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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 20 January 2021


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So Man United face Chelsea in what is a fairly important game in the context of both sides’ seasons.

United have largely looked impressive since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge back in December, with last week’s 2-0 Champions League loss to PSG the first major setback of his reign.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have been very inconsistent of late.

They have lost 4-0 to Bournemouth and 6-0 to Man City in recent weeks, while they have also secured a spot in the League Cup final by beating Spurs over two legs.

Neither side playing tonight are realistic Premier League title contenders any longer, with a place in the top four the best they can hope for. Progress in the FA Cup, while not the be all and end all, would at least take some pressure off Maurizio Sarri, or if United prevail, strengthen the case for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be appointed Red Devils manager on a permanent basis.

Who do you think will win tonight?

Poll Results:

Man United (420)
Chelsea  (180)

A reminder that this game kicks off at 7.30pm.

This is to allow for the possibility of extra time and penalties, following confirmation back in December that fifth-round replays would be scrapped.

The earlier kick-off means the BBC will still be able to show the news without interrupting the match action, even if the sides cannot be separated after 90 minutes.

The omens aren’t especially good for Man United tonight.

A reminder of who either Man United or Chelsea will join in the FA Cup quarter-finals…

  • Wolves
  • Millwall
  • Crystal Palace
  • Man City
  • Swansea
  • Watford
  • Brighton

Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge Chelsea fans in the stands during the FA Cup fifth round match at Stamford Bridge. Source: Nigel French

We’re under way…


Chance early on for Man United.

Lukaku finds space down the left and his drilled cross is cut out by a well-positioned David Luiz.


The ball bounces around the box before Pogba gets hold of it and switches it across to Lukaku.

The Belgian striker takes it first time, but can’t find the target with his volley from the edge of the area.


Kante bursts forward with one of his typical penetrating runs.

The French midfielder then plays it to Pedro wide right, and the Spaniard’s cross is deflected safely into Romero’s arms.


Matic plays a good ball in for Smalling, but the English defender’s header is straight at Kepa.

It’s been a fairly even start — not much between the teams so far, with a couple of half-chances at both ends.


Good double save from Romero.

Initially, he has to parry away David Luiz’s swerving free kick, before saving a powerful shot from Pedro on the rebound.


Herrera produces a decent effort from about 30 yards out, but Kepa gets down well to make the save and parry it away to safety.

It’s been a lively opening 15 minutes.


Higuaín shows good movement to escape the attentions of Lindelöf while latching on to a lobbed through ball, but his first touch is too heavy and he can’t find the target from a tight angle.

Moments later, Azpilicueta delivers a good ball in from the right and the Argentine striker’s bullet header is inches wide.


Ashley Young is booked for a badly timed challenge on Pedro, who writhes in agony as a result of the tackle.

The England international will miss the quarter-final match should United progress.

He is the second United player to be yellow carded after Nemanja Matic was cautioned earlier.


A nervy moment for Kepa.

The goalkeeper receives the ball and miscontrols it. Rashford closes in on him, but he just manages to clear it before the young striker can get to the ball.


United are ahead and it’s a very well-worked goal.

It starts with good interplay from Mata in midfield. It then comes to Pogba out left and the Frenchman produces an exquisite cross, with Ander Herrera ghosting in at the far post and giving Kepa no chance with an unstoppable header.


What looks like an attempted cross from Pedro nearly catches Romero out and creeps in at the far post, but ends up going narrowly the other side of the post much to United’s relief.

There really hasn’t been much between the teams — the difference being that clinical goal, meaning United, without dominating by any means, have the advantage.


Lindelof slips, allowing Higuain to run through on goal.

However, the Argentine attacker doesn’t quite have the lightning pace required for that type of situation, and Shaw is able to get back and avert the danger.


Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba battle for the ball. Source: Nigel French



United are content to sit back and play on the counter-attack at the moment.

Chelsea, for all their possession, have rarely been incisive in the final third.


Out of nothing, United double their advantage.

Rashford produces a sumptuous cross allowing Pogba to head home for his 14th goal of the season.

It’s a powerful header that Kepa can only help on its way into the net, but the goalkeeper certainly could have done better there.


Half-time, and there are boos from sections of the Chelsea support as the whistle sounds.

The Londoners have seen plenty of possession but have looked a little toothless in attack.

Higuain is a prime example of their problems — he just doesn’t have the pace or sharpness necessary to thrive at this level. He doesn’t look like he’s totally adapted to the speed of English football yet, failing to capitalise on the few mistakes the visitors have made at the back.

United, without playing brilliantly, have been ruthlessly efficient.

They have been happy to sit back and soak up the Chelsea pressure for large portions of the game, with two superb counter-attacking goals complementing a well-organised display without the ball.

Pogba, meanwhile, has gone some way towards making up for his inept display and foolish red card against PSG last week, scoring a goal as well as registering a brilliant assist for the opener.


Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge Manchester United's Ander Herrera scores his side's first goal. Source: Nigel French


The second half has begun.

No changes from either team at half time.



Pedro finds Higuain inside the area, but Smalling does well to get across quickly and make across.

Down the other end, Rashford makes a brilliant mazy run on the counter attack. He crosses towards Lukaku, but David Luiz gets back just in time to prevent the ball from reaching the Belgian striker.


Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge General view of Stamford Bridge as the teams lined up earlier. Source: Bradley Collyer


Matic is a very lucky boy.

Already on a booking, he stops Kante with an ill-timed challenge, but the referee decides to let him off with a warning.


Shaw does really well to stop Pedro getting a shot on goal.

As the full-back makes the sliding challenge, he collides with Romero, with both players needing treatment as a result.

It looks like they’ll be okay to continue though.


Chelsea make a change as they bid to get back into this game.

Willian replaces Pedro, who hasn’t quite been able to offer the kind of attacking penetration Chelsea sorely need.


Rüdiger has been booked for going through the back of Mata.

With half an hour remaining, Chelsea don’t really look capable of breaking their rivals down.


Big chance for Chelsea out of nothing.

Hazard receives the ball wide left, bursts away from Lindelof before seeing his deflected shot go just over the bar for a corner.


VAR decides to take a look at an incident involving Smalling and Rudiger, whereby the latter went down in the United area following a tussle with his opponent.

Ultimately, it’s decided there was not enough contact to warrant a penalty award.


Chelsea v Manchester United - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Stamford Bridge Manchester United's Nemanja Matic (left) and Chelsea's Jorginho battle for the ball. Source: Adam Davy


Willian curls a free kick well off target from about 30 yards out.

Chelsea then make a second substitution, with Kovačić — who has failed to substantially influence the game — replaced by Ross Barkley.



It’s now United’s turn to make a change, as Sanchez replaces Lukaku.

The Belgian international has worked diligently all night, while still looking below his best in terms of sharpness.


Another change for United.

Former Chelsea star Mata is replaced by Andreas Pereira, as the visitors look to close out the game.

Mata is another one who has worked hard and did well in the build up to the first goal without ever being outstanding.


United fans are now taunting Chelsea supporters with chants of “bring back Mourinho”.

It has been all too comfortable for the Red Devils tonight, with Chelsea still looking fairly out of sorts.


Chelsea make a final change as Zappacosta comes on for Azpilicueta.

The home fans, seemingly unhappy that Hudson-Odoi will not get a run out, boo the decision.

As I type, United break on the counter, but Sanchez, perhaps indicating his lack of confidence at the moment, overhits the pass.


Pogba has been named the BBC’s man of the match.

He has certainly produced the kind of class at key moments that has been conspicuously absent from Chelsea’s attacks, producing a goal and assist to continue his rejuvenation under Solskjaer.


There will be five minutes of stoppage time…


United make a final change with the game effectively over.

Rashford, who has looked excellent tonight, is replaced by McTominay.


So that’s that.

United, without excelling, have earned a convincing 2-0 win over a Chelsea side that rarely looked like breaking their opponents down.

It was a diligent display from the visitors, who impressively stemmed their rivals attacking threat, while man-of-the-match Pogba and Rashford provided the attacking spark.

It continues their considerable improvement under Solskjaer, while by contrast, Sarri must be worried after another disappointing result, with the crowd’s unhappy reaction to a couple of substitutions exacerbating the sense of doom and gloom at Stamford Bridge.

The hosts simply didn’t offer enough in attack, while United clinically exposed their defensive ineptitude down the other end.

FA Cup quarter finals draw:

Swansea v Man City

Watford v Crystal Palace

Wolves v Man United

Millwall v Brighton

Right, that’s all from me.

We’ll have more reaction to follow and you can read our match report here.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey break down Ireland’s dogged win against Scotland in Murrayfield, and look at the room for improvement, in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy


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