Arsenal sealed their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 win at Manchester United on Monday night, as goals either side of half-time from Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck downed Louis van Gaal’s side.
Monreal gave Arsenal a 25th-minute lead before Wayne Rooney equalised soon after from Angel Di Maria’s cross, but the Argentine was later dismissed for a second bookable offence after Welbeck had restored the visitors’ advantage just after the hour.
The England striker understandably received most of the headlines after netting the deciding strike on his first return to his boyhood club since a £16 million summer switch, but there were several other Gunners-related talking points to take from the match.
One of those was the performance of centre-back Per Mertesacker who, after enduring his fair share of criticism for his recent performances, seemed to put in a much-improved showing.
Dropped for winter signing Gabriel Paulista for the recent 2-0 win over Everton, the club vice-captain managed to record two tackles, three interceptions and seven clearances with the Brazilian out injured, but helping his side to a first victory at Old Trafford since September 2006 still wasn’t quite enough to win over all fans.
Indeed, while there was some showered praise at the final whistle, a fair share seemed to blame the towering defender for the Rooney equaliser after allowing too much space between him and Laurent Koscielny, with the mixed sentiment clear for all to see on Twitter during the match.
Mertesacker always looks off-balance. Gabriel will be a great replacement once he's back from injury. #afc— Jack (@_JackBrain) March 9, 2015
Mertesacker is so bad now, he's becoming abit of a liability #AFC— Supreme Jide (@itsmejaykay) March 9, 2015
I get really scared whenever Mertesacker gets the ball #AFC— kyle byrne (@KyleByrne4) March 9, 2015
Koscielny, Mertesacker and Coquelin have been superb tonight #AFC— Nathan Griffin (@nathangriffin69) March 9, 2015
Respect to #AFC - They certainly showed 'the other side' of the game tonight. Coquelin immense, Koscielny & Mertesacker composed.— TalkNinetyTwo (@TalkNinetyTwo) March 9, 2015
Mertesacker didnt put a foot wrong this game. Cant get 100+ caps for Germany and be rubbish! #AFC— Daniel Bell-Drummond (@deebzz23) March 9, 2015
Special mention for Per Mertesacker. Won many aerial duels and his positioning and covering were impeccable. Well done captain! #AFC— Abhilash. (@AbhilashSanyal) March 9, 2015