Ok, so here’s the report that I got down to pen. Let me cut to it right away without much fuss.
Read on after the jump.
Manchester United went to Stamford Bridge with far greater desire than they could muster at Anfield the week before. All the pre-match prattle, Fergie’s mood etc, pointed towards a desire to get something from the game. One could say that, despite all the media hoo-haa about a defeat destroying our chances at the title, we would have taken a draw before the game started considering the way we have been playing, as well as the way Chelsea have been so far. I would have taken a draw if it was offered to me before the game.
But after having seen the game I wouldn’t say the same. While it was a fair result, (and we could have lost it had it not been for the profligacy of Anelka and Joe Cole) I had the feeling that, like against Liverpool, we somehow switched off our urge to attack and asked the opposition to score a goal.
First things first though. Eyebrows were raised at the team selection, but the only selection I disagreed with was the choice of Neville over Brown. I thought for a game like this, Brown, having sat out the Villarreal game, would have more energy than Neville. I still stand by that belief: Brown deserved to start on Sunday.
Fergie got the midfield spot on though. Everyone in midfield (bar Scholes — but Scholes would find time on the ball anyway) was tailor made for the high work rate of Chelsea’s midfield. It was the substitutions subsequently that I thought the boss got wrong. That was where Chelsea went on the offensive and managed to bypass our midfield.
The first part of the game was breathtaking stuff, and made me very happy. We zipped the ball around, and in a move that involved Berbatov, Evra and Rooney we scored our first goal to go 1-0 up.
The midfield was up for whatever challenge Chelsea had to throw at us until Fergie decided to bring on O’Shea — that move never made sense to me.
Regarding Tevez’s exclusion it was terribly unfair on the lad, but then again, I’m sure Fergie would have brought him on if EVDS hadn’t gone off injured.
I mentioned yesterday about some players standing out for me and I will talk a little more about them.
Park Ji-Sung: I love the Korean and I felt bad for him when a lot of the United support seemed to care less for him in his debut season. He brings a lot more into the team and can run for you all day. And night. He wasn’t even fully fit on Sunday, but he ran himself to the ground. Full marks, or whatever, to him. He was what we missed at Anfield.
Darren Fletcher: I’ll say it and say it out loud. This man is a revelation this season. He has always been good in the big games, but boy can he run. He makes more forward runs into the box than any midfielder has done for us so far. He could have become an instant star had he moved to Everton. But thank God he’s here. We need more Fletchers in our side.
Owen Hargreaves: Again, another semi-fit midfielder entrusted with the unenviable task of keeping a rampaging Chelsea full back in check. The moment Park and he were moved away from the wings, we got to see their full backs make runs in more advanced positions. Shielded Neville at times. Great job Owen. We need you at the peak of your powers. The question is, can you stay 100% fit for long?
And I will make a special mention to an assured Jonny Evans who looked unperturbed by the magnitude of the occasion. Drogba has a history of giving nightmares to young defenders. Perhaps the Ivorian wasn’t fully fit, or perhaps Anelka was pretty crap. But I wouldn’t take credit away from the Norn. Irishman.
Of course, I have to say, for the millionth time, that we would have been battered had it not been for Rio Ferdinand. He’s a giant in the dressing room by now, I’m sure. He hates losing, and he was right angry with our conceding of a goal. No one, and I repeat, no one at the moment is as peerless in defending than him in England at the moment. I just love the lad.
Regarding the substitutions, EVDS’s was unfortunate but bringing on O’Shea was something I couldn’t fathom. We had two outfield substitutions, and bringing Scholes off for Ronaldo and Park off for Tevez ought to have done it. If not, then Neville off for Brown would have been the right way to have gone about it.
And word on the refereeing: if I was the most conservative I would say three to four cards at the most. Ronaldo should have got a card for the theatrical dive and not for pointing a finger at the ref. I just couldn’t understand some of the stuff the referee was doing. I wouldn’t cry conspiracy or call him a prat, but I would call his officiating curious.
And finally, that boy Rooney. He started well but if the midfield, in the form of Scholes, fades then he was forced to forage for the ball in midfield and drop back. We saw him lose his head and saw the resulting free kick, but it would be unfair to pin the blame on him because we were asking for a goal with the countless set piece opportunities we already presented Chelsea with. But, barring the first half, he was decidedly off colour. I fear for him, but I want to really pass my judgement on him when I see him functioning with a midfield that can orchestrate play beyond twenty minutes. Or when he’s running at full pelt with a 100% Ronaldo in tow.
So what did we learn from the last 7-8 days? That the Anfield defeat was the more disappointing result. That the fitness levels are not yet up to the mark because of a spate of injuries that had afflicted the club already. And that we need someone who can play in midfield and not give the ball away cheaply, while also dictating play. And the sad thing is, Scholes can’t seem to be able to do it for the 90 minutes while Carrick is out injured.
However, I think I am confident with the boss’s claim that we’ll be “fine” by October. But a part of me asks the question “how?”.
Today we play Middlesbrough in a Carling Cup game. I can’t be too bothered to preview it, but I’d like to see the likes of Possebon getting a look in. My predictions for that: 2-0 to the Reds. Feel free to discuss about my late late match report — if there is anything left to discuss about it. But otherwise you could continue talking about Boro.
Come on you reds!!!
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