Chelsea canter past Manchester United into FA Cup final

De Gea mistake prove costly as United’s improved run of form ends at Wembley

Chelsea’s Mason Mount celebrates scoring past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. Photograph: PA

Chelsea’s Mason Mount celebrates scoring past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. Photograph: PA

 

Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1

Of all the selection decisions that Ole Gunnar Solskjær made for this FA Cup semi-final, the one to persist with David de Gea rather than call upon Sergio Romero looked the safest.

The Manchester United manager named Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood among his substitutes but, in goal, he went for continuity and the promise of stability, which spelt disappointment for Romero, who had played in almost all of the club’s cup ties this season. The notable exception had been both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester City.

De Gea, though, had an evening which not only cost his team dearly but raised fundamental questions as to whether he retains the ability to perform at the needed level for the club.

The 29-year-old has made errors this season and, his position being the most exposed on the field, the criticism has been strong. Remember when Tottenham’s Steven Bergwijn shot through his hands in United’s first game back after the restart? Roy Keane, the former United captain, said that he would have punched him in the dressing-room.

This was worse, De Gea failing not once but twice to deal with routine shots. It left his team 2-0 down and in no position to recover. Make no mistake, he was not the only player in a United shirt that failed to turn up. Harry Maguire, the captain, had a dreadful game, which was summed up when he diverted a Marcos Alonso cross past De Gea for Chelsea’s third.

Chelsea were the better side from the outset and, at the fourth time of asking this season, they have a victory over United to savour. They will face Arsenal in the final on August 1st.

But De Gea was the villain-in-chief from a United point of view, the player who did the most to influence the result. The first concession saw him allow Olivier Giroud’s flick to squirm away from him – he got nothing behind the ball and allowed it to roll almost apologetically over the line – and the second was even more glaring. De Gea had the time to get across to Mason Mount’s low shot from outside the area but he went down in slow motion and merely turned the ball into the corner of his net. How were his hands so weak? It looked as though all the confidence had drained from them.

United scored a late consolation through Bruno Fernandes’s penalty after the substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi had tripped Martial, who Solskjær had introduced at the end of the first-half, but the game had long since fizzled out. Chelsea will draw strength ahead of the final push for Champions League places while for United, it spelt the end of a 19-game unbeaten run.

Lampard rested the in-form Christian Pulisic but Chelsea looked stronger and more forward-thinking from the outset, although it took them until the 11th minute of first-half stoppage-time to lead. The reason for the large number of additional minutes was a sickening clash of heads between the United defenders, Eric Bailly and Maguire, in which the former came off worse.

Bailly had been able to regain his feet after treatment but he looked unsteady and went back down. He was eventually removed on a stretcher, his neck in a brace, applause from both sets of players in his ears. Maguire played on with his head in a bandage.

Giroud’s goal came when Cesar Azpilcueta whipped in a low cross from the right and the Chelsea centre-forward got in front of Victor Lindelöf too easily to touch towards goal. Cue the beginning of De Gea’s unravelling.

Reece James had warmed De Gea’s gloves from distance in the early going and Marcos Alonso ought to have scored on 16 minutes only to fluff a header at the back post from an Azpilicueta cross.

Solskjær started in a 3-4-1-2 system but, with little happening in a creative sense, he went back to 4-2-3-1 after Bailly was forced off, with Martial coming on up front.

Fernandes had drawn a routine save from Willy Caballero with a free-kick and Nemanja Matic had missed his kick from a corner when well-placed but the closest that United came to a break in the first-half was when Martial chased a long ball into the penalty area and felt Kurt Zouma go through him as he cleared. It looked like a foul, although it appeared to be marginally outside the box.

United were so sloppy and if Chelsea’s second was another personal disaster for De Gea, then Brandon Williams will not enjoy the inquest, either. He played a pass inside and succeeded only in finding Mount, who ran unchecked towards the edge of the United area before shooting low for goal. Each TV replay looked more damning than the previous one for De Gea.

After Marcus Rashford went close, Solskjær introduced Pogba and Greenwood but United looked beaten. Maguire would fluff two good headed chances and Chelsea might have scored more. Mount flashed high while De Gea saved from Giroud and James, and Hudson-Odoi was wasteful at the very end. - Guardian

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