John Obi Mikel hopes the second-half fightback at Manchester United will prove the catalyst for Chelsea to finish a tumultuous season on a high.
The holders appeared likely to exit the FA Cup after going 2-0 down 11 minutes into the quarter-final at Old Trafford and many wondered if Rafael Benitez’s spell in interim charge would come to a premature end as a result of a heavy defeat to an old rival.
But Chelsea responded with second-half goals from substitute Eden Hazard and Ramires to force a replay, while Mikel too was influential after coming off the bench.
“Let’s hope this game will put us back on a good track and we keep going on from here to end the season very well,” Mikel said.
“This result has come at a crucial time where we just have to start putting on good performances but the tie is not yet done. You can never write off Manchester United at any time. At Stamford Bridge we have to make sure we put this tie away.”
At Old Trafford, as he has been at Stamford Bridge since his November appointment, Benitez was the subject of torrents of vitriol due to his prior association with Liverpool.
Following the fifth-round win at Middlesbrough, the Spaniard urged the Blues support to turn their focus to backing the team, as he will leave at the end of the season. Mikel repeated the call for a united front.
“Sometimes it doesn’t help when the fans are not happy,” the Nigeria midfielder added. “This is when we need them the most. Let’s hope we can all go through the rest of the season together. Chelsea fans have always been great and I know they will continue to be great with the players.”
Meanwhile, Michael Carrick would be happy to sacrifice the regular thrills and spills of Manchester United’s meetings with Chelsea for a simple 1-0 win in their FA Cup quarter-final replay. The last five meetings between the sides have yielded 28 goals but Carrick would prefer that amazing average to start coming down.
“There have been quite a few goals in games between us, I am not quite sure why,” said Carrick. “It is exciting to watch. It is not so exciting to play in. I would take 1-0 all day.”
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