Manchester United turned in a poor performance in Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley as they went down 3-1 to Chelsea. An unfamiliar team selection put the Reds at a disadvantage from the first whistle, and they were never really able to claw their way into the game. It was a deserved victory for a highly organised and efficient opposition, with United only on the scoresheet courtesy of a late Bruno Fernandes penalty.
There were surprises before kickoff, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær rang the changes both in tactics and personnel. The on-form trio of Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial dropped to the bench, making room for Eric Bailly to come into a back three with Victor Lindelöf and Harry Maguire, while Fred and Daniel James were also handed surprise starts.
It became quickly apparent that the changes came at a cost. United struggled to get into the game, with their defensive shape handing Chelsea the initiative. The Blues should’ve broken the deadlock after a quarter-of-an-hour, though Marcos Alonso powered an inviting César Azpilicueta cross over the crossbar.
United struggled to keep Chelsea at bay, and suffered a blow shortly before halftime when Maguire and Bailly clashed heads. Both players ended up on the ground, but it became quickly apparent that Bailly had come off worse: Maguire was bandaged up ready to continue, but his teammate could only stagger to the touchline before collapsing, whereupon he was loaded onto a stretcher and carted down the tunnel. Hopefully it doesn’t prove as serious as it looked.
Solskjær took the opportunity to revert to his favoured back four, introducing Martial, though in the 11th — yes, eleventh — minute of stoppage time, Chelsea took a deserved lead. Willian found Azpilicueta overlapping down the right, and the Spaniard’s low cross was deftly turned home at the near post by Olivier Giroud. United could have no complaints.
Things got even worse within two minutes of the restart, when a cheap giveaway by Brandon Williams handed Mason Mount a shooting chance. It was only a speculative opportunity, but one converted courtesy of some calamitous goalkeeping from David de Gea. A tame, low shot squirmed straight through the Spaniard’s hands, and doubled the Blues’ advantage.
United were on the ropes, and only a good de Gea save short of the hour prevented Chelsea from going three up. The introductions of Pogba and Greenwood stemmed the tide, though United remained totally blunt in attack. Chelsea killed the game off in the final 20 minutes, when a low Marcos Alonso cross was turned in by a sliding Antonio Rüdiger, though it transpired Maguire had made the final touch, and it went down as an own goal.
With just over five minutes left, United were given the opportunity to pull one back from the penalty spot, when Callum Hudson-Odoi felled Martial in the area. An otherwise quiet Bruno Fernandes scored after a hop, skip and a jump, though it proved nothing more than a consolation for a disappointing United. Chelsea will face Arsenal in the final in a fortnight.