Man Utd 'lucky to be in the Cup' after losing 2-0 lead to Chelsea
Winner of replay will meet Manchester City in semi-final after Chelsea pull back to 2-2 draw
ALEX FERGUSON admitted Manchester United are fortunate to be still in the FA Cup after drawing 2-2 with Chelsea in their quarter-final clash at Old Trafford. United raced into an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Javier Hernandez on five minutes and Wayne Rooney six minutes later, but the Blues bounced back in the second half.
Eden Hazard scored on 59 minutes before Ramires levelled for the visitors nine minutes later to leave United hanging on for a replay. "We're lucky to be in the Cup. We just ran out of legs and Chelsea were far the better team in the second half," said Ferguson, who nonetheless went easy on his players for allowing the Blues back into the game.
"I can't be critical of my side because the running they had to do on Tuesday night in the Champions League, against a really top side in Real Madrid, had its bearing on today's result, no doubt about that."
The two sides will now try again, an additional fixture both could do without as the league campaign nears its climax. "I don't know when it's going to be played mind you," said Ferguson. "But the only thing we can say is we're still in the Cup."
Yet the incentive to win is strong after yesterday's semi-final draw pitted the winner of the Man Utd-Chelsea replay against Manchester City on the weekend of 13/14 April.
"We have to think about the first game and then afterwards we will think about City," said Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez when asked about the prospect of playing the Sky Blues in the last four. "It will be tough because United are a great side."
Manchester City booked their place in the last four courtesy of a thumping 5-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday, a game in which Carlos Tevez netted a hat-trick with a goal each for Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva.
Before the semi-final draw was made, City manager Robert Mancini expressed his hope that the two Manchester clubs would be kept apart until the final "because in the last two years United and City have been the best teams in England".
Instead, two of the three Premier League powerhouses are destined to fail to reach Wembley, thereby allowing one of England's lesser lights to progress to the final at the Twin Towers on May 11.
Wigan, who thrashed Everton 3-0 on Saturday, are drawn against either Millwall or Blackburn in the other semi-final, the first time the Latics have reached the last four of the tournament. "We want Cup success," declared Wigan manager Roberto Martinez.
So does club chairman Dave Whelan. He was 23 when he broke his leg playing for Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Not only did Wolves go on to win the game 3-0 but the injury ended Whelan's professional career. An FA Cup win over one of the two Manchester clubs would go a long way to erase those painful memories.