Just minutes after the final whistle at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger’s side learned that their reward for an impressive quarter-final success against United is the less daunting task of seeing off Championship team Reading or third tier outfit Bradford.
The other Wembley semi-final will see Aston Villa take on Liverpool or Blackburn, who will meet in a replay at Ewood Park after the Championship team drew 0-0 at Anfield on Sunday.
While the Gunners will be firm favourites whoever gets through, Wenger will recall that his side needed a late equaliser and a penalty shoot-out to beat second tier Wigan at the same stage last season.
And the north Londoners may not be quite so keen on facing Bradford, who knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup en route to the 2013 final.
Bradford have extended that giant-killing form to this season’s FA Cup, with a stunning 4-2 fourth round victory at Premier League leaders Chelsea followed by a win over top-flight side Sunderland.
“Last year we played a tricky game at Wembley in the semi-final and we expect that again. Tonight I thought we played well and deserved to win the game,” Wenger said.
Villa secured their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 2010 by seeing off local rivals West Brom 2-0 in a fiery affair on Saturday and Tim Sherwood’s side will now be waiting to see whether Liverpool, hoping to provide a trophy for departing captain Steven Gerrard, or Blackburn are their opponents for a place in this season’s final.
Draw for the English FA Cup semi-finals:
Bradford or Reading v Arsenal
Aston Villa v Liverpool or Blackburn
Ties to be played on the weekend of April 18/19.