There have been a number of signature performances for Chelsea in Frank Lampard’s first campaign in charge – Ajax away in the Champions League, Liverpool at home in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the Premier League all readily spring to mind – and here was another one.
Overpowering 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 with the way he motivated his players. In other words, Chelsea defeated United all ends up.
This was as comprehensive as it gets and was humiliating for the defeated.
At the same time, this was Chelsea’s first victory over United since the 2018 FA Cup final which, also, just happened to be the last time that De Gea played in this competition. Of all the questionable decisions taken by Solskjaer for this fixture, including his first-choice goalkeeper ahead of his cup alternative, Sergio Romero, was surely one he did not think would cause controversy. But so poor was De Gea’s presentation that the 29-year-old’s future, because of his continued inconsistency, has to be in serious doubt.
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 club’s highest-paid player, and the world’s best paid-goalkeeper, looks like 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 who was taken to hospital.