MAN UNITED 2, CHELSEA 2
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United were lucky to still be in the FA Cup with Budweiser following their failure to beat Chelsea in their quarter-final tie at Old Trafford.
The Reds’ manager blamed fatigue for their lack-lustre second-half display as Chelsea so nearly snatched victory at the death.
When United raced to a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes through goals from Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney, they looked to already have booked their semi-final place at Wembley.
But they eased up allowing Chelsea to claw their way back into the game though second-half goals from Edin Hazard and Ramires.
Indeed Chelsea almost triumphed in the dying minutes as Juan Mata and Hazard both had great chances to complete a remarkable recovery.
Ferguson said: “I detected tiredness as we were giving the ball away. The emotion and intensity of Tuesday (against Real Madrid in the Champions League) took its toll.
“I thought at the end of the first half legs started to go and Chelsea were the better side in the second half.
“Yet in the first half, we could easily have been four ahead.”
Ferguson admitted that without a super save from David De Gea at the end that United would have been out of the cup.
Rooney won a Reds’ recall, one of four changes from the midweek home Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.
United certainly made an electrifying start establishing a two-goal lead inside the opening 11minutes as their exit from Europe was quickly forgotten.
Hernandez made the breakthrough in the fifth minute as Hernandez maintained his remarkable scoring record against Chelsea to finding the net in five of the last six meetings.
This time Michael Carrick’s long through pass was met by the Mexican whose header looped over keeper Petr Cech for his 16th goal of the season.
Rooney quickly doubled the advantage scoring direct from a free kick which was awarded after Patrice Evra was fouled by Victor Moses. It was his 15th goal of the campaign.
It was one-way traffic as Hernandez went close again while Cech made a fine double save to deny Rooney and prevent David Luiz putting through his own goal from the rebound.
United’s biggest danger was themselves as complacency set in as they sat back inviting Chelsea to attack.
Early in the second half Ramires and David Luiz had decent goal attempts before Chelsea halved the deficit just short of the hour.
Hazard, who had only been on the field for seven minutes having replaced Victor Moses, curled in a delightful shot from the edge of the box. Suddenly it was game back on with the result by no means a foregone conclusion.
And it got worse for United as Chelsea equalised in the 68th minute with a terrific finish from Ramirez as he cut back inside and shot from the edge of the box low to the right of keeper De Gea.
United were hanging on at the death as they were twice denied by De Gea who deflected an effort from Mata with his legs for a corner while also pulling off another good stop to keep out Hazard’s stinging shot.