7 Key Observations from Man United’s Victory Against Chelsea

Photo by Chris Devers

After 90 minutes of football between Manchester United against Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, we’re left with so many talking points.

First, I thought Chelsea played much better than they have done recently, especially in the first half. But Manchester United took their chances while Chelsea wasted many of theirs. Particularly guilty was Frank Lampard who looked a shadow of himself. His accuracy in front of goal left a lot to be desired.

Second, while so much of the attention was placed on Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to start Fernando Torres instead of Didier Drogba, I thought Torres had a bright first half with the chances that came his way. Drogba is a completely different player and adds a different dimension to Chelsea, but I don’t feel that Torres should be targeted as a reason Chelsea lost this game. In fact, Torres — while still not at the top of his game — has been dangerous in the first leg against Manchester United and in the Premier League match against Wigan at the weekend. In both of those games, it took world-class saves by Edwin van der Sar and Ali Al Habsi. On a different day, those two shots by Torres would both been goals.

Third, Nicolas Anelka’s performance during the first half was pitiful. He wasted a few chances in front of goal. And even in the second half he was hopeless. When Van der Sar came running out of his goal to try to clear the ball, Anelka was indecisive and weak in the tackle which allowed the Dutch goalkeeper to clear the ball away. If that had been Drogba or Torres, I would have felt far more confident that Chelsea would have created a goalscoring chance out of the opportunity.

Fourth, while Chelsea’s season is essentially over, Manchester United’s is just beginning. While the Red Devils put forth a brilliant team display Tuesday night, the man of the match for me was Wayne Rooney. This is a player who has morphed from a clinical goalscorer into a creative number 10 playmaker. Tuesday night he embodied the precision, creativity and calculated moves that would make Juan Roman Riquelme proud. This was one of the best performances I can remember from Rooney in several years.

Fifth, while the media in England will try to belabor Chelsea’s performance, I believe it was more a case tonight of Chelsea losing to the better team. Yes, Chelsea didn’t have their best match of the season by any means, but their first half performance was worthy of a goal. And while their second half performance was less impressive, Drogba still managed to get a goal. And Van der Sar had to come to Manchester United’s rescue once again near the end of the match. Take Park Ji-Sung’s goal away, and you have a very close game indeed. But with Park Ji-Sung’s goal, United had the breathing room they need to coast to victory near the end of the match.

Sixth, I can’t underestimate Manchester United’s impressive team performance in the match. The transformation of Nani from a misfit in previous seasons to an integral part of United’s attack has been a joy to watch. Ryan Giggs continues to amaze with deft passes that often create goals as they did Tuesday night for both of Manchester United’s goals. Javier Hernandez was unstoppable. And Park Ji-Sung, when he gets opportunities like that in massive matches, always seems to score.

Seventh and finally, I thought the match was an entertaining affair that was an open attacking game rather than the cagey one I feared. Both teams played well and should be proud of their performances. For Chelsea fans, the result is a bitter pill to swallow but it was a case of being beaten on the night by the better team. Somehow I figure that using that excuse will not be enough to save Ancelotti’s job as yet another Chelsea dream of winning the Champions League has turned into a nightmare.

Don’t forget! Learn how you can win Champions League gear signed by Torres, Giggs, Fabregas, Rooney, Gerrard and Ronaldo.

38 thoughts on “7 Key Observations from Man United’s Victory Against Chelsea”

  1. Though I think you rate Chelsea too highly in your article, I agree with most of your views, esp. the one on Torres. The shot he made against Wigan should have been a goal in many circumstances. But I’d like to add:

    1. Overall it shows the importance of the backroom staff. ManU has always kept a good bunch of coaches and assistants around Fergie, but Ancelotti is surrounded by an un-qualified Emenalo and other lesser coaches. And it shows so clearly in these two ties. Look at the Rooney and Park goals, Chelsea made numerous similar chances but no one in the blue shirts had the sharpness to turn them into goals.

    2. I still fancy the day when I can see Drogba and Torres play together. Imagine Drogba holding the ball upfield and feeding to Torres into the box. It could make most defenders in Europe shiver. I think this is why Ancelotti wanted Torres (if as he said he agreed to the transfer). But for some unknown reason Drogba doesn’t seem to get on with Torres and that probably upset Ancelotti’s design and has to try out different formations that lead to such bad performances by the strikers.

    3. There have been many rumours about Drogba to be sold, but this match shows how important he still is. He’s still able to do things that no one in Chelsea or even the whole Premier League could do. It’s too early to sell him. Anelka and Malouda or even Kalou, however, could go.

    1. Wait, why?
      Because he said United were better? They were
      Actually read most of his posts about United over the past few months, they’re far from fawning

  2. Well hello there Fernando No Scorez, we meet again.
    Personally, I really hope that Vidic’s performance over the two legs solidifies the fact that No Scorez had one good game against the Serb at OT almost two years ago and it has yet to replicate itself no matter how much the english papers harp on it.
    Thank god for Park’s goal, otherwise that would have been a very nervy last 15 minutes.

  3. I agree that Chelsea didn’t play too badly but that United were just better. Lampard and Anelka should have done better with their chances in the first half. I thought Torres just didn’t look the part. Every United player knew exactly what his role was and they all did it well. Chelsea don’t play as a team sometimes with each player trying to do it all by himself. There was more cohesion from United than Chelsea.

  4. And by the way, how come Man U normally lose to Chelsea in the Premier League but NEVER in Europe?. Chelsea normally get more yellow cards (Red) in Euro for their matches with Man U yet totally opposite in Premier League?.

    Simple and as I have always betted and won – Chelsea can not beat Man U as long as the REF is not from England.

    1. Conspiracy? I doubt it. Granted, the ref did hand out 3 yellow cards early, but the second yellow for Ramires was just plain stupid. I like Ramires, but that was a terrible decision to slide in from behind with no chance for the ball.

  5. I know nobody has mentioned it, but the last few weeks Drogba has looked really good. Maybe that whole Malaria thing took more out of him than we are willing to admit. He played with and played while trying to recover and it looks like he finally is back to himself. So maybe Torres has done some good in allow him to sit out a few games and get healthy.

    But Chelsea is clearly lacking something, but Selling Drogba i don’t think is going to be the solution. As a Chelsea Fan, I will be highly disappointed if he isn’t on the team next season. But looking at the promotional image of the new kit, he is just far enough away, that they can cut him out the picture.

  6. I like this site but the comments on this forum mostly convey a stunning lack of ignorance. This is not all your fault. I live in New York and if I decided to suddenly be a basketball fan and bang on about Lebron or a baseball aficionado and bang on about jeter’s average, I would sound naive as well.
    Ok let’s point put some basic facts:
    Alex ferguson is only understood if you were a football fan between 1986 and 1992. Man Utd were the laughing stock of the league they hadn’t won since the 60s. To evaluate Fergie now without knowing that period is like talking about Charles Forster Kane without having heard about rosebud.

    Football differs from american sports in that statistics only go so far. The joy of watching football is that, on occasion, you can watch a goalless draw and it can be a hugely entertaining spectacle- the anticipation of the deadlock begin broken. So you spurs can beat wigan 9-1 and then lose to them in the equivalent fixture the next season. Man U unbeaten all season, can lose to wolves, then at the foot of the table. And, yes, it’s not impossible as many Americans seem to think, that tonight tottenham can win 4-0 against real Madrid and go through on penalties.

    When watching a game on tv in a bar, you don’t cheer throw-ins or enthustiastically cheer when Arsenal or Man U score a fifth goal against inferior competition. That is against the spirit of the game, which it pains me to point out, so many of you know next to nothing about.

    Arsene Wenger

    1. “stunning lack of ignorance”, “naive as well”, “so many of you know next to nothing about”?
      Dear Pompous Asshat from New York,
      You don’t need to tell us you’re from New York–we already know that because you’re an offensive douchebag–the second one on these boards, in fact. Go back to reading your glorious New York Times and leave the ignorant, naive, proletariat of the bloggosphere alone.
      The Drooling, Knuckledragging, Footballing Universe

      1. Mr Sunshine is not native of New York. He said he’s a Brit in an earlier thread.
        Us real New Yorkers know better than calling others naive. Talking like that on the Subway will earn you a pair of black eyes real quick.

  7. Apologies for ‘Arsene Wenger’ appearing at the bottom of my column. I had hoed to enlighten you delusional, blind devotees of the truth of that posturing clown but will save it for next time.
    In the meantime people, observe more and comment less. Don’t get me wrong, your enthusiasm for the greatest game on the planet is admirable but keenness is no substitute for preposterous witlessness

      1. Yeah what a patronizing fool. Maybe he should set up his own website where only people as erudite as himself share their well-informed opinions in the comments section.

        1. Also, if he was such a hotshot, he could at least be specific and point out exactly which posts he think show “a stunning lack of ignorance [sic'”….or actually having read that again, perhaps he was complimenting everyone rather than patronizing everyone???

  8. Gaffer:I agree with much of what you wrote. One thing I saw differently, though, was Anelka. Far from being useless, I thought he was Chelsea’s best offensive player in the first half, coming very close to scoring on two occasions. One other point you didn’t mention in your analysis was how Chelsea was outplayed in the midfield, especially after Ramires pciked up his first yellow card. Frank Lampard is a shadow of the player he was last season, and Michael Carrick had perhaps his best and most confident performance in several years. A final key to the game was Chelsea’s defense. Terry was unable to keep up with Chicharito except by fouling him, and Nani made Ivanovic look slow and ordinary. Alex also showed a fair bit of rust. In closing, I agree with your premise that Chelsea played some of their best recent football over the course of this tie, it says something about the state of the club that United looked in control virtually the entire 180 minutes.

  9. My observations:

    • Anchellotti likes changing strikers, but has no idea how to change the tactical line up of his team

    • There is no plan B

    • Drogba scores goals through sheer determination, with no help from his managerial team

    • Kalou’s Chelsea career is over, or should be

    • Chelsea seemed perfectly happy to let Utd dictate the pace of the 2nd half

    • Park is a BIG GAME PLAYER

    • The ref got Ramirez 2nd Yellow wrong, he lost balance and was sliding across the turf (Bit harsh maybe)

    • Chelsea has no natural width, with only Cole and Ivanovic showing any desire to get in behind the Utd back 4.

    • Torres needs wide players

    Would you agree?

    1. I think Ancelotti was forced by Abramovich to start Torres…No proper manager would have started Torres in such a big game following months of poor performances. I agree with you that Chelsea have no Plan B…After starting the year very promisingly they may have gotten arrogant and/or complacent and just accepted that they would win every game. However, after Wilkins’ departure + Torres’ arrival (equation for failure) the team crumbled and most importantly Lamps has been very anonymous/ineffective and there hasn’t been another player(s) that have been able to take over the role as playmaker. The only player that has shown any heart has been Drogba.

      The red card, however, was a red card; it doesn’t matter whether the contact was accidental as he came in from behind rather clumsily..clear second yellow and a sending off. I would have LOVED to see “Mr Chelsea” get sent off; it would have made the night perfect!

  10. KeV illustrates the other prob with comments on this forum: they are blindingly obvious to anyone who posseses a pair of functioning eyes. Kev, you are correct in some of your observations but many of them are abit like me saying, ‘a-rod is an important component of the yankees’

    1. I must have missed the bit where he falsely claimed “here are my astute and profound observations, that no-one else will have noted or thought of

    2. Right,

      So blindingly obvious………….. that the closest man to the side of the pitch didnt see it unfolding. (Ancheloti)

      I think my purpose behind my relitivelly breif “My observations” post, was actually in attempt to provide a platform for structural debate.

      Like for example the below post “How does fergie do so well at picking players with the right temprement/attitude ala Park”, or “What could Ancheloti have done to provide some width to support both Torres in the first half, and Drogba in the 2nd?”

      Or even a debate or comment around “Why Kev is wrong about Ramirez 2nd yellow”. I just thought it was harsh, if it was a Utd player I would be fuming, as he didnt get a last warning or even a word from the ref after the first booking, it wasnt viscious, it was clumsy, mis timed and accidental.

      But no of course you had already considered all these points and come to your own conclusions, which must of course be blindingly obvious to any old SMUCK!!

      Good day to you too.

  11. Either Fergie or his staff must do an incredible job in identifying people with a special kind of temperement. It’s amazing that Park Ji Sung seems to be a perrenial bit-part player, but he’s always trusted to be thrown into the very biggest games, and he always proves his worth. I think at any other club, a player who has proven his value as often as he has done would be looking to move on to somewhere where he’s a regular starter throughout the season, but he seems happy to be stick around and be a member of the supporting cast.

    Likewise, back in the day, Ole Solskjaer could have been a regular starter (and probably a 20 goal a season man) at any top-half EPL side, but somehow Fergie and his staff kept him happy as an eternal super-sub.

  12. Good article Gaffer. I was hopeful that Man Utd would win, but felt better when I listened to a rival podcast (who I won’t mention but just give out their initials e.s.p.n.) and all three commentators destined Chelsea would win the 2nd Leg and move forward to play Schalke04. Oh well…

    Overall, I thought the refs officiated quite fairly and precisely to some point. The offsides of Chicharito’s header for example was extraordinary, I didn’t catch it at normal speed, but his head sticking behind the back four line of Chelsea was an incredible catch from the official.

  13. @Tommysunshine. Anyone who indulges in such third rate, over-reaching purple prose is only enamored of one thing, and it’s not football.

    As for your notion of what constitutes an analogy, your poor reference to Citizen Kane is as laughable as it is childishly pretentious.

    Your comments about United’s history, aimed so contemptuously at the human offal whose knowledge of the game pales in comparison to your supposedly encyclopedic store of information, merely serve to highlight the reality of your colossal ignorance and the breathtaking arrogance underpinning the comments. If, as your piece seems to suggest, you’re an American that should hardly surprise. Humility is as far removed from the American lexicon as integrity is from the demeanor of a second hand car salesman.

    For the record, nitwit, United were hardly a laughing stock during the wilderness years after the Busby era – a team that won as many FA Cup finals as United did during that period, and which was perennially challenging for the championship, could hardly be construed a laughable failure. Most teams in fact would have gladly accepted United’s record of finishing in the top 3 on 6 occasions during the period when you apparently considered them a joke. The fact is United were overshadowed during that period by a Liverpool team who’s dominance over two decades mirrored that of United’s recent run of success. But one team’s dominance does not reduce the other to a mere punch line, particularly in your innocuous and obviously uninformed historical ramblings.

    One of the most revealing aspects of your post is the mind numbingly silly admonishment regarding the cheering of throw-ins – on which planet pray tell have you ever seen fans get excitable over such a basic piece of play? In 40 odd years of watching football, I have never known anyone to get even remotely excitable over such an innocuous part of the game. What else do they do in your neck of the woods? Jump up and down exuberantly whenever someone stops to tie up an errant shoelace? Scream in delight whenever the back four line up in perfect unison? Faint over the beauty of a well taken goal kick? Orgasm over a successful kick off?

    Everything about your post reeks of colossal ignorance, of a pontificating neophyte forlornly and hopelessly punching way above his extremely limited knowledge base and experience in a vain attempt to sound informed. It would be bad enough if you were simply trying to express your views in such an odious manner. That you have the gumption to try and give others on this forum a severe dressing down, based on such an obviously flimsy knowledge background, is absolutely galling.

    Get a life, and while you’re at it see if you can figure out the true meaning of being humble – especially when you’re the ‘preposterous’ and ‘witless’ idiot who knows next to nothing about the game of football. Everything about your posts makes that abundantly clear.

  14. Timbo, you perfectly advance my argument which is that commenters on this forum know next to nothing about the beautiful game. You know facts and stats and who is flourishing and who is floundering but it’s not in your dna. You just don’t get it- that applies to so many Americans who follow the EPL. You don’t think people cheer throw-ins?
    Watch Arsenal at Nevada Smiths or Kinsale.

    Don’t get me wrong- I admire your enthusiasm but I just wish you guys would read more and write less. I live in New York but I was born and raised in England and I grew up following the game before Hornby ever wrote a word of Fever Pitch (the most overrated book of all time by the way but I’ll save that for another day). Here’s an example: the other day there was a post about Mark Stein. Yes, his best time was at chelsea. But you can’t talk about him without dwelling on his days at Luton Town in the 80s with his brother Brian. Or I guess you can if, thanks to Fox, you’ve only recently started following the game but it renders constructive critique invalid.

    You are not helped by the Joshua Robinsons or Jack Bells of this world who write absolute, two-bob half-baked drivel about football on a regular basis and it drives us English nuts. We suffer in silence. No more. I am prepared to address any pulpit and lecture platform to call you guys out in the hope that it will enhance the quality of dialogue about football. This is not about a lack of humility or an excess of pretension: it’s about raising the level of chat about football.
    Surely gaffer, that’s no bad thing?

    1. Oh, taking up the mantle for all of England are you? What a bold and selfless thing to do. I can’t wait to hear your expert analysis considering that by your own admission (and humility of course), you are the only person qualified to comment on this site.

      I think that Gaffer would admit that constructive criticism is fine, it happens all the time. However, proclaiming to be the fountain of all football knowledge and exhausting a dictionary in an effort to establish a sense of dominance of a comment board is makes you a complete tool (as Why? would say, not a slight my friend).

      You sir, are nothing more than a troll. An advanced one surely, but still a troll.

    2. Tommysunshine, it’s one thing to try to raise the level of discourse, but you’re going about it in the wrong manner, being condescending to the readers and assuming that you know more than they do.

      You’ll find many Americans (and readers of different nationalities) on this site who are new to the game but who have also been following English football for as long as we’ve been on this earth. Your example of the Mark Stein post is unfair. The video chronicled his time at Stoke City, but I believe it mentioned that he also played at Luton Town. But the topic in that post was Stoke, not Luton.

      As for fans cheering a throw-in, it happens all the time in the Premier League. When a team is advancing towards goal and wins a throw-in, you’ll hear the crowd cheer and get excited.

      I haven’t been been to Nevada Smiths, but rather than criticizing these fans, I feel they should be welcomed. And, over time, if there are things that we can share that will help their experience, we can mention them. But each person is free to do what they want and to support their team in any way they want.

      The Gaffer

    3. Tommy,
      Please stop, you give British people a bad name. Like you, I’m also an Englishman in NY. I’ve been to Nevada Smiths a few times, but I don’t recall anyone ever cheering a throw-in. Whenever I’ve watched EPL games there, the crowd has been overwhelmingly ex-pat English anyway, so it’s not a good place to make observations of the “typical” American fan.

      As for talking about Mark Stein. You sound like one of those music snobs who say “Oh sure, [insert name of band] where pretty cool, but as far as I’m concerned their best work was their early stuff, before they signed to a major label and became commercialized. I liked them and knew about them way before everyone else did.”

      You have to remember that American or not, not everyone is the same age as you (or gives a sh*t about the lower levels of the football ladder). I’m English, 30 years old, and Stein is a name I barely remember. I remember he a spell at Chelsea, where I think he set some record for goals in consecutive games, but other than that, I knew nothing about him. Hardly a sin. Not many people care what he did at Swindon or Luton or wherever it was back in the day when only cool dudes like you watched soccer.

  15. Back on the subject of the actual article, rather than Tommy’s trolling:

    Wayne Rooney. This is a player who has morphed from a clinical goalscorer into a creative number 10 playmaker.

    I think it’s more a case of Rooney has always been a creative #10 playmaker, he just had a season or two at the relatively unfamiliar position of being a spearhead striker (after a season or so of being on the left of a front three).

  16. @Tommysunshine. I think the consensus amongst other posters is that you’re essentially a pompous blowhard with an indescribable sense of your own self importance. I think we can safely add to that the fact that you’re posts are becoming less and less coherent and verging on the rambling nonsense of a child.

    Being born English somehow seems to have anointed you, at least in your own vast estimation, as a Zeus-like figure sitting atop an ivory tower (or should I say Olympic throne?) resplendent in sole possession of all football wisdom – and ever ready to cast minuscule and ill-directed bolts of lightning at anyone showing the temerity to venture a view not in keeping with your sagacious perspective. England must indeed be eternally grateful and proud to have such an astute personage as its spokesperson on all matters pertaining to football. When can we expect you to take your seat at the head of the FA?

    As stated earlier, it’s plainly obvious that your posts have nothing to do with football and are all about stroking your vast ego. The fact that everyone, including the author, disagrees with your attitude, your views, and your rationalizations would be enough to send the message to any but the most obtuse intellect (and I use the term loosely) to take his opinions and shove them where they deserve to go. Congratulations are in order though. You’ve set a new benchmark for the kind of obdurate pigheadedness that one could only associate with a psychological cripple.

    Your entire methodology revolves around a few basic tenets. Proclaim your preeminence as the game’s ultimate sage. Reduce everyone else to the level of simple dullards patently beneath your contempt. Indulge in gloriously sweeping statements entirely lacking in any substance, as per your invalid ‘United were a laughing stock for years’ point. Finally, ignore any and all salient points proffered as a counter to your stupid and self-aggrandizing commentary, returning the cycle back to the ‘you’re all just idiots and I’m just grand’ preamble accompanying each of your posts.

    As for your daffy logic, on the one hand you wish to credit me with knowing the facts and figures of the game, of knowing the myriad permutations of the teams (vast praise indeed from someone of such lofty pretensions) but on the other hand you also wish to reduce me to knowing next to nothing because it’s not really in my DNA? Wonderful logic, and yet another stellar example of your penchant for making sweeping pronouncements that have no real validity or substance. Would that be DNA as in nationality, or does it transcend boundaries? A prerequisite that one’s lineage display the credentials of a former footballing pro? Please elucidate on the point, because I’m sure we’d all be enthralled to know what genetic gift nature has bestowed upon you that sets you so far above the rest of us.

    For someone who is so obviously stretching beyond his limits with regard to the poor writing on show in your posts one can only gasp in astonishment at the kind of brass balls you must be equipped with to so shamelessly claim that your chief interests lie with raising the level of quality regarding dialogue on this forum whilst trying, at the same time, to dissuade those of ‘lesser’ writing talent from imposing their poorly written dross on here. Take a look at your second paragraph, James Joyce. It’s all over the place logically and structurally and so incoherent that it verges on some kind of drug-induced stream of consciousness babbling. Your use of grammar is also atrocious to the point of being infantile – and do you have any notion of tense or the basic precept that you don’t mix the variants into the same passage? As for the third paragraph, your opening line is a pearler – could you really append ‘it drives us English nuts’ to the end of it and not blanch at its sheer awfulness? I’m surprised you didn’t squeeze ‘youse people’ in somewhere!

    In finalizing, you’re undoubtedly one of life’s crashing bores, and everyone would be best served by simply ignoring your ridiculous ramblings and scrolling down to the views of those who actually have something of value to contribute. The only laughing stock on here is you, partly through your obvious and facile attempts to cosh one and all with your poorly structured and grammatically third rate attempts at writing, and also through your obviously crippling inability to deal with the fallout from your posts, to acknowledge error, and to gracefully retire into oblivion when you’ve outlived your welcome on an issue.

    Lastly, thanks for the hot tip on my writing skills. I actually write for a living, so I’ll file your thoughts away for future reference. Coming from someone of your readily surpassable skills, I obviously need to give some serious thought to my chosen career path.

  17. Chelsea have fallen so far from where they started the season at, that they are almost recognizable. The player pool is unbalanced – 4 holding midfielders and 3 of them starting (yes, folks, Lampard is a holding midfielder as he’s plain awful at everything else).

    Last night emphasised how well Ferguson manages his players and is continually shifting focus in his squad to maintain freshness and the competitive drive. Rooney was world class, and Park and Giggs ran the midfield.

    I fear that Chelsea may go the way of Liverpool if they don’t get some creative talent in the middle of the park. Defensively they are fine, but I don’t care who you have up front, if you can’t get the ball up to them, they won’t score. Ancelotti did what he could with the players he has and I’m not sure that there is anyone out there who could do a better job given what he has to work with.

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