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FA Cup

‘Facht’ Number 12 – Benitez Called It Right

Mikel & BenitezI don’t quite know where to begin if I’m honest. Do I start with the second half performance? Valencia’s inability to take on an opponent? I guess I’ll just start from the beginning because that’s where the only joy came out of being at Old Trafford yesterday. I promise I’ll leave out my journey home where my satnav decided to take me on a scenic route, that’ll just aggravate me more.

It started well, two goals in the opening ten minutes. Michael Carrick playing what I believe to be the ‘assist of the season’ if there ever was one, allowing Javier Hernandez to loop the ball over Cech’s head and in to the corner. Then came a moment many a United fan would’ve wanted to see: A Wayne Rooney goal.

After all the media flack in midweek concentrating on unsettling our scouse forward it was a relief to see his free kick nestle in the net. Was I ever worried that he would be leaving at the end of the season? No, I never was. The papers and internet stories furthered my irritation during the week after defeat to Madrid.

It was a nothing story to begin with. Our tactics on Tuesday were spot on and Wayne would have known beforehand that he’d not be starting. Anyone who thinks Sir Alex Ferguson told him on the day are nothing more than deluded.

Let’s shove that aside now. We’re here to talk about our failure to hold on to a lead against a top side and where everything went wrong. 2-0 up at half-time when we should have been 3 or 4 goals ahead, and all major sportsbooks including Unibet giving ridiculously high live betting odds for a Chelsea comeback. United had the game in the bag.

Where did it go wrong? It’s pretty simple really and it’s a reason that downright infuriates me. We are leading by two goals to nil after ten minutes and what do the players decide to do? They take their foot off the gas and begin to coast, it was almost a ‘job done’ attitude. Take away Rooney’s missed opportunity from ten yards and I struggle to find another chance we had throughout the remainder of the FA Cup tie.

Chelsea who, let’s be honest, were rocking and possibly thinking to themselves that a thumping was on the cards must have been chuffed to be allowed back in to the game on the half hour mark. With Nani feeling no need to break out of a jog and Kagawa becoming more central our width left us and so did the threat.

Our visitors were allowed to settle which should never have happened and they finished the first half the better team. Benitez must’ve been surprised at half time albeit two goals down and I sit here now thinking he was probably licking his lips.

The second half began. Valencia had come on just before the interval and with Nani previously deciding that sprinting was not needed the home faithful must’ve been pleased to see Antonio step on to the field, regardless of his recent form. We were let down by the Ecuadorian again though. Although he did sprint, something Nani could not achieve. Well, something he did not want to sample, let’s just say that.

I have a growing problem with Valencia now. He runs in a straight line, he reaches an opposition player and will stand there. He doesn’t have the confidence now to even try and skin a full back and that’s sad to see. It’s not that which bugs me though after yesterday, it’s his lack of brain cells when at a stage in the game keeping the ball and calming down is vital.

Our number seven did none of these. He instead continuously passed the ball in to empty spaces or, my favourite, pass the ball directly to John Obi Mikel. Young Tom Cleverley joined in with this and soon it had spread like a disease.

Hazard & Luiz Old Trafford FA Cup March 2013It was a comedy show and it was no surprise that Chelsea went on to score twice and force a replay. It should’ve been worse; I should’ve walked out of Old Trafford at full time having been defeated. If David De Gea had not stopped Juan Mata in the dying minutes I would have had that feeling.

But for all our misplaced passes and failure to keep a cool head I must praise Chelsea and Rafa Benitez (It pains me to say that, I promise you). The travelling fans hounded their interim manager at 2-0 but did the Spaniard take notice? Nope. He brought on Hazard and Mikel and they were the game changers.

Mikel sat in front of Robin van Persie and cut out the supply. Everything United tried was more or less to get the ball to our Dutch forward and when that became impossible (thanks to Mikel) the cracks showed at the back with a different approach trying to be created with Rafael and Evra moving more central to bring the Nigerian out of position. Mikel did his job perfectly.

Eden Hazard on the other hand provided new problems, he danced around challenges like someone skating around on an ice rink and none of our defenders could get near him. His goal was sublime and whenever he got the ball I tensed up. He inspired the Chelsea players. It felt like something would happen every time he received the ball. Benitez’ double substitution was masterful.

What’s the moral of the story? If you have a two goal lead, try and make it three instead of backing off because ‘the job is done’? Surely it’s something like that for a case like this. I just hope we can go to Stamford Bridge, just like we did in 1999 and come away with a replay victory. Anyone remember that Dwight Yorke goal?

Red Rant well and truly over . I thank you!

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