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De Gea slip-ups gift Chelsea trip to decider

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Chelsea’s Mason Mount wheels away to celebrate after Manchester United’s David De Gea fails to stop his long-range effort during yesterday’s FA Cup semi-final. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea’s Mason Mount wheels away to celebrate after Manchester United’s David De Gea fails to stop his long-range effort during yesterday’s FA Cup semi-final. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea’s Mason Mount wheels away to celebrate after Manchester United’s David De Gea fails to stop his long-range effort during yesterday’s FA Cup semi-final. Photo: Getty Images

There have been a number of signature performances for Chelsea in Frank Lampard's first season in charge - Ajax away in the Champions League, Liverpool at home in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the Premier League all spring to mind - and here was one more.

Defeating Manchester United to reach a third FA Cup Final in four years was achieved through some shocking gifts from goalkeeper David De Gea, some collective mind-freeze from those in red, but also with Lampard out-smarting his opponents tactically, with his team selection and motivation of players.

In other words, Chelsea beat United all ends up and it was humiliating for the defeated.

Controversy

At the same time this was Chelsea's first win over United since the 2018 FA Cup Final, which just happened to be the last time that De Gea played in this competition. Of all the questionable decisions taken by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for this fixture, his first-choice ahead of his cup goalkeeper Sergio Romero was surely one he did not think would cause controversy. But so poor was De Gea's performance that the 29-year-old's future, because of his inconsistency, has to be in doubt.

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Chelsea's Tammy Abraham battles for possession with  Manchester United's Harry Maguire. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham battles for possession with Manchester United's Harry Maguire. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham battles for possession with Manchester United's Harry Maguire. Photo: Getty Images

 

This is a long way from being the "world's best" as Solskjaer insisted the Spaniard was still not so long ago and the clamour to bring back Dean Henderson, and not keep him on loan at Sheffield United next season, will only increase. At 29, De Gea should be in his prime but he is increasingly a liability while that new four-year deal he signed last year to make him the world's best paid-goalkeeper, looks a bad call.

United let this one slip away as Chelsea's first two goals slipped through De Gea's fingers. Even before those howlers, though, Lampard's side should have been ahead as they dominated a first half that was extended by 12 minutes because of a worrying head injury to United defender Eric Bailly.

The Ivorian was one of three centre-halves fielded by Solskjaer who appeared overly worried about his team having played three times in a week, having less rest and so went on the defensive. He tried to counter-attack and found out that simply blunted his attack as he appeared to ask Bruno Fernandes to do it all.

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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Getty Images

 

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Lampard sensed that also. He, too, deployed a three-man defence but with far more intent and with the impressive Olivier Giroud proving too much of a handful for Harry Maguire who was left bandaged by his clash of heads with Bailly but will also need his confidence patched up.

The United captain's torrid evening was capped by an own goal, Chelsea's third, and although it meant De Gea was beaten at his near post it was probably the only one he conceded where he was not categorically at fault.

There is no way that could be said about the other two goals. In the 56th minute of the first half Cesar Azpilicueta, who combined well with Reece James throughout, crossed low with Giroud stealing in front of Victor Lindelof. Once again Lindelof had shown himself slow to react but still Giroud had only guided the ball goalwards with the outside of his left boot and it surely lacked the power to beat De Gea. Instead it caught him out with the ball squirming through his fingers to trickle over the goal-line.

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Chelsea's Willy Caballero stretches to save a corner kick from Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea's Willy Caballero stretches to save a corner kick from Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea's Willy Caballero stretches to save a corner kick from Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Getty Images

 

After that, United seemed to feel sorry for themselves.

Bailly was replaced by Anthony Martial and their shape was better but they did not give themselves a chance to recover as early in the second half there was an even more horrendous error with the United defence also, again, at fault as Brandon Williams played a careless pass infield which was collected by Mason Mount who strode forward.

Nevertheless there appeared minimal danger especially when Mount's low shot from 20 yards appeared to lack power - only for De Gea to dive to his left but fail to turn the shot away with the ball slipping through his hands and into the net.

De Gea looked in a daze. At the second-half drinks break he stood apart, with assistant manager Mike Phelan speaking to him, before he threw his water bottle down and walked back to goal. He was beaten again as Antonio Rudiger met Marcos Alonso's cross but the ball came off Maguire to go past him. Could he have saved it? Maybe if in top form and not rock bottom.

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Manchester United's Marcus Rashford takes a free-kick. Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford takes a free-kick. Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford takes a free-kick. Photo: Getty Images

 

United had some chances before Chelsea substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi caught Martial. Fernandes stepped up and with a skip he beat goalkeeper Willy Caballero from the penalty spot.

By now, though, their malaise was complete. There would be no cavalry charge as United slipped to their first defeat in 19 games in such a limp manner. That is not to detract from Chelsea who were utterly dominant and deserved to set up an all-London final, and a repeat of the final three years ago, against Arsenal. Lampard deserves the plaudits; De Gea (and Solksjaer) knows he will receive the brickbats.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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