Manchester United, fresh from their defeat to PSG, will next be up against Chelsea in the FA Cup. The Red Devils have known defeat only once under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the Blues are the likely opponents to double that particular tally.
With the run of games that Sarri’s side has been having, Chelsea will be desperate for a win. Let us have a look at what would happen if that does occur:
1. Another Trophyless Season for United
Irrespective of how their second leg against PSG goes, a defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup will mean that the Red Devils will end this season doomed to be trophyless yet again. The difficulty of the European competition will mean that the Champions League is an unrealistic ambition for Solskjaer to nurture.
As of such, defeat even in the FA Cup will further United’s trend to not compete for titles anymore. This is worrisome, as the fans that saw massive title hauls under Sir Alex Ferguson are now bereft of even minor victories.
2. Chelsea – Lethal to United’s Ambitions
If Monday night also ends in a Chelsea victory, it will be the third consecutive time that the London club has ended United’s hopes in the FA Cup.
In 2017, the quarter-final matchup between the two sides was won by Chelsea, while last campaign it had come down to the finals for the Blues to emerge triumphantly.
If this season also goes a similar path, United supporters will be dreading the very prospect of drawing Chelsea in a domestic tournament ever again.
3. Honeymoon Period Officially Over
With a second consecutive defeat to a big opponent, the honeymoon period that the club has been enjoying under Solskjaer will finally be over. What makes things worse is that the Liverpool game in the Premier League has the potential of making it a hattrick of losses for the Norwegian.
As of such, it will be interesting to see whether the club legend will still command the unwavering support of the fans who have been quite vocal in their love for his style of play. More importantly, how he will alter his approach towards the end of this season will also be crucial.
4. Pochettino Back in the Running?
With another defeat, Mauricio Pochettino will temporarily overtake Solskjaer as the favorite for the United gig come summer. While the Norwegian gaffer was flying quite high, the draw to Burnley and the loss to PSG have brought things back into perspective.
Now, if his tactics can’t outsmart that of Sarri’s in the FA Cup, Solskjaer ambition of continuing on at the Theatre of Dreams will certainly be hurt further.
All in all, it will be a clash to savor and a headache of a choice for the higher-ups at Old Trafford to make, given the sheer brilliance of the two relatively young managerial options.
5. Heavily Reliant on Martial and Lingard
As shown against PSG in the second half mid-week, Solskjaer’s style is heavily reliant on Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard being in form. The ethos the duo brings to the quintessential Solskjaer-lineup is there for all to see.
However, with both of them injured for the Chelsea game as well, if another defeat is on the line, their reliance may transform from a genius ploy to a desperate inclusion.
This may also point to a larger problem in the Norwegian’s tactics wherein if a few top stars aren’t performing, the entire lineup seems to collapse in on itself, particularly in the offense.
6. Sarri Saved?
By engineering a victory against United, Sarri can potentially buy more time for himself at Stamford Bridge, particularly in view of the recent run of games that his lads have been having.
The problem at the heart of Chelsea’s issues seems to be that the gaffer’s tactics haven’t fully seeped through. By eliminating a club like United, a massive statement will have been made, and the manager’s job may be secure for a few more months.
Further, the FA Cup may also provide a viable route for Sarri, as a piece of silverware can certainly aid his hopes of longevity in the top-spot.
7. Stamford Bridge Curse Continues
It is a grueling task for United to make the journey to Stamford Bridge and emerge from there with a positive. The Mancunian giants may have found their toughest destination in the Premier League. The worrying trend is that this isn’t a recent issue, as even Sir Alex Ferguson struggled immensely to reign victorious over there.
In fact, the last time United were able to secure a win at Stamford Bridge was in 2012, and each encounter between the two sides here has been an attempt from the Red Devils to break that arduous curse. Another journey gone in vain?