Ten-man Manchester United were dumped out of the FA Cup as Chelsea overcame the holders 1-0 at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea hosted Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in an FA Cup quarterfinal encounter on Monday night. With a place in the semifinal up for grabs, it was Chelsea who managed to come up trumps, beating Jose Mourinho’s side by 1-0 to dump the holders out of England’s premier cup competition.

The match was marred with several incidents that made it a particularly spicy affair, with the two managers clashing on the touchline and Ander Herrera being sent off inside the first 35 minutes. And N’Golo Kante was the only player who found the back of the net as Chelsea progressed to the semis at Manchester United’s expense.

The Hard Tackle attempts to take a closer look at some of the major talking points to emerge out of a hotly contested affair for Manchester United from Monday night.

Ander Herrera Sees Red In The First Half

Chelsea, as expected, had started the match on the front foot and created better goalscoring opportunities than Manchester United. However, the visitors weren’t necessarily pushovers either, as were keeping themselves in the contest with some resolute defending while creating half chances.

That all changed in the 35th minute though, as Ander Herrera was sent off ten minutes before half-time for a second bookable offence for a foul on Eden Hazard. There have been arguments about whether or not the decision was harsh, but it certainly changed the complexion of the match.

Herrera’s dismissal also saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan being taken off for Marouane Fellaini as Jose Mourinho aimed to deny Chelsea an easy sniff at the Manchester United goal. But that also meant that the visitors lost a major burst of creativity from their attack, thus failing to impose themselves in the game.

As a result, chances came few and far between for Manchester United, with the only major goalscoring opportunity coming from Marcus Rashford’s superb solo run in the second half. Herrera will now miss Manchester United’s next two Premier League outings against Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.

Manchester United Spirited In Defeat

Herrera’s dismissal was always going to put Manchester United further on the back foot. Not only did they lose one of their best players this season, a player who has been the most tenacious in midfield for them this season, they also lost their creative spark in a matter of minutes.

As a result, Manchester United saw far less of the ball than Jose Mourinho would have anticipated prior to the match, as they were forced to sit back and handle wave after wave of Chelsea onslaught. Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian stuck to their guns to track Willian and Hazard all through the night, barely giving an inch to them.

Meanwhile, the back-three of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo managed to keep the dangerous Diego Costa at bay for large parts of the match. And David De Gea was equal to the task of facing any shot that came his way, notably from Hazard and Gary Cahill.

But ultimately, the admirable defending came to nothing as one lapse of concentration from Paul Pogba was all it took for N’Golo Kante to pounce on, as he produced an inch-perfect long-range shot to score past the near-impenetrable De Gea. Despite that, Mourinho and his men can surely hold their head high for a spirited performance.

Marcus Rashford’s Miss Proves Costly

The incident in the 35th minute also meant that with Mkhitaryan taken off, Marcus Rashford has no one for company in attack as Manchester United were forced to play off the ball for majority of the match. As a result, Rashford was isolated, with barely any chances created for him to convert from.

With Manchester United down to ten men, it was clear that Mourinho was going to employ his famous pragmatic tactics of putting numbers behind the ball and capitalising on counterattacking opportunities, meaning Rashford was not going to see much action on the ball.

Despite that, though, the teenage sensation gave it his all off the ball – despite not being 100% fit due to illness – and bid his time to get a good opportunity to score from. That moment presented itself midway through the second half when Manchester United cleared the ball after yet another wave of Chelsea attack.

David Luiz horribly misjudged the trajectory of the ball, which gave Rashford a clear charge on goal with just Gary Cahill between him and Thibaut Courtois. Rashford handled the Chelsea skipper with ease, turning him inside out before shooting the ball goalwards.

But much to the dismay of the striker and the Manchester United supporters, Courtois was equal to it and denied them an equaliser. That cost Manchester United dearly in the end as they ultimately lost the match by the difference of that odd goal.

Paul Pogba Continues To Underwhelm

It goes without saying that Paul Pogba hasn’t quite justified the enormous price tag that he came with when Manchester United signed him last summer. While some would say that it is unfair to judge him on the basis of the fee shelled out for him, some believe that he needs to prove that he is worth the money.

With or without the burden of the price though, Pogba is a player who needs to start stepping up when it counts, as he has failed to make an impact on several games, time and again. He comes with bagful of talent and potential, but it’s time to back that up with consistent game changing performances.

Monday night was that one match that called for Pogba to step up and make himself count, with Manchester United missing their talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension. But instead of raising his hand up on the night, the Frenchman once again turned in an underwhelming performance.

In fact, Pogba offered nothing whatsoever for large parts of the game, especially when Manchester United finally saw some action on the ball, losing possession easily and just failing to get into the game at all. Perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt for Jose Mourinho to give Pogba a week’s rest, especially with the youngster being a passenger in so many of his recent outings.

On to Europa League Now

With Manchester United out of the FA Cup, they are now competing on just two fronts – the Europa League and the Premier League. They must now quickly move on from the disappointment of Monday night to turn their attention to the Europa League, where FC Rostov will be waiting for the return leg in the Round of 16.

The race for Top 4 is quite heated up, and grabbing one of the four places in the illustrious space will be touch and go, and that makes Thursday night’s meeting with the Russian side all the more important.

Eventually, Europa League could just be the easiest ticket into next season’s Champions League for Manchester United, and it goes without saying that Jose Mourinho and his charges would give it their all to go all the way in Europe’s second-tier competition.

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