FA Cup Final review: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

Match reports

The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “After 116 minutes of uptight football, Chelsea delivered the FA Cup from the probability of its third consecutive penalty shoot-out. Didier Drogba, having lost out to Cristiano Ronaldo in the personal awards despite an exceptional personal campaign, stole the glory with a typically resilient example of the predator’s arts. A shrewd one-two with Frank Lampard befuddled his marker Rio Ferdinand, and the Ivorian pounced to flick home his 33rd successful strike of the season.”

Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “The occasion apart, the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley will not linger long in the memory of the vast majority of its global audience, but for Chelsea aesthetic considerations are of secondary importance to their completion of a knockout double and their delight in denying United the classic League and Cup one. Undistinguished and unremarkable over 90 minutes, the final only took off in extra-time, when Ryan Giggs had a goal correctly disallowed for a foul on Petr Cech, and Didier Drogba won it for Chelsea by lifting the ball expertly over Edwin van der Sar after a neat exchange of passes with Frank Lampard.”

Sunday Telegraph, Roy Collins: “No dream final, just a dream finish, at least for the followers of Chelsea, who took 116 minutes to produce the one coherent piece of football that turned out to be all that was needed to deliver the 126th FA Cup on the day the old trophy finally returned to its spiritual Wembley home.”

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Both teams had limped to the starting line after their exertions in chasing at least three trophies, and it showed. Cristiano Ronaldo failed to live up to the billing by the nation’s football writers and his peers as the outstanding footballer of the year; Wayne Rooney plugged away industriously, but overall defenders and the two goalkeepers, plus Drogba, could be proudest of their afternoon’s work.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Neil Barnett: “We are the domestic Cup kings.”

The good

  1. The performance. Who cares if the game didn’t befit the occasion? Not me, that’s for sure. I would watch blue paint dry for 120 minutes if it resulted in John Terry lifting the FA Cup. Jose Mourinho got his tactics spot on and Alex Ferguson did very little to counter them. Perhaps Manchester United’s players were tired, but so were we. We negated any tiredness by controlling the game; we played efficiently at our own pace and nullified United’s trademark high tempo, something we’re very good at under Mourinho, whose job is to win trophies not build a team to entertain the masses. United didn’t press or have any of their usual zip and only the likes of Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, and Nemanja Vidic showed anything like passion; the remainder were listless. Ferguson was out thought and his team out battled by a fitter side with a winning, never-say-die mentality and great spirit.
  2. Didier Drogba. Fought another impressive lone battle up front. It was fitting that he scored the winner, his 33rd of the season and first against United, after such a magnificent campaign. Without him it’s pretty obvious we would have ended the season with nothing.
  3. Paulo Ferreira and Wayne Bridge. Ably supported by Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole and, yes, Arjen Robben, they effectively marked both United’s wingers, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, out of the game. In recent weeks Ferreira has rediscovered the form that helped us win two Premiership titles. He had a couple of iffy moments in this game but for the most part was superb. I stand by my belief that Bridge is a slightly better left-back than Ashley Cole, and he fully deserved to play in the Final after the season he’s had. We are fortunate to have two of England’s best left-backs in the squad.
  4. Petr Cech. Another commanding and brave display of goalkeeping. Stopped Rooney ruining our day on more than one occasion. Lifting the Cup was great reward for his tumultuous early season.
  5. John Obi Mikel. Another class, dominant performance in midfield. A few attempted killer passes went astray, but when he nails this aspect of his game he’s going to be a Chelsea legend.
  6. The remainder of the team. Not a single player had a bad game. Michael Essien was given a tough time by Rooney but coped admirably. Robben injected some much-needed pace and trickery into the game before Wes Brown tried to break his ankle. Even after that he was good in attack and defence. We also saw why Salomon Kalou needs to be used as a substitute for the foreseeable future.
  7. The roar fans gave Mourinho as he lifted the Cup. It brought tears to my eyes.
  8. We made history as the last team to win the FA Cup at the old Wembley Stadium in 2000, and the first to win it at the swanky new Wembley in 2007. We also became only the third team to win the domestic Cup double after Arsenal in 1993 and Liverpool in 2001.

The bad

  1. One hundred and twenty minutes of disparaging and snide remarks about the game from the BBC’s John Motson and Mark Lawrenson. I’m not sure what they and everybody else who has complained about the game being a “dreadful advert for English football” were expecting. The pomp of the day seemed to go to everybody’s heads. Pull them out of your arses and realise that Mourinho pulled a tactical master stroke with a group of exhausted players. And then imagine what the Champions League final would have been like in four days’ time if the two teams had won their respective semi-finals.
  2. It’s a shame Alex Ferguson and his yes-man Carlos Queiroz had to deflect attention away from their tactical shortcomings by complaining about the lack of a (very dubious) penalty for Ryan Giggs, and blame Mourinho for putting pressure on referee Steve Bennett (who had a good game). Sour grapes.

Men of the Match

Petr Cech, John Obi Mikel, and Didier Drogba.

Final thoughts

An eventful and exciting season is over. Whether it was successful is a matter of opinion. I believe, under the circumstances, that it was. The reported in-fighting and injuries to key players clearly hindered Mourinho’s efforts to win the Premiership and Champions League, yet he managed to fight till the very end in both competitions. Along the way he delivered the League and FA Cup double. The FA Cup completed his haul of domestic honours, taking his tally to six trophies in three years at Stamford Bridge.

What next? It’s clear Mourinho is staying, as are Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, and according to chief executive Peter Kenyon there will be no additional big-name signings. However at least three players will be brought in – a defender, midfielder, and striker – and three or four will leave. Bolton defender Tal Ben Haim is said to be on Mourinho’s radar, while Alex is set to sign from PSV Eindhoven. Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell is expected to sign on a free transfer in the coming days, and Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy, who played for Mourinho at Porto, is rumoured to be one of the prospective new strikers.

A summer of ridiculous transfer and contract speculation lies ahead. Kenyon’s assurances that John Terry and Frank Lampard’s contracts will be sorted as soon as possible will make little difference. The newspapers will print fictitious nonsense and we’ll lap it up and discuss it ad infinitum. What else is there for a football fan to do all summer?

The 2006/07 season will go down as one of the best ever. No-one in their right mind can claim that Chelsea were boring. Mourinho worked minor miracles and winning the FA Cup at the new Wembley Stadium will ensure his efforts aren’t forgotten any time soon.

Keep the Blue flag flying high.

Related links

Sidwell agrees to join · Update

Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell has agreed to join Chelsea on a free transfer after his Royals contract expires on 1st July.