The Reds' striker almost meted out a different kind of punishment when he connected with Welbeck’s cross from the right-hand edge of the area. But as Chicharito’s header arrowed towards goal, Cech thrust out his left palm and pushed the ball to safety over his own crossbar. It was a truly world-class save, one which the United striker could only stand and marvel at with a big smile. De Gea’s next stop wasn’t bad either, although it went undetected with the officials feeling Mata’s strike went straight into the side netting.
With the scent of goals in the air, Sir Alex sent on Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs, both of whom netted at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. Tom Cleverley and Nani were the men to make way and they would have witnessed a second Chelsea goal from the bench, had Hazard not fired beyond the far post following a rare Carrick error. The Blues continued to press, giving Ferdinand and Jones in particular plenty to do, but the Reds couldn’t offer quite as much going forward – although Valencia went close with a shot that whistled wide of the right-hand post and Welbeck caused Azpilicueta to pick up Chelsea’s second booking.
Chelsea looked more likely to build on instead of lose their lead, even if De Gea could afford to stand and watch off-beam efforts from Ramires, Mata and Oscar. But Sir Alex’s third substitution, Ashley Young replacing Welbeck, almost paid off when the England winger played a simple yet effective pass to Evra inside the area. The Frenchman accurately cut the ball back, only for van Persie – of all people – to steer a left-foot volley well over from eight yards out.
De Gea’s routine save from Mata maintained the suspense, while yellow-card fouls by the Chelsea talisman and his fellow midfielder Oscar did nothing to help the flow of the game. Young later found van Persie directly