Stubborn Sarri unruffled as Blues flop again

Midfielder Ander Herrera heading past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to score Manchester United's opening goal in their 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win at Stamford Bridge on Monday. It was a rematch of last season's final which Chelsea won 1-0.
Midfielder Ander Herrera heading past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to score Manchester United's opening goal in their 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win at Stamford Bridge on Monday. It was a rematch of last season's final which Chelsea won 1-0.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Maurizio Sarri insists he is not worried about being sacked as Chelsea manager despite his side's lacklustre 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round loss to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Monday.

He endured chants of "You don't know what you're doing" and "You're getting sacked in the morning", as Chelsea fans showed their frustration at the club's fifth defeat in their last 10 games.

Two first-half goals from Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba sealed victory for United as the Cup holders failed to muster a shot on target after the 11th minute, despite having 67 per cent of possession in total.

Asked if he was worried about his job, Sarri said: "It's not my problem.

"I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now. I am worried about the results, not about the fans.

"I can understand our fans, because the result wasn't really good. We are out of the FA Cup."

It was the Italian's refusal to change his tactics, even to countenance a Plan B, that angered the Chelsea faithful.

Plan A certainly did not work. His substitutions were like for like, Willian for Pedro, Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic, Davide Zappacosta for Cesar Azpilicueta, when he could have sent on Callum Hudson-Odoi for additional firepower.

There was no urgency in their play, no variety beyond long passes from David Luiz, and Jorginho was again a problem rather than a solution as a holding midfielder.

UNCONCERNED

I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now. I am worried about the results, not about the fans.

MAURIZIO SARRI, Chelsea manager, brushing off supporters' calls for his dismissal amid an awful run.

The contrast with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was quite the opposite. The Norwegian has morphed from being United's caretaker boss to a manager with a strong attacking philosophy of his own. Crucially, it is an adaptable philosophy.

Missing the injured forwards Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, Solskjaer played Juan Mata at the tip of a midfield diamond, Herrera and Pogba tucked in with Nemanja Matic holding.

It was similar to their shape that worked so well in the 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at Wembley last month.

Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford started up front and the changed formation set the tone for United's more incisive attacking.

Sarri believes his situation will be improved significantly if Chelsea can string together a winning run.

"It's really very easy. If we are able to win three or four matches in a row, it will be easy," he said.

Solskjaer, meanwhile, has urged his men to build on their win and go all the way.

"We want to get to the final," he said. "It'll be a tough away (quarter-final) game against Wolves, but it seems like our fans love the away games with (all) that support behind the goal.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'Stubborn Sarri unruffled as Blues flop again'. Print Edition | Subscribe