The Blues’ defence of the FA Cup is over as we failed to score at home in this competition for the first time in 20 years.
Unanswered goals before the break from Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba mean Manchester United exact some revenge for our Cup victories over them in the last two seasons. Incidentally it was the team from Old Trafford who last kept a clean sheet here in the FA Cup, 47 games and two decades ago.
Tonight it was for long periods an even contest, but also one short of clear opportunities. When headed chances arrived the way of Herrera and Pogba in a 15-minute period before half-time, they were clinically taken. David Luiz, Pedro and Gonzalo Higuain had all had efforts saved or put wide when the game was goalless.
The visitors shut up shop in the second period, content to counter. Eden Hazard went closest to getting a goal back but a deflection took his effort over the bar, and with it went any hopes we had of retaining the FA Cup.
There is little time for reflection with Malmo visiting the Bridge on Thursday evening, and then the small matter of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
Tonight’s line-up bore more similarities to the one selected at Man City rather than Malmo, with Mateo Kovacic for Ross Barkley the only change from the Etihad humbling eight days ago. Cesar Azpilicueta made his 300th Chelsea start.
The visitors, without the injured Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, selected Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford in attack with Juan Mata behind them.
On a fresh winter’s evening in west London it was the visitors from Manchester who had the better of the opening 10 minutes as Rashford and Lukaku drifted wide to find space. With a minute played, it needed a stretching David Luiz to intercept a dangerous Lukaku centre ahead of Rashford.
The Belgian then ballooned a volley over as Rashford returned the favour, and Chris Smalling, unmarked, headed straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga from an angle.
On 11 minutes, the Blues burst into life. A wobbling free-kick from David Luiz was bungled away by Sergio Romero as far as Pedro, whose sweetly-struck follow-up was grabbed by the Man Utd stopper at the second attempt. Eden Hazard then curled a whisker wide after linking up with Marcos Alonso.
As the pace of the game remained high, Herrera forced a flying save from another graduate of the Athletic Bilbao academy, Kepa.
Nemanja Matic was the first man booked, for a cynical foul on Hazard in midfield, and Ashley Young followed him midway through the half after taking out Pedro.
Between those yellow cards, Gonzalo Higuain had his first sightings of goal. First, he expertly brought down Jorginho’s chipped pass, but his second touch took him too wide to get an effort on target. He had an aerial opportunity a minute later, planting a header wide from Azpilicueta’s cross.
There was a scare when Kepa let the ball run across him very close to his own goal and he poked clear on the stretch before Rashford could tackle him. David Luiz headed away from harm’s danger.
After an even opening half-hour, Man Utd struck the first blow. With Azpilicueta upfield, Pogba had space wide on the left to turn and cross, and there was Herrera stealing round the back to nod into the net from close range.
Things went from bad to worse on the stroke of half-time. Pogba pinched possession in midfield and slipped Rashford down the right, who took his time before whipping in a delicious cross. Pogba had continued his run and his header had too much power for Kepa, who got a hand to it but couldn’t stop it finding the corner.
Higuain had a low strike blocked by Smalling when play resumed, and from the resulting corner Rashford countered and nearly set up an easy chance for Lukaku. Thankfully David Luiz got back in the nick of time to intercept.
Matic was perhaps fortunate to avoid a second yellow when he fouled Kante moments after halting Hazard.
Just before the hour, Sarri shuffled his pack, bringing Willian on for Pedro. With a two-lead to overturn, the onus was on us to break down a stubborn visiting rearguard.
Hazard tried to make something happen when he accelerated into the box, cut inside on to his left-foot and saw Luke Shaw throw himself at his effort, deflecting it just over.
Although we had the vast share of possession and territory in the 25 minutes that followed, it proved the last meaningful opportunity we created on a disappointing night at the Bridge.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c) (Zappacosta 82), Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 71); Pedro (Willian 58), Higuain, Hazard.
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.
Booked Rudiger 60, Kante 65
Man United (4-diamond-2): Romero; Young (c), Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Matic; Herrera, Pogba; Mata (Perreira 76); Rashford (McTominay 90+4), Lukaku (Sanchez 73).
Unused subs De Gea, Bailly, Dalot, Fred.
Scorers Herrera 31, Pogba 45
Booked Matic 15, Young 21
Referee Kevin Friend