THERE’S not much point trying to park the bus when you’ve got a goalkeeper who can’t catch.
If this FA Cup semi-final was a disaster for David De Gea, it was also an absolute shocker for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Chelsea are heading back to Wembley to meet Arsenal on Saturday week – meaning those two London clubs will have won nine of the first 14 FA Cup finals to be held at this version of the national stadium.
But this was a victory served up to them on a plate by Manchester United boss Solskjaer and keeper De Gea – not that you’d fancy the Spaniard to serve anything up on a plate without spilling it just now.
De Gea made shocking errors to gift goals to Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount either side of half-time.
And he might also have prevented a Harry Maguire own goal for Chelsea’s third as United’s 19-match unbeaten run was toasted by Frank Lampard’s team.
But Solskjaer’s weirdly defensive team selection had already handed the initiative to Chelsea.
Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood were all benched as Solskjaer opted for five at the back and two holding midfielders.
Belt, braces, another belt. But a bloody great hole in the seat of his pants, courtesy of De Gea.
The one change Solskjaer had been expected to make – but didn’t – proving the worst selection of all.
Sergio Romero has been the Norwegian’s Cup keeper all season but here he opted for De Gea and saw that decision back-fire explosively.
United had been in rattling form since the restart, with a front five which had been clicking beautifully and 20 goals in their last seven matches.
Solskjaer’s side had defeated Chelsea three times this season – most recently with a line-up very similar to this one winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League in February.
So this was a case of a manager trying to be too clever rather than playing to his obvious current strengths.
And Solskjaer certainly wasn’t true to the ‘glory, glory Man Utd’ ethos he normally cherishes.
Sometimes, simplicity is bliss and the old adage about never changing a winning team – or at least a winning system – has lasted the test of time for a reason.
In fairness to Solskjaer, he did realise his mistake just before De Gea’s errors.
When Eric Bailly had to be stretchered off after being head-butted by his captain Harry Maguire, he sent on Martial.
Perhaps that is what happens when you select too many centre-halves – two of them end up going for the same ball.
And 12 minutes into the second half, Greenwood and Pogba were on – with the horse having already bolted.
It was a strange old Cup semi-final, with no fans and few attacking players on either side.
Lampard also played a back five and, with both clubs desperate to nail down a Champions League place over the next seven days, it appeared from their team sheets that the Cup was the priority of neither manager.
Indeed, you looked at the team selections and suspected it might have been more entertaining to watch a nine-a-side match between the two benches.
Solskjaer had been bristling from suggestions from Lampard that Bruno Fernandes was a clever winner of penalties – not that the Chelsea manager was doing much more than stating the bleeding obvious.
The Portuguese maestro, at least, survived Solskjaer’s cull and started the match.
It was left to the defenders to inject some positivity – and Chelsea’s were soon threatening United’s goal.
First Reece James boomed a shot from 30 yards which De Gea pushed away, then Cesar Azpilicueta centred from the right and Marcos Alonso headed over from close range at the back stick.
It was all Chelsea, United rarely venturing over halfway and Giroud giving Maguire a decent physical battering.
Willy Caballero did have to tip a dipping Fernandes free-kick over the bar.
Then it was back to Chelsea’s defenders, this time Kurt Zouma heading over from a Mason Mount centre.
When Bailly felt the full force of Maguire massive bonce, as both men challenged Giroud in the air, it was Solskjaer’s signal to rip up his plan and replace him with Martial – reverting to a flat back.
But in the 11th minute of injury first-half time, for the prolonged stoppage to treat Bailly, Azpilicueta centred low and Giroud nipped in front of Victor Lindelof to flick it with the outside of his boot.
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The effort embarrassed De Gea, with the ball squirming under the Spaniard’s body in horrifying slow-mo.
Solskjaer sent his men out early for the second half.
But within a minute, Mount drove one from distance – perhaps sensing De Gea’s state of mind.
And the United keeper allowed it to slip through his grasp again.
Rashford flashed a shot across goal and Maguire failed to take advantage of a free header before De Gea made a decent save from Giroud.
With United’s frustrations beginning to tell, Pogba was booked for a lunge at Kovacic.
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And then came the third, Alonso crossing and Maguire beating De Gea at his near post, under pressure from Antonio Rudiger.
Five minutes from time, Chelsea sub Callum Hudson-Odoi tripped Martial and Fernandes sent Caballero the wrong way from the spot.
“Glory, Glory Man Utd” blared out from Wembley’s PA system but there was precious little of that.