It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at Old Trafford on Sunday. For both Manchester United and Chelsea, that's how they'll feel about their FA Cup clash.
The Red Devils completely dominated in the first half and took a 2-0 lead early on. Chelsea played like a team possessed in the second half, however, and roared back to tie the game (and nearly won it).
In the end, the game ended 2-2 in an exhilarating match that lived up to the hype generated by these two superpowers.
Manchester United struck first in this game, as Javier Hernandez headed home the game's first goal in the fifth minute. It came off a brilliant pass from Michael Carrick, whose lob into the box was perfectly played over keeper Petr Cech by El Chicharito.
The Red Devils wouldn't wait long to double their lead.
After Victor Moses fouled Nani on the United counter-attack, Wayne Rooney stepped up to take a free kick from just outside and to the left of the Chelsea box. His curling effort to the far post didn't find the head of a teammate, but it continued into the net, as Cech anticipated a header.
Just 12 minutes into the game, United had a 2-0 lead.
United continued to push in the first half. Nani's brilliant cross into the box would be chipped just over the bar by Hernandez, and Rooney later sent another cross directly at Cech, who then made a second brilliant save after defender David Luiz inexplicably headed the ball back toward goal.
United had Chelsea on the ropes, and only 25 minutes had passed in the contest. Chelsea created a few opportunities throughout the half but lacked the final touch needed to score.
The second half continued in the same vein as the end of the first half, with Chelsea ratcheting up the pressure but unable to find that last pass or shot to beat United—at least until Eden Hazard entered the game.
The star winger cut the lead in half on an absolutely brilliant shot from outside the box that curled and dipped above keeper David de Gea, who never had a chance. Suddenly, Chelsea had hope.
And Chelsea wasn't done.
In the 68th minute, Demba Ba held up the ball on the counter and found Oscar streaking down the middle of the field. The young Brazilian then found Ramires tearing down the right side, and Ramires slotted home the game-tying shot after taking a deft touch to put the ball on his left foot.
Just like that, a game completely dominated by Manchester United early on was all tied up.
Both teams pressured the opposing goal down the stretch, and de Gea saved the game for Manchester United in the 90th minute. Juan Mata deftly controlled a long pass at the edge of the box, turned in past the defense and ripped a shot at goal, which de Gea just deflected wide.
The game justifiably ended in a 2-2 tie, with both teams feeling as though they should have won but likely relieved that they didn't lose. The replay will now head back to Stamford Bridge.
Nani, Manchester United: A-
Nani was excellent in this game, regularly pressuring the Chelsea defense down the wing and peppering the box with solid crosses. His run at Moses set up the Rooney goal, and he was active throughout. The man thought to be a goner after the year played very well in this one.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea: A
Hazard's brilliant goal saved this game for a Chelsea side that looked overmatched for much of the first half. You could make the argument that Hazard should have started the game over Oscar, but his substitution in the second half was timely, and his impact was almost immediately felt.
Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United: A
Demba Ba will have nightmares about Ferdinand after this game. The wily defender totally won his battle with the Chelsea striker, winning back contested balls and keeping Ba from scoring chances throughout this match. United wasn't nearly as solid in the second half, but Ferdinand played a very solid match.
Frank Lampard, Chelsea: C
Lampard just wasn't the right man for the job today. He left the Blues defense vulnerable, he wasn't able to facilitate scoring opportunities and Chelsea simply looked a far better side after he was subbed out in the second half. Chelsea remains a team without a top starting 11—and Lampard has played very well this year—but on Sunday he was more hindrance than help for the Blues.
Javier Hernandez, Manchester United: A-
He didn't last the whole game, but there wasn't a more dangerous player in the first half than El Chicharito. His runs were piercing, his finish on the goal was pure brilliance and the Chelsea back line didn't have an answer for him in the first half.
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