This past week has proved tumultuous in Man Utd's other title aspirations. First, Nani's kamikaze tactics in the Champions League, 2nd leg left Utd short handed against an underachieving Real Madrid. Till then the possibility of a Madrid exit was palpably real. Luka Modric's introduction turned things around for the Merengues as Utd suffered the ignominy of conceding two quick goals which ushered them out of the competition. The post match theatrics continued with Sir A lex now a deeper shade of purple refusing to attend the post match interview.
Yesterday, it was Utd, going ahead through a nice bit of improvisation as Chicharito Hernandez, perceiving Petr Cech advancing off his line, adjusted to arc his header in a long loop over the Chelsea goalie. Well done. An unsighted Cech minutes later could do little to stop Wayne Rooney's free kick as it bounced awkwardly in front of goal and scooted into the far post. The FA Cup encounter was going swimmingly well for the Premier League champions in waiting as their opponents showed a catastrophic vulnerability at the back. For Rafa Benitez, both sets of fans were already clamouring for his head well before the match began.
The Chelsea manager, " the fat Spanish waiter" as less charitable Utd fans deride him made two key changes, taking off Frank Lampard and Victor Moises and bringing on Eden Hazard and John Obi Mikel. The second half was more Chelsea centric as they zipped the ball around more threateningly, coinciding with a dip in Utd's concentration and effort, the sequelae to the Hey Nani No! blues suffered midweek. Hazard who shows a propensity for the spectacular, scored from a beautifully placed curler seven minutes after his introduction. Chelsea was smelling blood as Utd's midfield fluency broke down. Following a counterattack orchestrated by David Luiz, Demba Be turned the ball loose to Oscar, relaying it to an advancing Ramires on the left who cut inside and dispatched an acutely angled shot under De Gea's groping hand. Utd looking decidedly frail have to thank De Gea for his last ditch heroics to save off Juan Mata in regulation time.
This would have been the second exit in less than a week but Utd will get to wage battle again at Stamford Bridge. Afterwards, Benitez revealed his cold war with Sir Alex had resumed. Just like the good old days. Rio Ferdinand meanwhile may face FA charges for sneakily pushing down an unsuspecting Fernando Torres from behind while off the ball.