Manchester United, having bowed out of the UEFA Champions League last Tuesday night, were more than determined to get back to winning ways and get closer to Wembley. Chelsea, in the same manner, having had an overall poor season until now, were looking to get as much as they could from this competition and defend their title. That said, this match was expected to be a very interesting one.
Both managers lined up strong squads, knowing how dangerous their opponents would be.
Manchester United kicked off the game with an aim to take advantage of Chelsea’s bad form and do what they do best, but Chelsea looked stronger and more focused at the beginning of this game than they had looked in Romania last Thursday evening.
The Mancunians were faster than the Londoners for the majority of the first half, making better passes between themselves and confident with playing at home. Chelsea started their game on a weak note, however, and their lack of consistency at the back allowed the hosts to go ahead as early as the 4th minute. A bad decision from Petr Cech allowed a Javier Hernandez looping header to get into the net.
Unable to correct their mistakes soon enough, Chelsea conceded a second goal just 7 minutes later, when a Wayne Rooney free-kick got past all the Chelsea defenders and Petr Cech, landing straight into the net. Chelsea’s David Luiz seemed to have gotten a slight touch to it, but it wasn’t enough to save his goalkeeper. Just 12 minutes into the game, the defending champions were down two-nil.
Realizing they’d fooled around against a strong team for too long, Chelsea immediately picked up their pace and improved their game. We started seeing better passes from the Blues, more possession, and certainly better organization. All this work almost went to waste when Manchester United almost got their third through a bad David Luiz header towards his own goalkeeper while attempting to stop Wayne Rooney from getting his second. Cech managed to redeem himself by preventing both attempts from going in, however, to the delight of the away fans. Unfortunately for the home side, Luis Nani had to come off at the end of the first half due to an injury. Antonio Valencia was the man to replace him.
At the end of the half, Manchester United had no doubt been the better team. Chelsea had to make some serious changes for the second half if they were to make a comeback and prove themselves.
No changes were made by Rafael Benitez or Sir Alex Ferguson at the half. This only lasted for 7 minutes, however, as Chelsea made a double substitution 52 minutes in. Frank Lampard and Victor Moses made way for John Obi Mikel and Eden Hazard in that order. With some fresh legs, Chelsea improved their game and United were starting to feel threatened. Chelsea were, at this point, more hungry for goals than their hosts.
Eden Hazard proved to be a great substitution when he, after just 7 minutes in, collected a pass from Mata, found space in the United defense, and got one past David De Gea in the Manchester United goal. And what a strong one that was from the edge of the area! 2-1. Manchester United tried to restore their 2-goal cushion by introducing Robin Van Persie soon after, but Gary Cahill & co. prevented him from shining.
Chelsea seemed to have woken up in the second half, with Manchester United slowly running out of ideas. Just 11 minutes later, Chelsea got their equalizer from a left-footed strike into the far corner of the United net, courtesy of Ramires. Once again, there had been a gap in the United defense.
Chelsea weren’t done fighting yet, though. They continued to dominate the game and try to get a winner, but United were desperate to keep that from happening. Fernando Torres was introduced for Demba Ba right after Shinji Kagawa made way for Danny Welbeck.
United’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals were almost cut short just a few seconds from full time when Juan Mata seemed to have done it right for Chelsea, but David De Gea saved the day for his club by diverting Mata’s shot out for a corner. Both clubs desperately searched for a winner in the 4 minutes that were added on after normal time, but a replay seemed more likely.
Statistic-wise, Chelsea had a total of 14 shots, while United had 7. Chelsea had more possession (57% against 43%). Howard Webb issued a total of 3 yellow cards during this game, with Chelsea picking up all 3. No players were sent off during this game.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez lined up the following squads:
Manchester United Starting XI
De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa, Rooney, Hernandez
Subs: Amos, Vidic, Anderson, Valencia, Young, Van Persie, and Welbeck
Chelsea Starting XI
Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole, Moses, Lampard, Mata, Ramires, Oscar, Ba
Subs: Turnbull, Bertrand, Ivanovic, Terry, Hazard, Mikel, and Torres
Final Score: Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea
Hernandez 4’, Rooney 11’; Hazard 57’, Ramires 68’
Chelsea will host Manchester United for a replay of this match at the Stamford Bridge in London. The winner of that match will face Manchester City at home on April 14th.
Written by Ange Marline