It was all anyone could talk about for weeks leading up to this fixture. Soon after these two were drawn against each other, we all knew that things were going to get interesting. Jose Mourinho would yet again return to the scene of his team’s slaughter back in October. Since then United had shown a stern resilience while Chelsea put the pedal to the metal and left everyone behind. It was lining up to be a classic case of an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force. And there was only one way to find out what happens when these two giants clash again.
United got off to a bright start and clearly it felt like Mourinho had his intentions crystal clear. He was out to win this, no mucking about. Playing a high press game and Phil Jones man marking Hazard, Chelsea weren’t allowed to settle on the ball. The signs of frustration were very clear as all they could resort to were long range shots which posed no threat at all. Things were looking good for United and they had a few early chances despite the absence of Ibrahimovic, Martial or Rooney. It is being told Rashford too was ill and travelled to Stamford bridge by himself to make it for the match.
United started with Rashford as the lone striker with Mikhitaryan and Pogba providing creativity behind him. At the back they looked strong with Jones, Smalling and Rojo pressing high up and unsettling Chelsea in the process.
Chelsea started with 3 at the back. Hazard, Willian, Moses and Kante providing a potent threat behind Diego Costa.
However a match which had the potential of being one of the greatest match in the FA cup yet, was soon disrupted by the referee Michael Oliver who was quick to provide two soft yellow cards to Ander Herrera and gave him his marching orders. Jose was quick to react and took off Mikhitaryan and brought on Fellaini.
Jose rightly said in his post-match conference that there was a match before the red card and a completely different match after the red card. United lost total control of the match and Chelsea attacked dangerously from all directions. Yet, they were still confined to taking long range shots as United’s defence stood rock solid. It was only after half time that Kante found a bit of space just outside the penalty area and managed to squeeze in a brilliant shot. De Gea, who was brilliant till that point was wrong footed and beaten by the pace and placement of the ball.
United did have a few chances after that with Rashford finding himself one-on-one with Courtois. The Belgian stopper did well to stop the shot with an outstretched leg. That was pretty much the only time United looked like they might get a goal and take this tie to extra time. But that wasn’t the case. Chelsea looked comfortable in the end and finished the match with the majority of the possession.
While Chelsea were the better side on the night, they lacked professionalism. Diego Costa and Hazard were theatrical in their dives and Michael Oliver was quick to punish. Chelsea fans too were disgraceful while telling their most successful manager to “F*** off” and called him “Judas”. Mourinho with his quick wit responded by saying “till they find a manager who has won them 3 premier league titles, Judas is number 1”.
One begins to wonder when will incidents like diving be taken seriously as it is becoming a menace in modern day football now. Even if the referee fails to spot a dive, the football association has the resources to take action against players for deliberate diving, looking for fouls. United turned up wanting to play a game of football but Chelsea had to resort to cowardice and theatrics to win the match in the end. No wonder that Chelsea is the most hated premier league club now as per a recent poll.
United surely must feel hard done by again due to bad decisions but there were a lot of positives. Compared to the side that took a 4-0 beating at the same venue, this squad looked like they might come back with a result despite the absence of a striker.
Chelsea now face Tottenham who are in an inspired form. This makes for yet another mouth watering tie. United turn their attention now to the Europa league and face Rostov at Old Trafford on Thursday night. They look to build on their 1-1 away draw, looking to cement a place in the final 8.
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