a rare goal for Manchester United and reveled in the celebrations. The forward’s fifth goal in 33 appearances since leaving Arsenal a year ago set United on its way to a 3-1 victory to book a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
With Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial also scoring, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reeled off a club-record extending eighth successive victory in all competitions at the start of his reign since replacing the fired Jose Mourinho in December.
With only a short-term contract on loan from Norwegian club Molde until the end of the season, Solskjaer is making it increasingly hard for United to consider any other option for its fourth permanent appointment since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Revitalized United was rarely troubled by an Arsenal side that beat Chelsea last weekend. Electric on the break, the visitors couldn’t be contained at times by the hosts.
When Romelu Lukaku slipped the ball through to Sanchez in the 31st minute, the Chile forward took the ball around goalkeeper Petr Cech before placing it in the net.
Sanchez raised his arms aloft to the Arsenal fans who had targeted him with jeers.
They had little to cheer. Not after Arsenal fell further behind inside two minutes after timidly giving United too much space. Luke Shaw worked the ball out from defense before releasing Lukaku on a run down the left flank. The forward completed the counterattack by squaring for the unmarked Lingard to sidefoot into the net.
Arsenal had a glimmer of hope in the 43rd when Aaron Ramsey weaved in from the left and put the ball through Eric Bailly’s legs across to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a tap-in.
Having already lost Sokratis with an ankle problem in the first half, Arsenal’s defensive injury problems deepened after the break when Laurent Koscielny was forced off after his jaw by caught by Lukaku.
United couldn’t be sure of its progress until Martial netted in the 82nd after Paul Pogba’s attempt was parried.
There was a fiery conclusion when Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac squared up to United forward Marcus Rashford, setting off a melee that spilled off the pitch close to fans.
In the night’s other FA Cup game involving lower-league clubs, Bristol City beat Bolton 2-1.
Solskjaer delights in ‘classic’ United display
Ole Gunnar Solskajer took pride in a ‘classic ‘ Manchester United display of attacking flair as his side beat Arsenal 3-1 in an absorbing FA Cup fourth-round clash on Friday. First-half goals by Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard put United in control and although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replied for the Gunners, Anthony Martial sealed victory late on.
Solskjaer has now won eight matches in a row since stepping in as interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho — a record that eclipses even the great Matt Busby. And while the statistics make that the best ever start by a United manager, the vibrant manner in which it has been achieved is perhaps even more impressive.
United have scored 22 goals under Solskjaer and have rediscovered the kind of attacking verve associated with the trophy-winning sides Solksjaer played in under Alex Ferguson.
What is more, on Friday’s evidence, he seems to have the handy managerial knack of knowing exactly when to shuffle his plethora of attacking options.
Martial and Marcus Rashford have been livewires under Solskjaer, but he left them on the bench against Arsenal and started with former Gunners forward Sanchez and Belgian powerhouse Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku, in particular, was superb, producing an unstoppable display to run Arsenal’s defence ragged at times, while Sanchez silenced the boo boys with a sublime opener from Lukaku’s pass.
Former Everton forward Lukaku also set up Lingard’s goal. “I’ve had a (selection) headache since I came because the squad is full of good players,” Solskjaer said. “Today we looked more like a proper team. We looked more structured. We’d worked hard at defending and counter-attacking. Counter-attacking is classic Manchester United — Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ji Sung-park — we’ve scored so many at Arsenal over the years.
“It was a massive step forward today for us. At Tottenham a couple of weeks ago we hung in and (goalkeeper) David de Gea saved us, but today our structure was miles better.” Lukaku summed up the mood under Solskjaer, agreeing that it feels like fun again playing for the club after a torrid spell.
“It does, it does,” he said. “We had clear direction today and I’m really happy with the win and the manner in which we played. Look at the history of the club, we make a statement wherever we go. “We look to dominate and create as many chances as we can.”
Arsenal boss Unai Emery could only look on with envy at the attacking rescources available to Solskjaer and which were inexplicably so subdued under Mourinho.
“They were clinical today,” the Spaniard told reporters. “We played against a United side in their best moment of the season and they have a lot of players to make a diffrence.”