It was always dubious that Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final outing against Chelsea would pass without an incident, and their Monday meeting at Stamford Bridge certainly got people talking.
A defensive line-up was almost certain from Manchester United due to pre-match rumors of a shortage of strikers, but Marcus Rashford surprisingly started for Mourinho and the manager tried everything to match Antonio Conte’s attack through which the latter has dominated the Premier League.
Despite the absence of attacking trio Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial, Jose Mourinho’s men matched every step taken by the Premier League leaders for much of the first half. The inclusion of Rashford was not the only surprise from Mourinho as he attempted a three-man defence to question Chelsea’s electric forward line.
The first half was all about a back and forth game and Eden Hazard was the first to show why Chelsea has been at the top of FA Cup and in the 16th minute forced David de Gea into a plunging save.
Herrera, on the other hand, collected his first booking when he bodychecked Eden Hazard and the latter remained fundamental as he was able to breach United’s backline once again, but his aim was well off.
Herrera, then received his second yellow card, ten minutes before the halftime, drawing heated protestations from United after a late tackle with Hazard.
The hosts continued to put pressure in the second half and, at the next attempt, it paid off to United’s cost. This time, with the Red Devils defending deep, and moving the ball from left to right, N’Golo Kante was offered a yard of space and he drove a shot right into the bottom left-hand corner from 20 yards.
It was a setback which left Manchester United in need of some inspiration for a comeback and it so nearly arrived just before the hour mark. David Luiz had misjudged a long ball, Rashford, the man who defied illness, ran onto it before twisting and turning his way past Cahill, however, his effort was denied by a crucial sprawling save from Thibaut Courtois.
And that was it. United tried their best to score an equaliser but Chelsea’s defence was not an easy thing to crack. However, Pogba dragged a tired strike from 20 yards wide, to sum up United’s attempts at a late equaliser.
It was the final sight of goal for the visitors, as the Devils bowed out of the FA Cup and ended their title defence.
- Chelsea now remains unbeaten in 12 games against Man United in all competitions (W7 D5) since their 3-2 home defeat in October 2012.
- This is only the third such occasion in history that United had a longer winless run against a single opponent (13 vs Liverpool in 1927 and 13 vs Leeds in 1972).
- It’s the first time since 2002, that three London teams will compete in the FA Cup semi-finals (Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham).
- Mourinho’s side received its third red card of the season, two of those being shown to Herrera.
- United had just 28% possession of the ball, their lowest figure this season.
- Chelsea has reached its 22nd FA Cup semi-final, the 5th highest in the tournament’s history (Arsenal 29, Man Utd 28, Everton 26, Liverpool 24).