Millennium Post

Chelsea set to feel United backlash

A season that has promised so much for Manchester United could fizzle out into something of a disappointment if the team fails to recover from a heartbreaking Champions League exit in time for Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Chelsea.

United’s pain is still raw following its elimination by Real Madrid, which came about in controversial circumstances following the harsh sending-off of Portugal winger Nani.

Having started the week dreaming of the treble, United could yet end it with just one trophy to play for, although assistant coach Mike Phelan has promised a backlash from his players.

‘It won’t be a problem lifting them,’ said Phelan, the only member of United’s coaching or playing staff to speak out since the Madrid loss.  ‘The players will rally round, the staff will rally round and we’ll be Manchester United right the way through until the end of May.’

Winning the Premier League-FA Cup double would still be a major feat, something United manager Alex Ferguson has achieved three times already -- in 1994, `96 and `99.

The league already appears wrapped up, with United 12 points clear with 10 games left. The FA Cup is more of a lottery, with Manchester City and Everton still involved at the last-eight stage and among the teams seeking a trip to Wembley for the semifinals.

Matches between United and Chelsea are rarely without incident and excitement.

They have already met in the League Cup this season, with Chelsea winning 5-4 at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 31.

That match came four days after United’s 3-2 victory at the same ground, in a game marred by accusations of racist abuse made by Chelsea midfielder Ramires against referee Mark Clattenburg.

The Europa League and the FA Cup are the two remaining hopes for Benitez, whose position is now more secure than it looked last week after.

‘The players are behind him,’ Chelsea striker Demba Ba said this week. ‘It doesn’t matter who you put in (the team), the players should be behind him because he is there and has our full support.’   
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