After both teams had progressed through to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup with victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United respectively, Chelsea and Manchester United were drawn to meet at Stamford Bridge, with a place in the quarter-finals awaiting the winner.
As expected, Roberto Di Matteo and Sir Alex Ferguson made several alterations to their sides. The Chelsea manager included the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Oriel Romeu and Lucas Piazon in his starting lineup, while Ferguson opted to play Alexander Buttner, Scott Wootton and Michael Keane in defence.
This fixture came three days after referee Mark Clattenburg was wrongly accused of "inappropriate language" towards John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata, but that controversy was put aside as the Blues and the Red Devils put on a show for the 41,126 in attendance.
However, David Luiz equalised from the penalty spot nine minutes later after Victor Moses was hauled down, but the Brazilian turned villain just before the break when his mistake allowed Anderson to play in Javier Hernandez to put United ahead after an enthralling first 45 minutes.
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Chelsea returned for the second half with a renewed vigour to get back on level terms, and they succeeded when Gary Cahill lost his marker to meet a Mata corner and head the ball into the bottom corner.
But their lead last just five minutes as United quickly regained the advantage. Anderson was proving an influential figure in the heart of Manchester United's midfield, and he played a delightful one-two with Nani to allow the Portuguese winger to flick the ball over Cech from six yards.
Daniel Sturridge and Cesar Azpilicueta both wasted opportunities for Chelsea as United's young backline continued to hold firm, and Ferguson placed extra faith in youth by bringing on Ryan Tunnicliffe in place of Anderson for the final nine minutes.
However, just as it appeared that the away side were going to hold on for a memorable triumph in West London, Wootton bundled over Ramires in the penalty area, and Eden Hazard stepped up to convert the kick.
It was the ultimate sucker-punch to United, who would have felt that they had deserved to progress through to the next round, but Hazard's spot kick gave them the momentum, and Chelsea dominated the extra 30 minutes.
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Wootton's composure had been broken after conceding the late penalty in normal time, and it was his error that allowed Chelsea to move into the lead through Sturridge, who pounced on the defender's weak back-pass to round Anders Lindegaard and tap into an empty net.
Luiz struck the crossbar as the Blues attempted to seal their passage through to the last eight, and four minutes before the final whistle, their place was confirmed when Ramires netted the eighth goal of the night.
There was still time for Manchester United to net a consolation goal through Giggs, who confidently struck home a penalty after Hernandez was fouled by Azpilicueta, but that was the final action of a pulsating cup tie.
Chelsea were handed a tricky game away at Leeds United in the quarter-finals, but a rampant second-half display saw the Blues, now under the stewardship of Rafael Benitez, earn a 5-1 victory.
However, their run in the competition was brought to an end at the semi-final stage after Swansea City out-fought Chelsea in both legs of their last-four fixture to record a 2-0 aggregate success