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Benitez's Chelsea delivers sucker punch to Manchester United's Double hopes

updated 1:01 PM EDT, Mon April 1, 2013
Chelsea are attempting to reach a fifth FA Cup final in seven years. Chelsea's quarterfinal replay win over Manchester United ended the Red Devils' hopes of winning the Double this season. Chelsea are attempting to reach a fifth FA Cup final in seven years. Chelsea's quarterfinal replay win over Manchester United ended the Red Devils' hopes of winning the Double this season.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in FA Cup quarterfinal replay
  • Demba Ba volley ends Manchester United's Double hopes
  • Chelsea still have chance to win two trophies - FA Cup and Europa League

(CNN) -- He might be counting the days until his departure from Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez continues to quietly polish his curriculum vitae for future employers.

The latest bullet point on a coaching CV -- now in its 20th year -- was Monday's 1-0 English FA Cup quarterfinal replay win over Chelsea's fierce rivals Manchester United, as Demba Ba's cleverly executed volley set up a semifinal against Manchester City at Wembley.

Appointed Chelsea's "interim" manager following the dismissal of Roberto di Matteo in November with the club's European Champions League title defense in tatters, Benitez has had to work against a backdrop of toxic fan discontent and increasing speculation that Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho will return to Stamford Bridge at the end of this season.

Unhappy about club owner Roman Abramovich's decision to appoint the Spaniard, who has previously managed Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan, a number of fans have been extremely vocal in their dislike of Benitez.

As well as abusive chanting, some fans have even come to Stamford Bridge brandishing homemade banners --"Rafael Benítez, we're just not in ter im" and "Rafa Benítez, not wanted, never wanted."

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Out of work for two years after his dismissal by Inter, Benitez has ploughed on regardless as he rebuilds his career.

The win over United ensures the 52-year-old will lead a club out at Wembley for the first time in his career. Benitez won the FA Cup with Liverpool in 2006, but the final was played in Cardiff while Wembley was being redeveloped.

Chelsea's vctory on Monday ended United's hopes of winning the double -- securing both the English Premier League and the FA Cup, a trophy the Manchester side have won a record 11 times.

Given Benitez's notoriously testy relationship with United manager Alex Ferguson, he could be forgiven for giving himself a quiet pat on the back for sending the FA Cup competition's most successful side packing from Stamford Bridge.

In the original tie at United's Old Trafford ground, Chelsea had to come from two goals behind to secure a 2-2 draw.

In the replay, Benitez's deployment of Ba, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata up front proved key -- as did Petr Cech's superb one-handed save to deny Javier Hernandez's header to keep Chelsea ahead in the game.

"I am really pleased because the players were doing a great job," Benitez told UK match broadcaster ITV.

"Manchester United are a very good team and we did really well. We have good balance between the defense and midfielders. Physically you could see one or two challenges we could not cope but with the ball we were much better.

"It was a fantastic goal by Demba Ba but everyone's performance was really pleasing. Petr Cech made some good saves but at the end of the day we deserved to win."

Inspiration from the heavens

The win ensured Benitez could still end up winning two trophies this season. The other is the second-tier Europa League, into which Chelsea dropped after becoming the first Champions League winner to be eliminated at the group stage the following season.

The Blues now face Russian side Rubin Kazan in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Thursday as Benitez seeks to add to his 2004 success with Valencia when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup.

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"I won trophies in three different countries," Benitez told the Independent newspaper on Saturday as he defended his Chelsea managerial tenure.

"They can't say 'Rafa doesn't know what he is doing.' Just see the CV. It's not just inspiration from the heavens."

Ferguson was magnaminous enough to admit that Benitez's Chelsea had given his own team plenty to think about tactically -- specifically January signing Ba, Hazard and Mata, whose clever pass set up the winning goal.

"We spoke about Demba Ba, with the players' experience of playing against him when he played for Newcastle," said Ferguson.

"He scored that exact type of goal against us a while back (for Newcastle) and we were caught napping.

"Their counter attack caused a few problems, especially with their players like Mata and Hazard. Fortunately we did not concede another goal but I couldn't really see us scoring ourselves."

Ferguson and United are now left to concentrate on their pursuit of a 20th league title, which should be a shoo-in give their 15-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City with just eight games to play, ahead of their derby clash on April 8.

Chelsea are fourth in the Premier League, two points head of Arsenal, in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.

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