Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on a night where Ander Herrera saw red for his side. Twelve matches against Chelsea without a win is poor form for United, who needed to do better on the night. The exit from the Emirates FA Cup at the quarter-final stage may be just what was needed to keep their season open with two chances to earn UEFA Champions League football; winning the UEFA Europa League, or finishing inside the top four in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho played a blinder with his team selection, letting the media suggest United will be strikerless and Marcus Rashford, a player who was not seen travelling with the squad, starting. United seem to have gone with the three or five at the back option, which was tried out in Russia on Thursday, which now suggests that Mourinho was checking the formation out with a view of thwarting Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this evening. United started well, pressing Chelsea deep in the home sides area. United were (by the media) said to be parking the bus before the match, far from it. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a good shot on goal in the 12th minute, which was wide of the mark.
David De Gea made two saves for United in quick succession after Eden Hazard broke through on the ball with the Spaniard sending the shot out for a corner. From the corner, De Gea was made to perform another save to deny the home side from taking the lead. Hazard is a truly brilliant player. Definitely a better buy than Shinji Kagawa, who just is not all that, never really was. Ander Herrera was booked inside the 20th minute for a challenge on Hazard, something silly in a way which saw the Belgian come off for treatment, then straight back on again. United need to try and stop Hazard as luck seems to have played a major part in him not scoring or creating a goal.
Despite having less possession, United have been playing well, getting forward and threatening the home side. Chelsea had been playing well, doing the same as United, but had put more pressure on their attacks. Phil Jones escaped a booking for fouling Jones, but moments later Herrera earned a second yellow card and was, therefore, send off. United made a change with Marouane Fellaini replacing Mkhitaryan, which will be a bog blow for United. In the fall out of the sending off, Diego Costa seemed to elbow David De Gea inside the box with the goalkeeper down for a few moments, recovering to continue.
There is lots of diving on the pitch this evening, mainly Hazard, but Moses and Willian had also shown their respective countries what they can do, possibly in view of the next Olympics or something. Towards the end of the first half, the play slowed down a little with plenty of back and fourth football. The card will be costly for United, but so far so good, they did well to combat what Chelsea had thrown at them. We’ve seen United play against ten men in a struggling capacity recently, perhaps United can turn the tables on Chelsea and see them struggle to close United down. Scoring a goal may be a problem with the lack of attack after Mkhitaryan was taken off.
The second half started much the same as the first half ended. United were playing with their backs to the wall with Chelsea looking for a goal which could win them the match. This came in the 51st minute of the match from N’Golo Kante, putting a slick shot past De Gea, who could have maybe done more. United now needed to find an equaliser, which with the lack of creativity and pace on the pitch after the red card, would be a hard task to do. United could have done it though with Marcus Rashford on the run, David Luiz made an error with Gary Cahill making another. Thibaut Courtois made the save to deby Rashford from an equaliser. Positive from United, though.
With 20 minutes remaining, the play was slowed considerably. Chelsea were mostly on the edge of the United box, with United thwarting their efforts with some good defending. It was like United were trying to stop this from being an embarrassing result, knowing that they were already out of the Emirates FA Cup, which might just be what United needed to get their season back on track. In the 75th minute, Chelsea could have gone 2-0 up, but it just did not go to plan for them as Willian missed the ball in the middle of United’s box. United were still in the match, but needing a goal, which with one attacking player, would be hard to get.
Jose Mourinho made his second change of the night on the 81st minute with Jesse Lingard replacing Young, with United still needing a goal to force extra time, which looked like it was never coming throughout the match other than Rashford’s chance on goal. Paul Pogba had the chance to equalise, dragging his shot wide with United running out of chances to take something from the match. United did try until the end, no matter how unable they were to take on the team who were parking the bus at the end of the match. Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are out of the Emirates FA Cup, now to aim for one thing; UEFA Champions League football.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Darmian; Herrera, Pogba, Young (Lingard 81′); Mkhitaryan (Fellaini 37′); Rashford
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Bailly, Blind; Mata, Carrick
Bookings: Ander Herrera 20′, 35′ sent off, Ashley Young 79′
Written by Mike Wilson