Manchester United were looking for redemption after the bitter disappointment from being cheated out of a place in the following stages of the Champions League, whilst Chelsea were looking to bounce back from defeat in the Europa League, on Sunday. Despite the heartache and unjust of the respective clashes neither team managed to capitalise on European nightmares. With the tie still hanging in the balance and a replay on the cards, here’s what we’ve learnt from the game on Sunday.
1. Antonio Valencia – This time last season Antonio Valencia was arguably the best winger in the league, he had everything whether that be pure strength, pace or the ability to effortlessly dispatch tremendous crosses. The form Antonio showed carried over into the opening months of this season, with a notable performance and match winning run that saw him beat two Liverpool players to the ball despite seemingly impossible odds, he then darted into the box and won a penalty as Glenn Johnson had no option but to bring him down. Flash forward several months back and Antonio hasn’t been the same since; the blistering pace, the willingness to run at his man, the inch-perfect crosses all seem to be lost. Instead of running at his man, as expected, Valencia stops and waits before running on or passing the ball, almost as if he’s forgot what his role is. Without Valencia United only have Ashley Young and Nani as native wingers. Given Ashley Young has been in and out of the squad with injury, and arguably isn’t the quality of player to be manning the wing at Old Trafford this leaves a huge problem for United as wing play is very much part of their game in this modern era.
2. David de Gea – The Spanish shot-stopper has come under fire from football fans and critics alike since joining Manchester United, despite being somewhat of a fan favourite within the stands at Old Trafford. The mentality and ability of David have shone through in the past several months as he’s secured the first choice role as Anders Lindegaard seems to be on his way out of Old Trafford. The Spanish keeper who saved the day in the Bernabeu stood tall once again on Sunday and kept United in with a fighting chance of winning the double. The Spaniard was called into action at various points throughout the tie, his most notable being a fine save with the right boot to deny Juan Mata in the dying seconds of the game.
3. FA Cup lost its shine? – There was a stark contrast between Tuesday night and Sunday evening at Old Trafford; Sunday saw the ground buzzing, both home and away were singing and chanting well before kick-off and the atmosphere grew throughout the game. Sunday saw Chelsea fans fail to fill there allocation with upwards of a thousand empty seats in the away. As with Tuesday the PA system was turned off ten minutes before kick-off but unlike Tuesday neither fans picked up on this with several muted chants echoing around the ground but nothing more. As the game built and the goals went in the crowd picked up, but it was evident there are more important competitions then the once prestigious FA Cup.
4. Rotation not always a good thing, Benitez – There’s no questioning Chelsea have had problems this season, no matter who’s on the pitch. Despite this, it is extremely evident that the Oscar-Mata-Hazard combination is the way Chelsea needs to go. The introduction of Eden Hazard yesterday was undoubtedly the game changer yesterday evening, and although Hazard has enough quality to spur a team on by himself he clearly wasn’t the only reason Chelsea fought back. The link up play between Hazard, Oscar and Mata was brilliant to watch, the pace and class they possess on the ball added to a number of defensive and midfield errors from United saw Chelsea fight back and look somewhat like the title winners of old.
It is clear that when fit, Oscar, Mata and Hazard should be starting together.
Written By Daniel Rourke