Manchester United’s FA Cup defence ended in failure on Monday, as they suffered a 1-0 quarterfinal defeat away at Chelsea. It was a fairly even encounter until Ander Herrera was sent off for committing a second bookable offence shortly before halftime, with N’Golo Kanté scoring the only game within minutes of the restart.
United did make a positive start to the game, with José Mourinho’s men doing more than merely parking the bus. Their attacking intent produced the game’s first chance in the 12th minute, though Henrikh Mkhitaryan could only drag his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
However, there was soon a sign of the danger Chelsea posed, when Eden Hazard slipped away from Chris Smalling and slalomed his way into the penalty area; only an excellent David de Gea save prevented the Belgian from breaking the deadlock. He arguably made an even better stop on the subsequent corner, springing to his right to deny Gary Cahill from close range.
The Blues steadily began to crank up the pressure, though United’s defence continued to hold firm. However, the visitors were dealt a significant blow with 10 minutes of the half remaining, when Herrera picked up a second yellow card for a clumsy intervention on the lively Hazard. Mkhitaryan was subsequently sacrificed, with Marouane Fellaini introduced to reinforce United’s weakened midfield.
It was enough to hold the fort until halftime, but not much beyond. It took just six minutes of the second half before Chelsea made their numerical advantage count, with a low curling effort from Kanté skimming past de Gea and into the back of the net.
It was difficult to envisage a way back for United, who had offered little in the way of attacking threat. Marcus Rashford created a rare opportunity on the counter-attack just short of the hour, though was denied by Thibaut Courtois is a one-on-one after skinning César Azpilicueta. It served the hosts a stark warning against complacency.
Chelsea responded by twice going close to adding a second: a Willian corner was somehow headed wide by Diego Costa from point-blank range, moments before Willian himself narrowly cleared the crossbar with an effort from just outside the box. The duo almost combined again with a quarter-hour left on the clock, though Costa couldn’t quite reach a low cross driven across the six-yard box.
As it was, Chelsea didn’t need a second goal, with United turning in one of their most frustratingly impotent performances of the season. It may not have been as miserable as their last afternoon out at Stamford Bridge, but it certainly wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory.