Making an impact

Danny Welbeck sent Arsenal through to the FA Cup semi-final, with a 61st-minute winner, which came as a result of a clanger by Manchester United right back Antonio Valencia. By Paul Hirst.

Players scoring against their former club, and then refusing to celebrate have become part and parcel of the modern game.

It is seen as a sign of respect for the old club when a player chooses not to rub salt into the wounds of fans, who previously sang his name, but sometimes the excitement and drama of the occasion makes it impossible to keep emotions in check.

That was the case for Danny Welbeck, when he returned to Old Trafford for the first time since his move to Arsenal and he can now start looking forward to his first Wembley appearance with the Gunners after going through a night of mixed emotions.

Welbeck sent Arsenal through to the FA Cup semi-final, with a 61st-minute winner, which came as a result of a clanger by Manchester United right back Antonio Valencia.

The right back sold David de Gea short with a back-pass after Phil Jones had chested a long ball down to him and Welbeck sprinted through and tapped into an empty net after beating De Gea to the ball.

The former United striker seemed to think about not celebrating for a second, but then pumped his fists in joy.

For United boss Louis van Gaal, watching the man he sold last summer score the winner at Old Trafford must have been hard to take. But it was also a difficult night for Welbeck, the Longsight, lad who came through United’s academy and still considers himself to be a big fan of the club.

“Manchester United is a club that means so much to me,” said Welbeck, who spent 15 years at United having joined them at eight. “I’m a fan and it’s hard to knock them out. I was just doing my job.

“It was about being professional, keeping my focus and motivation. I kept plugging away and then got on the end of Antonio Valencia’s backpass, beat David de Gea and got the winning goal. I’m just really pleased we’re through to the next round.”

Welbeck’s name was cheered by the home and away support when it was read out from the Arsenal team sheet at the start of the game and he received a largely warm reception when he was substituted in the 74th minute.

“I’ll always respect the fans, I had a lovely reception from them and I’m thankful for that,” the England forward said.

Arsenal are now favourites to retain the FA Cup after their first victory at Old Trafford in nine years.

“It’s good for the team that we’re through to the next round, and we’re in the semi-finals at Wembley,” the 24-year-old said. “To get the goal was good for me, but it was all about the team performance.”

It was Welbeck’s first goal in 2015 and ended a six-match run goal-less run. His return to form surely impressed Arsenal manager Arsene Weger.

“We want all to do well when we play against our former club to show we are great players,” said Wenger. “It is not easy to deal with the mental aspect of it. He focused just on his game and played football the way he wanted to. He has showed mental strength. He is intelligent. He is a great talent and has done extremely well for the national team as well.”

While United face another season without a trophy, Welbeck is now closing in on FA Cup glory and another medal to add to his collection.

© PA Sport