The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The title is Manchester United’s in all but name. Arithmetic states that another point is required, away to Blackburn Rovers or at home to Blackpool, but the matter, in effect, was settled here. Chelsea, the reigning Premier League champions, were forced to confront their own inferiority at Old Trafford. The narrow score misrepresented the authority of Sir Alex Ferguson’s players, who had scored after 37 seconds.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “This was the standout performance against top opposition that Ferguson had been looking for ever since Chelsea began their late-season revival with that victory over United at Old Trafford. Given what Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been through in their mid-season slump, it was extraordinary that they should be in the title race with three games left but they were never truly in yesterday’s match.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea will panic in the summer, probably dismissing Carlo Ancelotti when the very obvious lesson preached at Old Trafford is the importance of stability. Ferguson’s respect for Ancelotti was evident in the way he embraced the Italian at the final whistle, consoling him, along with his comment that Ancelotti doesn’t deserve “to have his future queried”. Sadly, it will be.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A poor first half cost Chelsea dear at Old Trafford as Manchester United moved six points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.”
Ah, another Arsenal meltdown. Chuckling at the afflicted was put on temporary hold given the magnitude of the afternoon’s main event…
As I settled in for the first half, top barely off the first Cobra of the afternoon, all hell appeared to break loose up at Old Trafford. Frank Sinclair, almost unrecognisable in a David Luiz wig, managed to execute the poorest piece of positioning since the captain of the RMS Titanic decided that he could steer past the iceberg and Cinquicento buried his twentieth goal of the season. The in-no-way lucky to be on the pitch Vidic added a second inside of the half hour mark; beer and comfort eating seemed the only logical answer to such a huge anti-climax after a week of hype and general excitement about the prospect of sticking it to Fergie in his own back yard.
Planting myself in front of the PC at half time to tap in a few thoughts about the first forty-five minutes, I found that my three year old daughter had beaten me to it; her thoughts on matters were as follows:
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The second half saw an improvement, but turning up at Old Trafford (where a mere two league points have been dropped this season) and putting in half a decent game is never going to cut the mustard. Frank’s scrappy consolation brought about fleeting moments of that evil thing called hope, but our valiant late run in defence of the title now needs something akin to AV, snookers and the Duckworth-Lewis Method to keep the big tin pot away from Rio’s paws.
- In the context of a somewhat erratic season, I’d say second in the league (albeit that we’re not quite there yet) is something we’d have all taken back in the dark days of winter amidst the off-pitch upheaval and a series crap defeats to even crapper sides.
- A reasonably spirited second half performance kept things vaguely interesting.
- There will be many unhappy Liverpool fans staring into their pints this evening.
- Only two games to go before we can occupy ourselves with some summer transfer madness and the inevitable speculation as to which extremely well-paid sucker is going to spend the next two years in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
- Rooney’s spectacular dive in a vain attempt to get Branners sent off; he really will be at home with Barcelona’s thespians at Wembley in a few weeks.
- The first twenty minutes. As bad a performance as anything we saw during the woeful shambles that was our mid-season slump.
- David Luiz. Already a cult hero who can do no wrong in the eyes of many, but he wouldn’t have looked out of place in the West Brom defence today. Buccaneering runs and a kinky afro will get you so far, but it seemed obvious that Fergie and Phelan instructed Chiquitita / Little Bean / Fernandez or whatever his name is to target our hairy Brazilian (possibly a contradiction in terms) as the weak link and it paid off handsomely. Just learn to defend, son, and worry about the fancy stuff later.
- I am concerned that Mikel will probably piss off to pastures new in the summer, and I can’t say I’d blame him if he did – sometimes a frustrating player, but much underrated by the majority (including the manager) and head and shoulders above the fading enigma that is Michael Essien. Quite what he did to deserve substitution today is anyone’s guess.
- As per the above for Kalou.
- Losing the title. Yes, it went a long time ago in reality, but one does tend to cling on until the last hopes have been firmly extinguished.
(Sorry, the toddler got her hands on the keyboard again.)
I shall endeavour to muster enough enthusiasm to pass comment on the season overall once the whole ghastly mess is over and done with, but to wrap it all up in a paragraph or two isn’t that difficult.
The simple fact is that in comparison to last season, we’ve dipped by maybe 5-10% and Fergie’s men have improved by roughly the same amount – the addition of the wee Mexican chap being something of a masterstroke; in what has been a fairly average Premiership season (when journeymen like Parker and Bale win the gongs, you know things have been poor), the wise man from Govan’s guiding hand, consistency and a bit of spark here and there from the likes of Chiciwhatshisface and Nani has been enough to lead United to a record nineteenth league title. No complaints here – a deserved win.
Of course, a substantial vocal minority of our delightful fanbase, many of whom have descended to levels of utter cuntery previously unseen during the more difficult moments of this season, will scream, howl and demand sackings, multi-million pound signings and general knee-jerking to keep them happy. Given that the man up top is almost as petulant and impatient, I imagine that their wishes will be granted.
The narrative has been written; Carlo is a lame duck, can’t change a game from the bench and has lost the dressing room – the fact that there has been plenty of evidence to the contrary in recent months is now sadly irrelevant. Factors such as the death of his father and a squad that was not fully fit and present until last month will also be brushed over as mere excuses. The January cash splurge, while made with one eye on the future, was clearly aimed at saving a stuttering season which never works; the millstone around Torres’s neck weighs heavier by the day and will only get heavier over the summer at this rate.
Personally, second is a pretty decent achievement in the circumstances (assuming we can hang on to it for the next two games). What the team needs in the coming months is careful management, some judicious additions and sales, carefully judged loanee returns and departures and a reasonably pragmatic view of what is possible in the next season or so while new players are being introduced and the old guard are moved on or given lesser roles. Evolution, not revolution and all that.
And then I remember that this is Roman’s Chelsea that we’re talking about…