With three semi-final places already taken in this year’s FA Cup competition, Chelsea and Manchester United were left to fight for the fourth and final spot on Monday night.
United approached the game in the midst on a striker crisis. Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic began his three-game ban for elbowing Tyrone Mings in last week’s draw with Bournemouth. Wayne Rooney, who has lost his starting berth to the Swede, sustained a leg injury following a clash with Phil Jones in training. That mishap could not have come at a worse time, with both Anthony Martial out and Marcus Rashford also set to miss the match.
Jose Mourinho didn’t, however, have to face his old club without a recognised forward as Rashford made the starting XI, but he had to find a way to vastly improve on October’s 4-0 defeat.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea had an advantage of having a week to prepare since their last game. United meanwhile travelled to Russia for Thursday’s Europa League tie with Rostov, whom they face again only three days after this quarter-final.
This meant that Conte was able to field a full-strength squad despite making changes for earlier FA Cup rounds. Mourinho opted to play Phil Jones in midfield to help nullify the threat of Eden Hazard, while Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian were also handed starts.
Here are three key moments as Chelsea continued their quest for a league and cup double…
David De Gea’s double save – 16 minutes
United had been most threatening in the opening fifteen minutes, catching Chelsea and the Stamford Bridge crowd off guard by pressing high, attacking from the start.
Yet on 16 minutes, after being tightly marshalled by Phil Jones, Hazard drew Chris Smalling towards half-way before turning him easily and charging into the area. After making easy work of the other defenders with his slaloming run, the Belgian fired across goal towards the bottom-left corner. Even following a close deflection, David De Gea was able to prevent Chelsea from taking the lead, palming it behind for a corner.
The resulting set-piece led to another superb save by the Spaniard, as Gary Cahill managed to hold off Marcos Rojo and looked destined to score. Again the United ‘keeper dived to his right, this time getting down with impressive speed to keep the tie level.