Chelsea knocked defending Champions Manchester United out of the FA Cup with a convincing display at Stamford Bridge
A red card, a long range winner and both managers getting in each others’ faces. This game seemed to have had it all, but ultimately, the better team came out on top thanks to a 50th minute N’golo Kante goal and as a result, Manchester United have one less competition to focus on.
Were it not for David De Gea, Chelsea would have likely had a far greater lead to show off at the end of the 94 minutes. United never really looked like they were going to take control of the game after Ander Herrera got sent off, except that one opportunity squandered by Marcus Rashford.
We revisit the FA Cup quarterfinal and take a look at some of the major talking points and things we learnt from Antonio Conte’s second victory over Jose Mourinho’s side this season.
The De Gea Excuse
A stat that will irk Conte, is that Chelsea had 20 attempts at goal, out of which 5 were on target. The fact that they restricted Manchester United to only4 shots, out of which their only one on target was kept out by Courtois will serve as no consolation to the Italian.
Of course, Manchester United have the phenomenal David De Gea between the sticks, but using that excuse won’t serve as a good excuse for those looking to avoid Conte’s ire. Fabregas, Willian, Cahill even Hazard himself squandered chances to give Chelsea a greater lead.
It was Diego Costa who had the best chance of sending Chelsea 2 goals to the good, after he failed to get on the end of a superb Willian cross from the right. While the Blues will look to move on from this victory and focus on their next match, Conte will be wary that his side were lucky that these missed chances didn’t come back to haunt them.
Eden Hazard recently described playing with N’golo Kante like playing with twins, as the Frenchman seemed to be in multiple places at once. That statement seemed to justify itself and Kante was once again at his brilliant best against Manchester United, where he ensured that the Stamford Bridge midfield belonged to him for 94 minutes.
Besides scoring the match winning goal, a well placed 25-yard strike in the bottom left corner, he was relentless in the middle of the park. His performance ensured that the visitors barely got to leave their own half and Herrera’s sending off made it all the more easier for the 25-year-old.
His accurate tackles and his constant recovery of the ball ensured that Manchester United were restricted to only 28% possession by the end of the match. He won 11 of his 14 duels and his overall performance made Paul Pogba look absent by comparison.
It was only his second goal of the season, with his first coming in the form of a superb solo goal during the 4-0 drubbing against Manchester United. Every performance this campaign has certainly made one thing clear – at a mere £32 million, he is this season’s biggest bargain.
The Hazards of Eden
6 of the 14 fouls committed by Manchester United on the night were on the Belgian. For large parts of the game it seemed as if Mourinho had set up his side to hack down the Belgian and in doing so, hope that it would cripple Chelsea enough.
He got Ander Herrera sent off, after the Spaniard committed two fouls on him in the space of the first 35 minutes. The fouls didn’t stop however, with Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones both having a go at the little Belgian but managed to keep themselves out of the referee’s books.
The 26-year-old was at his sparkling best, constantly being a menace and not giving the United players a moments rest. His turn on Chris Smalling early in the first half before embarking on a solo run, darting past Rojo and making himself a goal scoring opportunity was the moment of the match.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t end the night with a goal or an assist that this performance deserved, but he was still Chelsea’s second best player on the pitch.
Not So ‘Special’ Anymore
Jose Mourinho will always have a ‘special’ place in Chelsea’s history and in the hearts of its fans, being their most successful manager ever and setting the foundation for a decade of successes that would propel them to the status of European powerhouses.
Chants of ‘Judas’ and ‘You’re Not Special Anymore’ were hurled down at the Portugal native by a portion of the Chelsea supporters and Mourinho responded by showing three fingers at the stands, to signify the 3 Premier League titles he’s won for the club.
This mini-outrage has come possibly due to the former Real Madrid boss constantly praising the Manchester United support over the course of the season, most recently stating that the Red Devils’ faithful were the best fans he’s ever witnessed, praising their ‘unrivalled’ passion.
Both managers clashed in the 40th minute, much to the joy of the shutterbugs and they would have probably had a go at each other, it if it weren’t for fourth official Mike Jones. Conte certainly looked to be in the mood for it after seeming to have taken offence to something.
While the expletives targeted at Mourinho during the course of the game were only by a small portion of fans, while the majority will always hold him in high regard. However, what was made clear last night is at this is Conte’s Chelsea now and it is the Italian who rules over the hearts of the Stamford Bridge faithful. We are in his era, and Mourinho would do well to not sever whatever ties he has remaining with the fans.