Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd: 5 things we learned

 • by Ryan Baldi
news now

Chelsea claimed their eighth FA Cup by overcoming Manchester United at Wembley Stadium, seeing off the Red Devils thanks to a first-half Eden Hazard penalty.

The Blues were on top through the first 45 minutes but were made to hold firm and defend sternly in the second period, as United attempted to turn the screw and work their way back into the game.

In truth, this was far from a classic FA Cup encounter and, even as the game grew stretched, high-quality scoring chances were at a premium, with Paul Pogba‘s free header from a corner and Marcos Alonso’s tame effort from close range the pick of the opportunities after Hazard’s spot kick.

United huffed, puffed and, to their credit, continued to push, but Chelsea were organised, compact and a constant threat on the counter.

Here are the five things we leaned at the Blues finished 2017/18 on a high.

Hazard still among the best

Eden Hazard of Chelsea

It’s been a strange season for Hazard. The Belgian appeared back to his scintillating best earlier in the campaign, thriving in a more central position within the Chelsea attack, only to fade and slip into inconsistency as the campaign wore on.

At Wembley, though, a constant first-half threat and a dangerous counter outlet in the second period, the reported Real Madrid transfer target proved he remains one of the best players in the world when motivated and in form.

He won and calmly scored the game’s only goal, but Hazard’s display was about more than a single moment of assured magic, and rather a standout, all-round performance of a confident and, despite Ander Herrera’s man-marking efforts, uncontainable world-class talent.

Jones gonna Jones

Selected in England’s squad of the upcoming World Cup, United defender Phil Jones has had one of his better seasons in a red shirt. The often-injury-plagued centre-back has maintained his fitness and form to start 23 times in the Premier League and become one of Mourinho’s more trusted defensive charges.

With maintaining fitness conquered, maintaining concentration had proven a more difficult task for the former Blackburn Rovers player, however, who continues to make errors which, by this stage of his career, should not be so prevalent.

It was Jones who lost Hazard’s run midway through the first half, then, after rallying to draw level with the Chelsea attacker, the England defender clumsily brought the Belgian down to concede the crucial penalty.

Bakayoko’s best so far

The second-season syndrome is an accepted phenomenon in football, whereby a player struggles to replicate their form and impact of their first campaign with a club in their second term.

Tiémoué Bakayoko, though, hasn’t even been afforded the bounce that often comes with a big-money move to a new club, and instead has had the kind of first season with Chelsea that will leave him in quivering fear of slumping yet further in his second.

However, against United, the Frenchman did everything he was signed from Monaco last summer to do: he was composed, disciplined and precise in the middle of the park; no frills, nothing fancy, but quietly effective. A performance to build upon.

Rashford’s struggles not all his fault


In the absence of Romelu Lukaku, who was forced to settle for a place on the bench as he recovered from a knock sustained in a recent fixture against Arsenal, Marcus Rashford led the line for United.

Starting in what many to be his preferred position as a central striker, this was an opportunity for the 20-year-old to stake a claim or regular inclusion next term. But errant in his set-piece delivery and his inability to beat Thibaut Courtois with his two decent sights of goal, it was a frustrating afternoon for the youngster.

Rashford’s ineffectiveness is not without caveats, though. The Englishman replaced Lukaku in name alone, owning few attributes the Belgian striker possesses, and with vastly differing strengths.

Yet United didn’t seem to adapt their approach to suit Rashford, asking him to play with his back to goal, spin and link play, rather than utilising this pace in behind and instinctive creativity.

Conte to leave on a high?

It has been speculated for some time that this was to be Antonio Conte’s final game as Chelsea manager, having overseen a title defence which saw the Blues slip to fifth in the Premier League and miss out on Champions League qualification.

Winning here, though, and beating Mourinho, the man he replaced at Stamford Bridge and with whom he has enjoyed a handful of bitter exchanges over the last two years, means the Italian tactician can now point to two major trophies won in his Chelsea tenure.

Things went sour for Conte this season, but, in securing an eighth FA Cup for the Blues, he can leave with his head high and his reputation firmly intact.

Follow Football Whispers on Twitter