Posted by Phil McNulty | 19 February 2019 | 1,415 times
Manchester United cruised past Chelsea into the FA Cup quarter-finals to plunge Blues boss Maurizio Sarri’s reign even deeper into crisis as he felt the full fury of the club’s frustrated fans.
United delivered the perfect response to their first defeat under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – against Paris St-Germain in the Champions League – to set up a last-eight tie against Wolves.
Ander Herrera converted Paul Pogba’s perfect cross to give United a 31st-minute lead, and Pogba doubled the advantage right on half-time when he dived to head Marcus Rashford’s delivery past Kepa Arrizabalaga, who should have done better.
As Chelsea slumped tamely to another damaging defeat, their fans turned on Sarri. They jeered his substitutions, mocked his ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy, demanded the return of Frank Lampard as manager, and joined United’s fans in chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”.
Solskjaer had no such problems as he took the loud acclaim of United’s supporters after adding another impressive victory to his collection, despite the absence of the injured Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.
Those fans may not have the casting vote when the decision on the club’s next manager is made, but they made their feelings about Solskjaer clear on another important night for the man who hopes to succeed Jose Mourinho on a permanent basis.
Solskjaer has been presented with a series of key examinations since arriving as interim United manager after the sacking of Mourinho in mid-December.
One of his most crucial was how he would respond to his first serious setback – and how he would get his players to respond.
That setback duly arrived when United were well beaten by PSG in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at Old Trafford, a 2-0 scoreline flattering a team who had given Solskjaer 10 wins and a draw from his previous 11 games.
The response, here at Stamford Bridge, was top class and represented another plus point for the Norwegian as he tries to build a body of evidence that will persuade executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy to give him the job full-time.
Solskjaer was stripped of Lingard and Martial but still produced a positive gameplan based around aggression, the drive of Pogba and the pace of Rashford.
It enabled United to overcome their second tough test in the capital after winning at Arsenal in the fourth round, and kept Solskjaer right in the hunt for silverware. (BBC)
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