The blockbuster tie of the FA Cup Fifth Round saw Chelsea entertain Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. It was a game that had neutrals tuning in as both teams will have looked at this year’s competition as a real chance for some silverware.
It was Manchester United who came out on top at Stamford Bridge in an intriguing game between sides in heavily contrasting form. Here’s is a look at five things we learned from a repeat of last year’s cup final.
United win first half game of cat and mouse
This cup tie started brilliantly with both sides probing and pushing forward with real menace and pace. Hazard was a threat on the left, while United focused their efforts on Chelsea’s left as both sides started brightly.
After an entirely watchable opening 20 minutes, United began to get on top. The usual policy of bullying Jorginho in the middle began to yield more of the ball for the visitors and they went at Chelsea’s suspect back four with some excellent direct play.
Solskjaer’s side were hungrier and quicker all over the park in the first half as they nicked two goals before the interval to mark their superiority over a shell shocked Chelsea.
Herrera shows big game mentality
United’s Spainish midfielder is not always the first name on the team sheet, but his first half display at Stamford Bridge was truly top class. He provided an energy to his sides pressing and helped close out Hazard with some intelligent reading and real composure.
His well taken header to break the deadlock came off the back of an exquisitely timed run to ghost in and meet Pogba’s laser guided cross. Herrera may not be the most eye catching player in the ranks, but Ole Gunner Solskjaer should be suitably impressed with this display.
Chelsea find no solutions to porous defence
Goals have been flying in left, right and centre of late against Chelsea and their forlorn defence was treated to yet more punishment on Monday night. David Luiz and Marcos Alonso looked lost at times, whilst there is also a distinct lack of coordination and leadership at the back.
What must also be a concern is that the defensive rot seems to be very much spreading; Rudiger was not at his best and Kepa Arrizabalaga was really shaky. The world’s most expensive keeper will be disappointed to have let Pogba’s close range header past him, especially having got a firm hand on it at his near post. That leaky defence is a growing issue in West London and will need addressing soon, before it truly derails Chelsea’s season.
No response from the hosts
Coming off the back of a humiliating 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City last weekend and an unconvincing win at Malmo in the Europa League, Chelsea really needed a decent display tonight. Their fans were ultimately left wanting though as yet another tepid showing saw them crash out of the Cup.
Maurizio Sarri seems incapable of turning things around. His side were not awful in their 0-2 defeat, but a stark lark of ideas and attacking spark left their fans muted and flat. Like for like subs and recycled possession offered no way back for Chelsea.
Sergio Romero was untested and the Chelsea players seemed to visibly deflate as the game wore on, their movement was slow and predictable and easily stifled. The Chelsea fans were openly hostile to the late introduction of Davide Zappacosta as Callum Hudson-Odoi watched on from the bench. Their manager looks increasingly isolated at the moment as he limps from game to game without solutions to his side’s problems.
United impress with growing assurance
In stark contrast to their hosts, this was by far and away the most complete performance from Solskjaer’s men, so far in his interim tenure. Pogba and Rashford continue to operate on the same eye catching wavelengths, as they sparkled at the Bridge during United’s convincing victory.
More than just that dynamic duo, this was a measured and confident display from United as they eased into the last eight of the FA Cup.
Their controlled aggression rattled Chelsea’s players all over the pitch. Matic and Herrera mopped up everything, and that previously flaky back four is unrecognizable from just a few weeks ago. Smalling and Shaw clattered into tackles with gusto as they thwarted each and every one of Chelsea’s moves. Solskjaer should be proud of this display above all others so far in his managerial career at Old Trafford.