Chelsea set up an FA Cup final meeting with Arsenal as they cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win over a surprisingly lacklustre Manchester United on Sunday evening.
The two sides began positively, but it was Chelsea who had the early chances. Reece James’ long-range strike was parried by David de Gea, before Marcos Alonso headed a good chance over the bar. United grew into the game, but the Blues snatched a deserved lead deep into added time as Olivier Giroud poked through De Gea from close range.
De Gea might have been guilty of a mistake for the first goal, but he was even more culpable for Chelsea’s second. Just seconds after the restart, a tame effort from Mason Mount somehow squeezed through the Spaniard to give Chelsea a comfortable lead. As United threw bodies forward, Chelsea capitalised and made it three through an unfortunate Harry Maguire own goal.
United were handed a consolation in the 84th minute as Callum Hudson-Odoi tripped Anthony Martial in the penalty area, allowing Bruno Fernandes to step up and give United something positive to remember from a bitterly disappointing evening.
Key Talking Point
Yet again, the only talking point from a United perspective is De Gea. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended him after a major error against Tottenham, and he’s certainly going to have to do so once more.
Giroud’s opener somehow found a way through the goalkeeper, but you could make a case for ‘it was too close for him to react’. That’s fair enough, but there’s no justifying Mount’s goal – a tame strike from distance which squirmed through De Gea’s arms.
It’s not like anyone in a United shirt was particularly impressive, but De Gea’s fragility was the difference between the two sides. Not only does this increase the pressure on the Spaniard, but it will also give Dean Henderson more ammunition in his push for a starting spot. United have a real decision to make this summer.
Starting XI: De Gea (4); Lindelöf (5), Maguire (5), Bailly (5); Wan-Bissaka (4), Fred (5), Fernandes (5), Matić (5), Williams (4); Rashford (5), James (5).
Substitutes: Martial (7*), Pogba (5), Greenwood (5), Ighalo (6), Fosu-Mensah (6).
Martial didn’t even start the game and was only introduced following Eric Bailly’s nasty head injury shortly before the interval, but his impact was quickly felt.
He caused a moment of madness from Antonio Rüdiger and Kurt Zouma, whose hesitance to clear the ball nearly gifted Martial a good opportunity, and it was the United man’s trickery which won the late penalty.
His impressive run of form continues, but even that wasn’t enough.
Key Talking Point
Frank Lampard has finally managed to get one over on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The curse has been lifted, and it’s all down to Chelsea’s formation choice.
After weeks (or months) of defensive fragility, the boss turned to a 3-4-3 set-up to give more protection to his goal, but what it also did was give Chelsea more options in attack. Marcos Alonso and Reece James were constantly flying forward, and one advancing centre-back ensured Chelsea overloaded Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams time and time again.
His choice to use Mount and Willian gave Chelsea an undying high press which United simply couldn’t cope with, so Lampard deserves a lot of credit for this one.
Starting XI: Caballero (6); Azpilicueta (8), Zouma (7), Rüdiger (7); James (7), Jorginho (7), Kovačić (7), Alonso (7); Willian (7), Mount (8), Giroud (8*).
Substitutes: Abraham (6), Hudson-Odoi (5), Loftus-Cheek (N/A), Pedro (N/A).
Chelsea’s decision to sign Giroud back in 2018 was mocked by many (Blues fans included), but it has turned into a stroke of genius. The Frenchman has been excellent this season, and he was at his dominant best again in this one.
In his typical target man role, Giroud brought Mount and Willian into the game perfectly, but that was only the beginning of his impact. Off the ball, he led Chelsea’s high press, showcasing the kind of mobility which he’s not supposed to possess.
He terrorised United’s centre backs all game and took his goal like the seasoned veteran he is. That’s six goals in his last seven starts – Timo Werner who?
Both sides will now switch their attention back to the race for the top four. For Chelsea, they will travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Wednesday before ending the season against Wolves.
As for United, they welcome West Ham on Wednesday before their crucial clash with Leicester on the final day of the campaign.
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