1) New managerial rivalry is developing
José Mourinho tends to single out those he considers threats and Antonio Conte, the permanent successor to his crown, is his target of choice. Having spent the buildup suggesting Chelsea play a more defensive style of football than under his stewardship, and that the Premier League leaders have benefited from a lack of European football, all that frustration that has simmered since the 4-0 humiliation here in October came pouring out. The pair do not know each other well but there is needle already to their relationship. The fourth official, Mike Jones, found himself sandwiched as they screamed at each other, an exchange which made Mourinho airing his post-mach complaint into the Italian’s ear back in the autumn feel tame. Conte had previously been unflappable all season. Mourinho has got under his skin.
2) Mourinho is no longer Special in these parts
He had the same effect on some of those who recently worshipped him. The Manchester United manager, Mourinho, was already convinced Chelsea’s players were going to ground too eagerly when he reacted furiously as Eden Hazard crumpled under Paul Pogba’s challenge, demanding sanction from the officials. A section of the home support, fans who used to love his tantrums, immediately showered the Portuguese with abuse, to which he responded by pointing at the pitch and showing them three fingers for the trio of titles he won while at Stamford Bridge. That gesture was repeated before the interval as the chants – “You’re not special any more” and “Judas” – flared at every flashpoint. The makeup of the home support may differ slightly for FA Cup fixtures but the sentiment was clear. Chelsea have moved on.
3) Real Madrid will have been on goalkeeper watch
Arguably the two best goalkeepers in England were on show, players whose performances have drawn covetous glances from Real Madrid. Thibaut Courtois, who had benefited from Conte ditching his policy of playing Asmir Begovic in cup games, conjured a fine block to deny Marcus Rashford but David de Gea found life more frantic. The Spaniard reacted superbly to turn away Eden Hazard’s low attempt early on, a save made all the more remarkable by the shot flicking off Matteo Darmian en route. Real will have taken note.
4) Pogba powerless to halt stampeding Kanté
The simplistic theory doing the rounds goes that Leicester bought the Premier League for £5.6m and Chelsea have now done likewise for nearer £32m. Kanté’s goal, his second against United this season, capped a trademark performance where he bullied bigger men off the ball and stampeded around the pitch tirelessly. Yet his display was made to look all the more impressive by his compatriot Paul Pogba’s inability to wrest any control for the visitors. United’s £89m signing had started well enough and was badly hindered by Ander Herrera’s dismissal but this team is still entitled to demand more than he is supplying at present. He has the physique, the ability and the presence but to witness him surrendering possession so easily – and often in dangerous areas – must privately infuriate his manager, particularly with Kanté showing what United could have had.
5) Chelsea have Double vision
Carlo Ancelotti achieved Chelsea’s only Premier League and FA Cup Double in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge. Now Conte, his compatriot and friend, can aspire to emulating that feat. This was a significant victory, for all that United will bemoan Hazard’s collapse to earn Herrera his second caution. The visitors have been transformed since losing here in the league and, while depleted by injury and suspension, had not arrived daunted. The ferocity with which they began the contest demonstrated as much, and few teams have tested Chelsea on home territory like this of late. But Chelsea’s momentum remains intact, their two-pronged assault on silverware edging closer to fruition. They have now gone 12 games unbeaten against these opponents, and the holders are out. Conte can sense reward.
The Guardian Sport