Once again Chelsea relied on the brilliance and expertise of Eden Hazard to see themselves through. The Blues claimed their 8th FA Cup in what seemed to be an otherwise disappointing campaign. The Belgian scored from the spot 22 minutes into the game after he was brought down by Phil Jones inside the box.
There had been half-hearted claims at both ends of the pitch for penalties early on, with appeals from Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alexis Sanchez rightly waved away. The Red Devils looked toothless in the first-half but put in a decent shift in the second.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to breach the Blues’ rearguard. Antonio Conte secured his second trophy in English football in just his second season in charge at Stamford Bridge.
What’s next for Conte and Chelsea
If this turns out to be Antonio Conte’s final game as Chelsea manager, who could really be surprised if they do part ways? Well, he would at least go out on a high. The Italian claimed his future at the helm was completely out of his control, immediately throwing his future into a shroud of doubt.
Ironically, the Italian has the joint-best win record (70.3%) for any manager in the Premier League, along with Pep Guardiola. Winning the Premier League last year and the FA Cup this time around, questions will be asked as to whether the manager should still be cut loose?
However, that is up to the mighty Roman Abramovich who is infamous for his ruthlessness when it comes to sacking his managers. Considering recent history, it is most probable that Conte will be shown the door. Only time will tell.
Surely the man of the match and Chelsea’s best player all season. Hazard has pulled Chelsea back from the grave a countless number of times and once again, it was his panache, pace and composure in front of goal that was needed to claim the Red Devils’ scalps.
He is also their top scorer this season with 17 goals in all competitions. At this stage, it is undoubtedly vital that Chelsea do everything in their power to hold on to the Belgian, who is certainly a force to reckon with. But as time passes, that seems more and more unlikely.
United miss Lukaku as Pogba, Sanchez and Rashford falter
Once again, unsurprisingly, Manchester United failed to register a goal as Pogba, Sanchez and Rashford looked way out of place for much of the game. Sanchez did score a goal, only for it be ruled offside, courtesy of the VAR decision system.
“Why always Lukaku? That’s why.”
Jose Mourinho’s blunt appraisal of Marcus Rashford’s efforts up front in defeat at Brighton earlier this month caused a stir and underlined the importance that the manager places on his Belgian striker, the team’s top scorer.
Unfortunately, Lukaku was only fit enough to make the bench, coming on for the last 25 minutes, which wasn’t enough to save them.
Pogba has certainly faced a lot of criticism for his inconsistent performances and Alexis Sanchez just doesn’t look like the same old player who once took the Premier League by storm. More questions will be asked of the pair after a dire performance on such a big day.
VAR causes more controversy
Fine margins can often make a big difference, especially in a cup final such as this, and it proved on Saturday. Alexis Sanchez’s goal was ruled out for offside, as United desperately searched for an equaliser.
Thibaut Courtois had pulled off a stunning, full-stretch save to parry away Phil Jones’ header but the Chilean was on hand to tap the ball into the net. However, the linesman had spotted Sanchez, who had strayed fractionally ahead of the line as Jones stooped to head goalwards.
This being the first FA Cup final to use the VAR system, certainly didn’t end well with the United fans behind that goal.
There was further controversy just a few minutes later when Victor Moses’ chipped ball back from the touchline hit Ashley Young’s arm in the United penalty area after David De Gea had denied Marcos Alonso.
Referee Michael Oliver’s hand went to his earpiece, there was a delay, and eventually, nothing was given. Fans at both ends of the ground were left unclear as to what was going on, without even a scoreboard signal that VAR was in use.