By the time this article makes print, there is a high chance that Chelsea’s manager Mauricio Sarri may have been given the boot after their dismal display and loss to Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
This was a game where both teams would have been under an enormous amount of pressure to bounce back from defeats to Manchester City and PSG respectively although you could argue that the pressure would have been more for United than Chelsea who exorcised some of their demons from the Manchester City loss in midweek by beating Swedish side Malmo 2-1 in the first leg of a Europa League tie.
United looked the busier side in the early minutes of the game as they harried and pressed high making it practically impossible for the back quartet of David Luiz, Caesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger to get a foothold in the game and start the passing movement from defence that Sarri favours and for a while, Chelsea looked like a team that had played one too many games and needed a breather but credit to their resolve because they soon got a foothold in the game around the 20th minute and began to boss the midfield as United fell back in numbers to defend leaving an isolated Lukaku to play on the shoulders Luiz and Rudiger.
For all their possession though, it never quite felt like Chelsea had too many designs of testing United’s stand-in goalkeeper Sergio Romero save for some long range efforts from David Luiz off a freekick and a follow up from Pedro which was summarily saved by the capable Romero. The itinerant Gonzalo Huguain who still comes across as trying to get to grips with the harum scarum of the English game had another night to forget as his darts behind defenders into the six yard box were either largely ignored by Chelsea’s midfielders or slightly premature for him to be hooked in with a raking pass but it is safe to say that he saw as little of the ball as a pygmy in a rock music concert.
United broke the deadlock in the 31st minute after some industrious work in the middle by Juan Mata who eventually finds Pogba on the left. The big French international then uses his strength and swiftness of turn to spin off Rudiger before dinking a precision pass with his mental theodolite into the Chelsea box for Herera to hare in and nod past Kepa Arrizabalaga, who should have done better.
United’s second was made by the mercurial Pogba and Rashford, as the Frenchman dipped a pass to the striker on the right before bursting a gut to get into the box to meet the return cross with a stomping header that Arrizabalaga had no chance of saving just before the break. After that goal, you just got a sense that Chelsea were never getting back into the game despite the fact that there was still another 45 minutes to play.
Chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” rent the air at Stamford Bridge as fans became quite agitated with the insipid changes the manager introduced in the second half. Chelsea looked like a team that was bereft of ideas as they continued to huff and puff. This was Chelsea’s third humiliating loss in as many weeks after being put to the sword by Bournemouth and Manchester City. Sarri after the game points out that “We played confused football in the second half but in the first half we played well…I’m worried about the result but not about the fans’ reaction because I understand the situation. I can understand our fans because the result wasn’t really good and we are out of the FA Cup. I was really worried when I was in League Two in Italy, not now.”
He may not be worried but he’ll surely know that time’s running out for him if it already hasn’t especially at a team like Chelsea where patience for managers who have underperformed is not usually at a high premium. The Italian has stubbornly stuck to a 4-3-3 formation that clearly does not seem to be working for the team and there is a now an unsettling sense that he does not have a plan B. At the weekend, his team is scheduled to come up again against Manchester City, the team that humiliated them with a 6-0 trouncing only a little over a week ago in the finals of the Carabao Cup. Another loss would probably be no less devastating but it could surely mark the end of Sarri’s spell at the club.