Glorious United


These football matches that come after a break are always inviting, especially when it is a fixture that fits into my free time. Expectations are low when United plays nowadays, nevertheless, the form against top teams has been ever impressive this season, so there was hope. Bruno showing off his set piece in training made it all the more exciting.

This game was by no means a one sided affair. If any, Chelsea had more opportunities, appeared way more fluid and more likely to score in pretty much the entire first half. The front five of United appeared disjointed until Martial leaped on to head one in before half time. With a good mix of meaty tackles, and of course VAR getting involved quite often, the energy and fiesty nature festered throughout the game.

Whilst the result is flattering, will be interesting to see how United follows this one up in the Europa League.

A step closer to reaching out to top 4, a step in the right direction.

LvG out


lvg-3

I was running through the series of events that led to the downfall of Mourinho over the weekend. LvG’s press conference was for the first time, one of apprehension – he just got a trailer of a possible fate. But how contrasting are the two situations?

 

On one hand we have a manager who with remarkable ease strolled off with the premier league title 7 months ago, who had returned to a club where he is legendary. And yet, over a series of issues, on and off the field, eventually culminating in players conspiring, led to his downfall.  Having had a relegation fighting team to play against at home, immediately after sacking their manager, they couldn’t have asked for a better fixture, as chelsea moved their reluctant bus off the pitch, and attacked. The fans attacked the players as well, and anything but a win was not going to make life easy for any of the players.

 

Quite the contrary, Manchester United were facing a conundrum they were not familiar even when the team was managed by David Moyes. A team with such prolific names in the frontline, youngsters with potential, were all synchronized to operate in a style of football, that is so unique that it bores everyone from the viewer, the spectator, the refereees, the oppoonents, and eventually now the players themselves.

 

With central midfield side and backward passing stats having been the highlight of the previous two to three seasons of united, ever since the godly red headed Scholes retired, the question was where was the quality service going to be provided.

 

The problem as fans like me face is, that is absolutely boring to watch united not conjure a single shot on goal like ever. With no end product, I wonder what is the purpose of this play. What are we trying to prove? Giving opportunity to youngsters is the reason van Gaal cited for selling so many first team united players and loaning the other few available.

 

His man management has been so awful that with a few key injuries, the team is unable to conjure any form of teamsheet that gels. The backline has been solid for most of the season, but the players employed there has to be questioned.

 

Pushing back midfielders to defensive duties whilst having youngsters with little experience channeling midfield, coupled with aging stalwarts in the core of attack, united looks sorrier each day.

 

Watching the game today against Norwich, what was so terribly pissing off was the lack of impetus from the bench when united when 0-2 down. No plan B, absolutely stoned expression. And that is what is transforming on to the pitch. As tepid as it gets, this run of united has to be halted. And if there is any honor left in the higher echelons of united, #LvG should be out.

Manchester United 3 – 1 Chelsea


 

I I’d opted for a quiet weekend this time around. No getting out to chill out in the weekend after a long week at work.. jus sit back in the room, laze, order in some good food, listen to music, watch some football and get plenty of sleep. Well, I couldn’t have imagined that the weekend would turn out this good!

It was as if the London mauling of Kenny’s troops wasn’t enough, the standard of football played by Spurs took it right back to last season whilst Spurs played some blazing eye candy football.. yes.. more sumptuous than Arsenal. The buildup to this fixture was anxious.. especially since even the reputation tarnished Torres had a good going when it comes to United.

Rio did not get cleared for the game, and had to satisfy himself to watching some breathtaking end to end football from the stands with his son.

United started pretty and were off the blocks early when a marginally offside Chris Smalling nicked a goal off a trademark Young cross.  Moments later Chelsea was at the other end with Torres dragging the ball wide of the far post.

David De Gea was no doubt the busiest of both the keepers the first 45, but the irony was how chelsea kept squandering umpteen piece of cake opportunities.

A darting run from Nani to the edge of the box with 3 defenders standing him off, the outcome was a ferocious right footed swerving bullet into the far top corner of Cech’s goal. The ball was past Cech before even he could move his feet towards the direction of the ball. This goal was of such high quality that it surpassed Modric’s earlier curling scorcher from a similar distance.

Phil Jones has made a reputation for his darting runs into the box.. and he led to all the Blues confusion with a fortuitous deflection off Nani falling kind for Rooney’s 9th goal – a tap in.

At HT, Chelsea was in tatters, and it was time for Boas to show what he is made of. Anelka swapped in for Lamps, and it took him only 30s to unleash Torres to form, who with a cheeky flick over De Gea brought life immediately into the game 3-1.

The number of misses that followed in the next 45 min does no justice to the scoreline. End to end football with some ridiculuous misses – Nani rapping the cross bar, Rooney missing a penalty after losing his footing, Rooney hitting the upright, Torres MISSING AFTER BEATING DE GEA. The ugly side of the ugly faced Ashley Cole digging his foot late into Hernandez was the only downside of an evenly matched game.. even in the column of missed chances.

The scoreline does no justice to the treat delivered, the exhilaration after a monsterous strike from Nani, or the jaw dropping miss of an open goal by Torres.. but that is why we love this game.. Cheers!

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United 1st leg Review 4/6


a Smiling Rooney clinches the precious away goal

With scorelines of 4 plus goals in all the other fixtures, a 0-1 defeat at home for Chelsea after 9 years by the title rivals may not seem to be as emphatic, but with a crucial away goal, the reds are favorites going home for the return leg.

Squads

Sir Alex opted for a 4-4-2 similar to the last encounter with Chelsea. Hernandez spearheading attack, Park and Carrick in centre, with Giggs and Valencia on the flanks. Rio returned to first team action after 2 months.

Carlo Ancelotti played a similar 4-4-2 with surprise omission of both Anelka and Malouda, starting Zhirkov on the flank and Torres pairing with Drogba.

First 45′

Studs up Essien escapes caution

A few stray passes here and there, with a nervous start from both sides. There was no frenetic pace as the game began. A studs up tackle by Essien on Rooney as early as 5 min was not picked up by the ref and that set the tone to the manner in which Ref Mallenco was gonna let the play go on as far as possible. United slowly grew into a rhythm with Carrick orchestrating the midfield well.

Side tap into the inside of the far post

It took 25 min when a lovely long diagonal from Carrick picked Ryan Giggs on the left, who found Wayne Rooney making a late dash to the edge of the box to side foot the ball off the inside of the far post into the goal. The celebration was a total anticlimax – A smiling Rooney takes a tumble on the turf, points skyward and embracing his compatriots [The Mail will be disappointed that it is an orthodox goal celebration]. So much for all the hoo – haa over the ‘F’ word.

Ferdy is BACK!

At the other end, Drogba was finding it difficult to get beyond first touches. He was well marshalled by Evra and Vidic. Torres on the other hand was fairly successful in slithering this way and that way but his spiteful form continues. An attempted overhead kick was completely mistimed and failed to make more of a one on one with Vidic. His attempt to draw a penalty with a simulation went in vain but was very fortunate not to get booked, though Rio did give him a piece of his mind.

The best opportunity for Chelsea came in the dying moments of the half when a Lampard shot destined for the net was cleared in front of goal by Evra. There was not much to choose from both teams at half time but clearly the form of the United front men the difference in the scoreline.

Second 45′

I was disappointed that Malouda and Anelka did not start, anticipated a change at least at half time. Instead none happened. In the backdrop of how Chelsea bounced back last game, Ancelotti must have rallied the troops in a similar manner cause it took only 5 min for Drogba to whip in a brilliant ball into the box, where a sprinting Ramires missed from 5 yards – an open header. As glaring opportunities like this were being missed, one had to wonder if Chelsea will rue it.

Carrick was outstanding in the middle of the park!

Rafael departed in the first ten min with a body check on Drogba resulting in a knee injury. Sir Alex took a bold move in bringing Nani on and shifting Valencia to RB and boy did he revel. At the weekend we saw Ryan Giggs marshalling LB and yesterday Valencia. He did not disappoint one bit and was the most threatening full back in the second half.

Knee injury - Rafa stretchered off

Rooney and Chicharito’s dogged determination to track back and make life uncomfortable for both ramires and essien bore fruit with Giggs and Park having their work simplified.

A 70min substitution [Drogba, Zhirkov] – a little too late IMO, brought Malouda and Anelka. Chelsea reverted to a more familiar 4-3-3 and all of a sudden van der sar was the busiest of all United players. Pulled off a brilliant save on the stretch to deny Torres a well placed header. He seems to have done his hamstring a bit in that save and took no part in any further goal kicks.

Valencia marshalling RB ever so well

United were nervy and edgy towards the end with last ditch clearances; but with a lacklustre Chelsea forward force, never really threatened to score.  I felt Ramires was brilliant in the second half making a multitude of ‘Lampardish’ runs into the box. His second chance was when Evra mistimed his tackle [and my first reaction – penalty] though on seeing replays looked like the contact was just outside the box. None of the referees spotted the penalty claims and United were let off the hook.  A second simulation wherein Torres intentionally makes contact with Valencia to go down in the box earned him a well deserved yellow.

Rough idea of what goes on in the stands 😉

  • IMO, Carlo was wrong to play such an out of form forward just because his track record is good against united. Drogba was peaking, and Anelka has been brilliant in Europe. There should have been no second thoughts. Torres could have been introduced in the second half if the other two weren’t performing.
  • Chelsea had zero width in attack, couple of those rare moments when Bosingwa did manage to get past Evra, he disappointed with the crosses.
  • Lampard’s 500th seemed like he wasn’t around mainly because he was not playing his favorite position.
  • Rooney was simply outstanding covering lots of ground, helping out in midfield and defence, creative passing, complete package with his finishing.
  • Carrick impressed with his whole repertoire of passing; Valencia showed his adapatability; Rio’s return invariably means a clean sheet.
  • Rafael’s injury needs to be assessed [hectic month of April needs a fit squad]
  • Chicharito, Park – exemplary work rates.
  • Ryan Giggs – just never ceases to amaze. GIGGS will still TEAR YOU APART
  • I still consider Torres to be my favorite striker for the ability he possesses. The longer his barren spell continues, the less favorite he will be to Carlo and the fans. The only thing he seems to be learning at training there is from his buddy Drogba and the art of diving. Despicable and shameful!
  • Manchester United are firm favorites to win this time with the away goal in their locker. Carlo’s questionable comments on the refereeing probably will never seek any reprimand. After all he is not a United coach!

Player Ratings

Van der Sar 8.0, Evra 8.0 Vidic 8.5 Rio 8.5 Rafael 7.5 Giggs 8.0 Carrick 8.5 Park 8.0 Valencia 8.5 Rooney 9.0 Chicharito 8.0

Subs: Nani 7.5 Smalling 7.0

Highlights

Links

Chelsea vs Manchester United 1st leg Preview 4/6


The previous night in Europe must have surely given everyone a run for their money. Spurs spoke to length about the only way they know to play, but lack of experience at this level, has possibly brought  an abrupt end to their European dream run. King Mou was quick to bounce back after a very rare defeat at home the weekend. But the more shocking of the two ties was how the defending champions managed to give away a 2 goal lead and be ripped apart with 3 goals in the second half. Stankovic’s unbelievable strike from the halfway line doesn’t offer them any solace. Inter ‘s entry to this round was after a spectacular comeback against Bayern; anything is possible.

Head  to Head

  • In all competitions, MU – 67, Chelsea – 44 and Draws – 47. This season United beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Community Shield, but lost 1-2 in the league

The managers may claim it's not about revenge, but am sure this man will be on a mission tonight

  • The last time these two teams clashed in Europe, Manchester United went on to win the Final {2008} beating Chelsea over penalties. Misses from John Terry and Nicholas Anelka cost them the title.

  • United at ChelseaMU – 31, Chelsea – 23 and Draws – 19.

United has not won a single game at Stamford Bridge in the last 9 years, last winning in April 2002.

Form Guide

  • In all competitions;
    • MU – WWWWL
    • Chelsea – DWDWW

From the Dugout

  • Chelsea Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s track record is brilliant against United in Europe. Twice he has managed to beat United while at Milan; the memories of Kaka at OT don’t fade.

  • After another draw in the weekend against Stoke, it’s not the ideal start to April for the Blues.

Carlo Ancelotti – We have to play 180 minutes so obviously we want to start well, but everything will be settled at Old Trafford. Nothing will be decided tomorrow. It’ll be different playing United in the Champions League. We have very good confidence and are concentrated. We want to reach the semi-final if possible; if we play better than United we can do that.[The 2008 final] is the past and doesn’t matter. I have a good record against United but we want to focus on the next game and that will be a different story. We’re in good shape. We have to play against a fantastic team, but we have the confidence to do our best. For many years Chelsea have been very close to winning the Champions League and they have the players to win it. Unfortunately they were not good at those moments, but hopefully this season we will have better luck.

The Champions League is not an obsession; it is the most important competition in the world and it’s fantastic. I told my players that we have to be happy because every player and manager in the world wants to be involved in matches like this. You have to be happy to have that chance but you want to win also. This type of game can grow your history as a club, so it’s important we progress.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson is in an overall good mood after a wonderful comeback against Westham this weekend which has moved them closer to a 19th. However, Rooney’s unnecessary gibberish in front of the camera has kept him busy.

Sir Alex FergusonWe had a two-legged game against Arsenal two years ago, which was the first time we’ve seen [an all-English tie] and we tried to approach it in the way we usually would away from home in Europe. This is different because we’re away first, but the name of the game is to hopefully go back to Old Trafford with a goal or two in our pocket. It won’t change our attitude in trying to win the match, but we want to make sure we go back there with a great chance of qualifying. If we get some advantage we’ll be very difficult to beat on our own ground.

I was very happy to get the second leg at home, it will be a quite magnificent atmosphere and the fans will be really up for it. When Old Trafford’s like that it’s a wonderful place to be. Hopefully we’ll go back with something to defend, but we keep making amazing things happen there. The Champions League is definitely [Chelsea]’s driving force, so it will be a difficult game. We used to have a fantastic record in London. The last few years have been poor, but we’ve played well mostly and we need to work on getting that record back, starting here.

Moscow was a really good final. Penalties is always a sore one for the team that loses, but when you win a European final you don’t care how you do it; winning means everything, you’ve gone so far and through so many moments of emotion to get there. It was a great achievement for our club because it was the third time we’d won it. I don’t believe players think about revenge. The motivation to win this game is greater than thinking about a match three years ago.

Team News

  • Chelsea: Alex remains doubtful, while Yossi Benayoun is fit.
  • Manchester United: Owen, Anderson, Evans, O’Shea, Rafael, Brown are available. Rio is training since a week (doubtful)

Milestone

Frank Lampard: huge milestone for the English midfielder. He will be playing his 500th game in a blue shirt tonight.

Predictions

  • Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra-Vidic-Rio-Rafael [Evra-Vidic-Smalling-O’Shea], Carrick, Park-Anderson-Scholes-Nani, Rooney [4-1-4-1]
  • Chelsea: Cech, Cole-Terry-Ivanovic-Bosingwa, Malouda-Lampard-Essien-Ramires, Anelka, Drogba|Torres [4-4-1-1]
  • Score: 1-1

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