In Brief

Maurizio Sarri on the brink as Chelsea fans call for his sacking

Man Utd ease into the FA Cup quarter-finals with 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge

FA Cup fifth round  Chelsea 0 Manchester United 2

The smart money says it will be unlucky 13 for Maurizio Sarri with the Chelsea manager increasingly likely to be axed before the end of the month.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich has made 12 managerial changes since taking possession of the club in 2003, and rarely in that time has his team suffered a slump like the one they are now in.

Last night’s 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester United signalled the end of the holders’s participation in the FA Cup, and with just two victories in the Premier League in 2019 the Blues are not just out of the title race but they are no longer in the top four.

Abramovich was not present at Stamford Bridge to see United ease their way into the FA Cup quarter-finals, but the Russian is expected to be at Wembley Stadium on Sunday when Chelsea play Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.

Defeat against the Sky Blues would likely be the final straw for Abramovich, who will doubtless have been told of the fans’ growing anger with their team and their manager. On social media the Chelsea supporters made their feelings clear with the #SarriOut hashtag trending on Twitter.

Inside the stadium chants of disgruntlement rang out as United took control of the tie, inspired by another outstanding display from Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman teed up Ander Herrera for the opening goal on 31 minutes and then doubled United’s advantage with a diving header on the stroke of half-time.

Dazed and confused

“We played confused football in the second half but in the first half we played well,” reflected Sarri, who was accused of confusion himself for his decision to bring on defender Davide Zappacosta in place of Cesar Azpilicueta late on, leaving frontman Callum Hudson-Odoi on the bench.

Asked if he was concerned about the boos that greeted the half-time and full-time whistles, Sarri replied: “I’m worried about the result but not about the fans’ reaction because I understand the situation. I can understand our fans because the result wasn’t really good and we are out of the FA Cup.”

Bridge over troubled waters

If Sarri has lost the fans, it also appears increasingly apparent that he has lost the confidence of the dressing room.

Only Eden Hazard put in a committed performance and Sarri hardly bristled with confidence when he was quizzed about the morale of his squad.

“I think the players are with me,” he said. “I am not sure but I think so. I think the situation with the players is a really very good relationship but the relationship is not so important.

“It’s important to play, it’s important to get good results.”

Massive attack

Ironically, the situation at Chelsea is very similar to the one that led to the dismissal in December of Jose Mourinho as Man Utd’s manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival at Old Trafford has transformed the Red Devils, and last night’s victory continued their unbeaten streak in domestic competitions.

“It’s a massive result,” declared the Norwegian. “We asked our midfielders to press higher and get into the box and it worked. The defending in the second half was fantastic.”

What they’re saying about Sarri

Chris Sutton: “This is Maurizio Sarri’s last game at Chelsea. The Italian job is over for them.”

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: “Chelsea are in trouble. Something needs to change.”

Lee Dixon: “Sarri has got some serious thinking to do. The team are not responding to anything he does.”

Martin Keown: “They’re two goals down and he’s put a defender on! Is it a political move from the manager because it’s a stupid one if it is.”

Man Utd fans last night: “You’re getting sacked in the morning.”

Chelsea fans last night: “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

FA Cup quarter-final draw

United’s reward for their 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge is a trip to Wolves in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The last-eight ties will be played from 15-18 March and the winners will progress to the semi-finals at Wembley.

  • Swansea City vs. Manchester City 
  • Watford vs. Crystal Palace 
  • Wolves vs. Manchester United 
  • Millwall vs. Brighton

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