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All Guns Blazing: Will FA Cup result be a crossroads for Arsenal and Manchester United?

11:35 11 March 2015

Arsenal

Arsenal's Nacho Monreal celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game against Manchester United. Picture: Nigel French/PA

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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti enjoys Manchester United’s loss as well as Arsenal’s win.

More than any other sport, one of the most pronounced quirks of being a football fan is that you can enjoy watching your opponents lose as well as enjoy watching your team win.

On Monday night, this was certainly the case, but on a karmic level it also felt good for the sport. For years Manchester United have built up a culture of cheating and bullied officials, so to see Michael Oliver bravely stand up to the pathetic dives of Angel di Maria and Adnan Januzaj was both hilarious and a vital step towards confronting a modern scourge on the game.

While supporters across the globe will surely have revelled in the latest chapter of United’s fall (or perhaps dive) from grace, there’s a more personal resonance for Gooners. Wayne Rooney’s rotten antics that ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run still linger fresh in the memory, but since our FA Cup triumph against them in 2005, a chasm unquestionably opened up in the fortunes of the two old rivals.

Considering Arsenal’s recent Monaco debacle, it would be premature to suggest Monday marked any major turning point for either club. Nonetheless, you would hope in terms of this season alone it signals the meeting point between a team capable of finishing strongly and another limply lumping long balls towards mediocrity.

Barring a Champions League miracle, our hopes for this season now lie in the FA Cup. It’s an almost mirror image of last year, though if there’s one big difference now, it’s that we’ve begun to beat the big teams.

The work-rate against United was superb – not just from obvious new recruits Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, but also from players who seemed to have been inspired by them this season, such as Santi Cazorla and the freshly crocked Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Because of this, a new ethos seems to be evolving. Gone is the Barcelona-lite era of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, this is now Arsene Wenger’s Deutsche model of technique and industry.

With what will still undoubtedly be a tricky cup tie against Reading or Bradford on the horizon – not to mention the top four battle and a slim chance of Champions League redemption – this approach has a long way to go to truly bear fruit. At the very least, it’s nice to see Arsenal finding an identity again – even more so when certain rivals seem be quickly losing theirs.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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