Chelsea ended Manchester United’s defence of the FA Cup on Monday night with a win that was rather more emphatic than the 1-0 scoreline suggests. Jose Mourinho was barracked with taunts of “Judas”, “You’re not special any more” and “It’s all your fault” by Chelsea supporters as the United manager clashed with his opposite number Antonio Conte on the sideline.
The draw for the semi-finals made after the game saw Chelsea paired with London rivals Tottenham, while Arsenal were matched up with Manchester City. The ties will take place over the weekend of April 22 and 23, with the two London clubs last meeting in a FA Cup semi-final five years ago, when Chelsea ran out 5-1 winners.
Red Devils’ goalkeeper David De Gea had already made two outstanding reaction saves, before Ander Herrera was controversially sent off in the 35th minute for receiving two yellow cards. Mourinho had clearly sent his players out with a plan to ruffle Chelsea’s danger man Eden Hazard’s feathers. The Belgian winger had already been fouled a number of times before the Spaniard cynically took him to ground once more.
While Conte was fuming at the treatment being dished out to his star man, Mourinho went apoplectic once the red card was brandished in Herrera’s face. At least half a dozen Manchester United players angrily surrounded referee Michael Oliver, actions that are likely to see the club reprimanded and fined.
The visitors managed to keep the game scoreless until half-time, but De Gea could do little about N’Golo Kante’s rasping 25-yard shot which proved to be the match-winner. Kante has produced phenomenal weekly performances for almost two seasons, inspiring Chelsea legend Frank Lampard to label the Frenchman as the world’s best midfielder on current form.
Now massively odds-on to win the coveted ‘Player of the Year’ award, Kante has already proved to be a bargain signing for Roman Abramovich’s team – even with his £32 million price tag! Standing under five feet six inches tall and weighing under eleven stone, he is far from the stereotypical image of an all-action, combative central midfielder, yet he somehow makes the game look incredibly easy.
His role is based on interceptions, perfectly timed tackles and winning possession of the ball through his tireless running and natural reading of the game. Worryingly for Chelsea’s opponents, Kante now seems to be adding goals to his game. Although this was his just his second of the season – the first also coming against the 20 time Champions – if he can score more regularly he really will be on another level.
After the game, Mourinho refused to talk about the red card decision which rather spoiled the game as a contest. Instead he took his frustrations out on the Stamford Bridge faithful who had mercilessly taunted him. “Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues for them, I’m the number one,” he said. “Until then, Judas is number one.”