Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
With 3/4ths of the FA Cup semi-final line-up already decided, all that remained was to see whether Chelsea or Manchester United would join Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the last four at Wembley.
It’s fair to say that Jose Mourinho‘s first return to Stamford Bridge his new job did not go well, as his old club handed out a 4-0 thrashing back in October. In fact, Manchester United’s recent record against the Blues makes for grim reading for anyone of a red persuasion.
Man Utd last beat Chelsea in October 2012.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 13, 2017
Going into the game, Mourinho’s worries were mainly around who would play up front. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial injured and Marcus Rashford ill, it appeared as though the stage was set for Marouane Fellaini to reprise the target man role so beloved of Mourinho’s predecessors. In the end, though, Rashford declared himself fit to play. Antonio Conte had no such worries for Chelsea, able to name a virtually full strength side, the only real surprise being Willian’s recall in favour of one-time United target Pedro.
Chelsea team tonight: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Willian, Diego Costa, Hazard. #CHEMUN
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 13, 2017
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 13, 2017
Much of the intrigue early on was how United would line up. Previews online had utility man Phil Jones playing variously at right back, wing back, centre back and central midfield. As it turned out, he was playing them all, doing a roaming man marker job on Eden Hazard. The focus of the players – and their manager – however, would have been on ensuring they started better than in October. This time, they made it more than 30 seconds without conceding.
In fact, United had the first chance, when Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot wide from the edge of the box. The away side’s high press and compact midfield seemed to have knocked Chelsea out of their rhythm. But then Eden Hazard came to life. On fifteen minutes, the Belgian went on an explosive run that took him all the way into the penalty area before his shot was tipped wide by David De Gea. That spark ignited the home side. From the resulting corner, De Gea again produced a world class stop to deny Gary Cahill.
— Manchester United (@ManUtdUpdates_) March 13, 2017
Hazard troubled the United defence again with half an hour gone. His direct run caused problems, but he fired wildly over the crossbar. It was not long after that Michael Oliver took the attention away from Hazard but flashing a red card. The recipient was Ander Herrera, already on a booking, who tripped Hazard. Two yellows, and Herrera was off. It had been coming; the United players had been biting at Hazard’s heels all game. Mourinho, forced into a tactical switch, brought on Fellaini for Mkhitaryan.
The game was bubbling just under the surface. An Antonio Valencia foul brought a fired up Conte and Mourinho almost into contact, and soon after Victor Moses hit a shot over the bar. For all the blood and thunder, the teams went into the break all square at 0-0.
Ater the break, Chelsea started to turn the screw. Near constant possession forced United to camp on the edge of their box. A goal was coming, and so it came – the main surprise was the identity of the goalscorer. Not Hazard, not Costa. No, it was all action midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante who scored – the Frenchman fired in a low, 25-yard shot past De Gea.
For a while, it was shooting practice for Chelsea. Their opponents were stuck in what was virtually a 5-4-0 formation. Without an out-ball, they struggled for a foothold. Marcus Rashford almost supplied one on his own, with a mazy run that bamboozled Cahill. Unfortunately for the youngster, his shot was saved by Thibault Courtois. After that, Chelsea kept piling on the pressure. Chances went begging – a particularly good one for Diego Costa, who somehow failed to connect with Willian’s cross from just a few yards out, and also headed over the bar. The Spanish striker also had a running feud with Marcos Rojo that refused to go away.
With Chelsea looking comfortable, Manchester United needed something of a miracle. With around ten minutes to go Paul Pogba – otherwise virtually anonymous – dragged a shot wide. Chelsea, though, remained in control and continued to search for a second goal to kill off the tie. In truth, they should have got a second. Catching United on the break after they made a rare foray forward, substitute Cesc Fabregas was denied by De Gea and the follow-up was blocked by a sliding defender.
Herrera’s two yellow cards would be the big post-match talking point, but the final score was the only thing that mattered to Antonio Conte and Chelsea. It ended Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United. Chelsea march on to the semi-finals at Wembley. In the FA Cup semi-final draw, Chelse were picked to face Tottenham Hotspur at home, while Arsenal will host Manchester City.
Here’s the Game in 10 Tweets.
Game in 10 Tweets
The mystery of United's formation uncovered. pic.twitter.com/9Xsb8hcJ2y
— Daniel Harris (@DanielHarris) March 13, 2017
— Tom McDermott 📝🎙 (@footballmcd) March 13, 2017
Phil Jones seems to be marking Eden Hazard. Should be fun… pic.twitter.com/lYRAempgD5
— JOE.co.uk (@JOE_co_uk) March 13, 2017
16': David De Gea makes a ridiculous save.
17': David De Gea makes another ridiculous save.
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 13, 2017
And the award for the least affectionate hug ever goes to…
Diego Costa😡🤜🤗 #CHEMUN
Video courtesy of BBC Sport🎥⚽️ pic.twitter.com/73ukj9GqTc
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) March 13, 2017
I'd be angry at the stupidity of Herrera rather than smirking at the decision if I were Mourinho. #CFCvMUFC
— Ian McGarry (@garbosj) March 13, 2017
Referee Michael Oliver intervenes to try to cool things between Conte & Mourinho pic.twitter.com/WOhzynalzU
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) March 13, 2017
The moment you see £32 million Kante playing like two midfielders, but £89 Pogba can't even play like one pic.twitter.com/8pRVTH5Obu
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) March 13, 2017
Bloody hell, if @nglkante starts scoring goals as well he'll become the best midfield player ever.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 13, 2017
N’Golo Kanté has now scored 2 goals in 30 games for Chelsea.
Both at Stamford Bridge ✅
Both against Manchester United ✅ pic.twitter.com/XjfkSgjXIl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2017