N’Golo Kante scored the only goal of the match to guide Chelsea into the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in three years with a deserved win against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United were reduced to 10-men when Michael Oliver brandished two yellow cards to dismiss Ander Herrera.
The visitors were forced into replacing their biggest attacking threat in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, which proved pivotal.
They sat deeper in the second half and invited pressure from the Chelsea attack, who obliged gracefully. N’Golo Kante kicked off the party with the only goal of the match and chances from Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Gary Cahill troubled Manchester United.
The touchline antics from Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte added to the intensity of the battle. A section of Chelsea supporters were also heard labelling Jose Mourinho as “Judas”, although the former blues manager comically replied “Judas is still number 1.”
Manchester United will need to prepare for another test on Thursday night when Russian outfit FC Rostov travel to Old Trafford. Chelsea are next in action when they return to Premier League action to face Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
The draw took place just after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea drew fellow London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The other draw confirmed Arsenal’s semi-final cup tie against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Manchester United started the first half on the front foot and intensely pressed Chelsea to reduce the amount of time they were awarded on the ball. This forced them into individual errors and prevented them from playing free flowing attacking football.
Marcus Rashford pressed from the front and attempted to exploit Gary Cahill to force him into a mistake. Chelsea were beginning to switch gears when the game passed the 20-minute mark and Eden Hazard was instrumental in changing the tide of the game.
David De Gea was forced into two impressive saves by Chelsea from Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill. It was important for Manchester United to close down the gap in the attacking part of midfield that Eden Hazard continued to exploit.
Phil Jones and Ander Herrera failed to execute this role effectively and Hazard was gifted the freedom to create opportunity freely in the final third. Jones was lacklustre and slow minded to remaining tight on the Belgian and Herrera played in two minds, which led to the Spaniard taking less notice of his defensive responsibilities.
It was a very difficult game for Manchester United to win due to the sheer amount of absentees because of injuries and suspensions. Once Ander Herrera was dismissed for two bookable offences, they were fighting an uphill battle.
Their task was doubled when Jose Mourinho substituted their main attacking threat, Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a result of Manchester United’s reduction in numbers. This left them with limited attacking options and Marcus Rashford became isolated up front on his own.
Paul Pogba failed to make an effective impact on the match and was passive in his efforts and performance. Whereas, Manchester United were pressing intensely in the first 20 minutes, their numerical disadvantage gifted Chelsea spaces on the pitch to exploit.
It was practically impossible to win the battle in the midfield with the qualities of N’Golo Kante. The former Leicester City midfielder is the most effective player in the Premier League and deserved player of the year due to his incredible performances this season under Antonio Conte.
The Frenchman is a workaholic and he covers an outstanding amount of ground to benefit his fellow teammates. His contributions with interceptions, tackles, ground covered and blocks defines the impact he has at Chelsea and his goal proved pivotal to guiding Chelsea to Wembley.
Diego Costa was constantly hounding Marcos Rojo, which led to various unsavoury incidents. Eden Hazard was the manufacturer of the majority of Chelsea’s threatening attacks and the hosts were the stronger team.
Paul Pogba should be embarrassed by his performance and he didn’t deserved to wear the Manchester United shirt at Stamford Bridge. He showed a lack of effort and quality and his attitude was evidently disgraceful.
Manchester United’s only goal scoring opening took place in the late stages of the second half via Marcus Rashford. Marcos Rojo launched a long ball towards Rashford, who spun away from David Luiz and attacked the Chelsea goal. He showed great foot work to take the ball beyond Gary Cahill and forced an important save from Thilbaut Courtois.
Jose Mourinho’s team showed great character, although they were set in a defensive mindset until deciding to form a late rescue mission in the dying stages. The defending champions were unable to defend their crown and the current Premier League table toppers earned their place in the semi-finals on merit after clinching a deserved victory.