The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Manchester United have been as relentless over the course of the years as they were in the three hours of this Champions League quarter-final. It is Chelsea, winners of the Double last season, who allowed themselves to grind to a halt following that glory.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Manchester United’s glorious obsession with the Champions League proved far stronger than Chelsea’s. Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Ji-sung Park, Michael Carrick and company were simply far hungrier than their visitors, whose interest in the season’s grand prizes ended in embarrassing circumstances with the listless Fernando Torres hauled off and Ramires sent off.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “The Champions League is over for another year for Abramovich and Chelsea and this time it has not ended in recrimination and tantrum with the match officials, just the weary acceptance that they are a long way off the pace. Chelsea lost Ramires to a harsh second yellow card in the 69th minute but by then the game had already slipped away from them.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A goal conceded shortly before half-time and a second from the home side soon after substitute Didier Drogba had scored to pull the second leg level ended Chelsea’s Champions League campaign for this season. The Blues largely matched Manchester United on the night but the psychology blows dealt by strikes from Javier Hernandez and Ji-Sung Park, plus playing much of the second half with 10 men following a red card shown to Ramires, were too much to overcome.”
What do we chuck out?
Coming into tonight, we had to have our coping strategies in place, because this competition has left us more battered than a bad day on the cobbles in the Paris-Roubaix.
And we no doubt thought the suffering couldn’t be any worse. But as Torquemada could tell you over a quiet pint, for the Inquisitor with a bit of imagination, there’s no end of ways to torture. (I assume having watched the last two parts of Waking the Dead, Tony, you can concur in this.)
We all knew it came down to scoring at least two and conceding one less. The lack of intensity exhibited on the blog seemed to suggest a sense of resignation. Or perhaps for the seasoned Champions League watcher a feeling that “it’s no point getting excited ’cause it’ll all end in tears”.
And to that end it’s worth pausing to clear up a small “philosophical” point here.
When people talk about the glass being half full or empty they mean this…
But a true realist, some say pessimist, knows that the glass does not rest on a level surface but is always teetering on the brink of tipping over. This removes any hope of filling it any fuller than it is.
And to make matters worse tonight, the demon carpenter of Govan is sawing away at the table leg.
But in a strange way I can’t quite identify, it is every bit as gutting as it has been in the past. Just with a heavy, deadening blanket of torpor thrown on top.
My intention was to write a stream of consciousness, “as it happened” kind of report. I have the notes to hand. But why bother? You all know how it went down. I can’t summon the willpower to go through the detail.
Roughly 45 seconds of deep and abiding pleasure as Drogba made it 1-1.
That’s yer lot.
Over 120 minutes it perhaps all boiled down to Ramires, his presence, his absence. What he got, a red, what he didn’t get, a penalty.
Well there were maybe two other factors.
One was Drogba and his ability to own Evra at key moments.
The other was our inability to get the ball on target when we had the chance. We had the chances, but the accuracy wasn’t there. With United, they made the most of their limited chances. And limited they were, it should be said. But when they had to respond, they did.
Should Drogba have started? I dunno. But when he got isolated on Evra, there were chances, as at the Bridge.
At the other end, Anelka switched off when he should have screened the through ball to Giggs. They scored. Small margins are everything in a tight game.
But we got back to 1-1 and conceded less than a minute later. There was Park, on their left, where Ramires might well have been.
Yes. It was that sort of a night.
And no doubt we’ll be told how it was never in doubt and United were strolling. But I think it was tighter than that. The victors and their slavering lackeys in the press get to write history. I choose not to read it or concur.
We laboured at times but I thought it was a better effort than at the Bridge. There were periods where we were on top. We certainly seemed to cope more readily in midfield and reduce the threat. But while the zip was there in patches, too often we were slow and passes went astray.
As for much of the season, we seemed five to 10 percent below top form. Not awful, but not convincing. The Drogba goal when down to 10 men was reminiscent of those recent Chelsea sides that would never lie down. The goal conceded moments later typical of a season where we’ve come up short too often.
I don’t feel like trashing Carlo or the team. I just feel that in some ways, like Inter last year, we had the chances, we didn’t take them and we were weak at critical moments. United are no Inter and we should have done better.
But it’s not a vintage year. We just have to pony up and move on.
No doubt many will have their views on what should happen now. Everything from a little facial tuck where the lines have got a little deep around an ageing face, to complete evisceration of the corpse.
For me it breaks down like this.
Who will overcome long term injury to go again next year? Lampard, Essien, Alex, Zhirkov, Bosingwa, Benayoun?
Can they refind their form? Malouda, Cole, Drogba?
Let’s hope they keep on trucking: Ramires, Ivanovic, Terry.
Not sure, but I think they’re okay: Anelka, Kalou.
God only knows: Torres.
The future: Luiz, Josh, van Aanholt, maybe Bertrand, Brouma.
If at Bolton why not here? Sturridge.
Carlo – why would he have to go? We have to show patience and a willingness to see it through. His early success bought him time, surely to God.
And forgive me if I do not laud our less than noble opponents and their graceless, whining manager. Can’t stand ’em. Never have, never will, but that’s my private hell, in which to quietly dwell. Used to have some admiration for Fungus, but lately he’s descended into a sad parody.
I thought I’d feel worse but to be honest I’m still pleased to have seen a Double. I’m getting old and lack the hunger for the internecine warfare that will doubtless erupt.
And talking of brother turning on brother, today (the 12th) is the anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.
But it’s also David Cassidy’s birthday.
And so with some tough choices to be made as the rebuilding will continue, do we tear ourselves apart or take a leaf from the pages of The Partridge Family?
“Cause breaking up is hard to do”.
But get it right and we’ll be looking back and thinking, “Didn’t we have some kind of a Summer”.
Keep the faith.