Chelsea vs Manchester United: Five FA Cup classics

Chelsea vs Manchester United: Five FA Cup classics

Chelsea host Manchester United in the ‘tie of the fifth round’ at Stamford Bridge on Monday night with a fine FA Cup record against the visitors in the past 20 years. Their last four ties in the competition, one in a replay, have all been settled in their favour 1-0 which should give Maurizio Sarri’s seemingly distracted and seemingly detached side some hope. Before Chelsea’s recent dominance, United were victorious in nine of 10 FA Cup matches. Here are five of the most eventful meetings between them.  

Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea, quarter-final 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season at Old Trafford is rarely considered one of his best but if it is assessed on its merits, rather than by contrast with his 12 other title-winning campaigns, the evidence that it was a triumph of canny resource-management is compelling. Consider the number of players over 30 for a start – Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs – Darren Fletcher’s illness and his astute but much-criticised loss of faith in Wayne Rooney’s fitness.

The signing of Robin van Persie and his 26 goals facilitated the last hurrah in the league which they won by a barely credible 11 points from Manchester City, but despite Ferguson’s best attempts at bluster they were ill-equipped to mount successful cup runs as well. The language of priorities was rarely employed in public. Even so, the cups, despite Ferguson’s obvious desolation at their elimination from the Champions League by Real Madrid five days before their FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea, were icing not cake.

Chelsea, the champions of Europe and FA Cup holders, were enduring one of their curious periods under Roman Abramovich when he had appointed a manager the supporters disliked but remained immune from criticism for it for understandable if craven reasons. Rafael Benítez organised a lopsided, misfiring squad in the interim role he had been given with typical tactical flair, tried to cope with powerful veterans on annual contracts, about whose futures the club continued to prevaricate, and was heckled by fans who were unwilling to forget or forgive his confrontations with Chelsea during his Liverpool years.

For much of the match both sets of supporters goaded Benítez in song, insinuating that he was cracking up and reached a vociferous peak when United went 2-0 ahead after only 11 minutes. Javier Hernández scored the first with a cushioned header, steering the ball over Petr Cech, who had isolated himself with a wrongheaded charge, and in at the far post before Rooney whipped in the second from a free-kick on the left that masqueraded as a cross, parted David Luiz’s hair and crept in while Chelsea’s defenders played ‘After you, Claud’.

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