Manchester United's quest to win the FA Cup ended in Easter heartache, but there was still some endeavour to admire in Monday's replay defeat to Chelsea.
After careful consideration, ManUtd.com's editorial team picked out five of Sir Alex Ferguson's men who might be considered for the Man of the Match award. Given the dearth of goals, it's not surprising that three of the shortlisted players ply their trade at or towards the back, beginning with David De Gea.
It was De Gea's last-gasp save from Juan Mata at Old Trafford that ultimately forced this replay and he thwarted his fellow Spaniard again at Stamford Bridge, making a fine save at the near post that went unnoticed by the officials - a goal-kick being awarded instead of a corner. Some of the number one's best work was in the less glamorous part of the goalkeeper's game, coming from his line convincingly to catch or clear the ball when United were under the cosh. And for all of Chelsea's pressure, De Gea was only beaten, of course, by a brilliant Demba Ba strike having earlier saved well with his feet from the striker.
Rio Ferdinand faced adversity from the first whistle with the Chelsea fans booing his every touch but he remained in commanding form, reading the game with his normal, effortless ease and helping to restrict the home side to largely innocuous shots from distance. It needed a sublime ball from Juan Mata to finally give Ba enough room away from Rio to break the deadlock.
Phil Jones was at the centre of Sir Alex's tactical surprise, playing not at right-back as the team list appeared to suggest but in midfield. The versatile 21-year-old tucked into his task with relish, aiding Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in the difficult contest with Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. A timely rescue tackle on the