The visitors begun brightly, moving the ball around with intent and pushing forward, but found themselves placed on the back-foot all evening after Herrera received his marching orders in the first half.
Chelsea eventually went ahead through a superb N’Golo Kante strike and created further openings, but Man United remained resolute and almost grabbed an equaliser following some sensational work from Marcus Rashford.
Mourinho, speaking after the game, refused to acknowledge the controversy surrounding the Spaniard’s booking but was quick to express his gratitude towards the travelling reds.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 13, 2017
“I don’t speak [about the red card],” he said “I just want to say that I’m really proud of my players and Manchester United fans.
“We have a very important match on Thursday and I want to rest a little bit and prepare as best as we can.
“Everybody can analyse from different perspectives but we all watch the match until the red card and after the red card. So we can compare the decisions of the two yellow cards, in this case with others which were not given.
“I don’t want to go in that direction. Michael Oliver is a referee with fantastic potential but in four matches he has given three penalties and a red card. I cannot change that.
“I shook his hand and said many congratulations.”
Sometimes the remarks of a manager – or any individual, actually – can be understood better through looking at what wasn’t said.
The Portuguese would have been justified in pointing out the fact that Herrera – and indeed pretty much any other midfielder of his ilk at this level – employs the same ferocious, ‘tactical foul’ approach in every game, especially when a place at Wembley is at stake. He could have reminded everybody of the fact that Herrera was sent off for doing what so many players do on a regular basis. But this is a maturer, more measured Mourinho: such remarks, he could tell, would only cause further media chatter and possibly another letter from the FA.
Instead, he chose to acknowledge that fact that, against (easily) the best team in England, United put their opponent to the sword, with their support refusing to quieten down until well after full time.