Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was left to rue a breath-taking save from Petr Cech after his side fell 1-0 to Chelsea in their FA Cup quarter-final replay yesterday.
Trailing 1-0 to Demba Ba’s magnificent volley early in the second half, United looked poised to equalise in the 61st minute, only for Cech to produce a stunning stop to repel Javier Hernandez’s close-range header. It was to prove the closest the visitors came to forcing extra time, with substitute Robin van Persie lifting a pair of late chances over the crossbar.
“You have to say Cech’s save from Chicharito was unbelievable,” Ferguson told United's in-house television channel, MUTV. “You need a bit of luck in the cup. He made a similar save in the first game (a 2-2 draw on March 10) from one of his own defenders. That was disappointing for us in terms of getting a little break.
To be honest with you, I thought we were too rushed in that second half. We just lacked a bit of composure to create the proper openings.” Defeat leaves United with only the Premier League title race to focus on, and having already established a 15-point lead over Manchester City, there seems little potential for drama in the season's closing weeks.
Ferguson had spoken of his eagerness to see United triumph in the FA Cup for the first time since 2004, and he was unusually critical of his players after the game. “Of course they are down, because they know they can do better,” he said.
“I thought over the 90 minutes only Antonio Valencia reached the standard we expect of them. Phil Jones did for a good part of the game, of course, and David de Gea did well, but in terms of the 90-minute performance, Antonio Valencia was the only one.”
Cole ruled out
The only negative note for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was an injury sustained by left-back Ashley Cole, who appeared to hurt his hamstring as he chased Danny Welbeck mid-way through the first half. Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez confirmed he would be out for around a fortnight, casting into doubt his participation in the semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on April 14.
“With this kind of injury, it’ll be at least two weeks,” said Benitez. In a lighthearted reference to Chelsea’s congested calendar, he added: “That means for us, about 20 games or so.” Benitez is also currently without Gary Cahill, who has a knee problem, and the Spaniard revealed that the centre-back is likely to be sidelined for “another 15 days at least”.