The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "That long-haul voyage to the Club World Cup might as well have been a restorative trip to a health farm. Manchester United left Chelsea looking as if it was they who were jet-lagged. The fuzzy minds were all in the visitors’ skulls. Their club had not been beaten so heavily by these rivals since 2002, the year before Roman Abramovich’s takeover."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "The only time Chelsea got the better of Manchester United on Sunday was when the visiting fans serenaded Patrice Evra, the champions’ full-back returning from suspension after scrapping with a Bridge groundsman, with "10 men went to mow’’, an old favourite. Otherwise, this was a soul-destroying, possibly season-destroying afternoon for the Blues."
The Times, Oliver Kay: "If this was a glorious afternoon for United, who have the opportunity to go to the top of the table for the first time this season if they can beat Wigan Athletic on Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, it was truly wretched for Chelsea. As if conceding three goals was not bad enough, two of them – Nemanja Vidic’s header in first-half stoppage time and Dimitar Berbatov’s close-range volley with three minutes remaining, which were interspersed by a deserved goal for Wayne Rooney – were from dead-ball situations. So organised under Mourinho, Chelsea have conceded five goals from set-pieces in their past three games."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "His diminished fortune tells us Roman Abramovich never saw the credit crunch coming, but maybe he predicted a similar collapse of epic proportions yesterday and for that reason stayed away from Old Trafford. His Chelsea team staggered off this pitch, any pretension of parity with Manchester United smashed to bits. The defeat was so savage that, at times, it felt like the end of the line for Luiz Felipe Scolari."
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: "Three crosses proved Chelsea’s undoing at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon as we fell to a first away league defeat of the season."
- The first half up until injury time. Manchester United started the brighter. We looked a little tentative (lack of confidence?) for the opening 10 minutes or so but slowly edged our way into the game. We more than held our own, particularly in midfield (we’d win if it was a game of passing the opposition off the park in the middle third), and defended pretty well limiting United to one weak shot from Dimitar Berbatov. To be honest I was surprised at how well we coped against a team that had won 24 of its last 26 home games and given how badly we have played in recent games, even if there was very little goal threat from the front three of Deco, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba. But in the back of my mind I was dreading what would happen if we conceded the first goal, because we no longer have the fighting spirit instilled in the team by Jose Mourinho which was still there while Avram Grant was in charge; the passion has well and truly drained away since Felipe Scolari took charge. My worst fears were realized in first half injury time when Nemanja Vidic headed United into the lead from a corner.
- John Terry in the first half. It was only the eighth time this season that he started a game with Ricardo Carvalho, which gave me hope that we would at least be more solid at the back. In open play the two of them coped reasonably well with United’s attack in the first half but their return to the team didn’t improve our defending at set pieces and from dead-ball situations. I thought Terry in particular was magnificent in the opening 45 minutes; he is one of the few players who actually still seems to care. That said, he was at fault for Vidic’s goal which undid all his good work. He looked distraught at the final whistle.
- The away support. They didn’t seem to stop singing until the third goal went in, by which time it was all just too embarrassing. Fair play to them.
- The second half. I don’t think you will see such a dismal display of football from a Chelsea team again for quite some time – I bloody well hope not anyway. It might even have been the worst Chelsea performance of the Roman Abramovich era. We were, in the parlance of our times, fucking crap. There was no fight, no passion and no idea. It says something that the loss of Deco, who I thought played quite well for periods, to a calf injury at half time actually caused the performance to worsen. Having two strikers of the calibre of Nicolas Anelka (Deco’s replacement) and Didier Drogba on the pitch should have at the very least improved our attacking threat, but it just made things worse because the formation was unbalanced and United had more space. Frank Lampard was pushed out to the left and pretty much out of the game, while Michael Ballack and John Obi Mikel were under each other’s feet. And what was Scolari thinking when he replaced Jose Bosingwa, who was providing some width down the right, with Juliano Belletti? Belletti is too old to get up and down the wing like Bosingwa can. The team’s width comes from the full-backs and the full-backs alone, so if they don’t perform, or are marked out of the game, or are taken off we’re pretty much screwed. What we need during the transfer window is one if not two quality wide players who will provide some badly needed support to Bosingwa and Ashley Cole. The problem is such players are just not available mid-season.
- Defending at set pieces and from dead-ball situations. It’s unbelievable that Scolari didn’t learn anything from our last two draws against Fulham and Southend. We conceded late headed goals from corners in both games that a man on the post could and probably would have saved. Not even the return of our first choice centre-back pairing could prevent it from happening for a third match in a row, this time right at the end of the first half, which is down to the manager and the manager alone. (Who knows what would have happened if we had gone in level at the break.) Whatever system it is that the team is employing at corners and free kicks it just isn’t working; to say it is becoming problematic is an understatement. The frightening thing is we were given a second chance to get it right after Cristiano Ronaldo had headed in a perfectly legitimate opening goal which Howard Webb and the linesman incorrectly ruled out (Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs worked a clever corner routine as we milled about trying to get into position). Webb made United take it again, and once again we stood frozen as Berbatov nodded on for Vidic who arrived unmarked at the far post. It was unforgivable defending and all downhill from that point on as the life drained from the players.
- Luiz Felipe Scolari’s substitutions. Even I’m starting to think Scolari hasn’t got a clue when it comes to making tactical changes. The commentary I listened to said Deco was replaced by Anelka at half time because of a calf injury, but others are saying it was tactical. Taking Deco off, who had a pretty decent first half, just unbalanced the side and gave United a bit more space to maneuvre in midfield. Belletti for Bosingwa? Di Santo for Joe Cole with five minutes to go? What the fuck?
- Petr Cech – 5/10 – Looked nervous in the opening minutes as he sliced a clearance straight out of play and dropped an easy cross. Couldn’t do anything about the goals though.
- Ashley Cole – 4/10 – Provided some much needed width down the left going forward but was given a hard time by Ronaldo, a player he usually deals with so well, and allowed Rooney to steal in and score United’s all important second goal. Unforgivable defending.
- John Terry – 5/10 – Committed and passionate in the first half. Made some great last ditch blocks and challenges. But was at fault for United’s opening goal.
- Ricardo Carvalho – 4/10 – A shadow of the Carvalho we all know and love. Hopefully it’s just a lack of match sharpness and not the start of his decline.
- Jose Bosingwa – 4.5/10 – As a defender he is occasionally a bit lightweight. Other times he just looks disinterested. Was dragged out of position several times and struggled to cope with the hard working Park and petulant Ronaldo.
- John Obi Mikel – 4.5/10 – Steady in the first half but was overrun in the second as United streamed forward.
- Frank Lampard – 4.5/10 – Worked hard in the opening 45 minutes but Scolari’s decision to push him out wide after the break pretty much killed off his goal threat.
- Michael Ballack – 4/10 – Poor. No meaningful shots or headers and was no help defending set pieces.
- Deco – 4.5/10 – Pulled the strings during a period in the first half and looked pretty decent for a while. Still, he didn’t create much, but things did get worse once he was removed at the break.
- Joe Cole – 4.5/10 – Worked hard and kept making some good runs off the ball, but ultimately was utterly ineffectual.
- Didier Drogba – 4/10 – He did at least seem up for it but struggled to make any significant impact against a second-choice centre-back. His air shot at the end said it all.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub) – 4/10 – Hopeless, which was probably down to the formation and Scolari’s tactics.
- Juliano Belletti (sub) – 3.5/10 – I’m still struggling to understand why he was brought on. Showed more petulance than Ronaldo towards the end when he hacked down the Portuguese. It must have been a Brazilian/Portuguese thing.
- Di Santo (sub) – 4/10 – Utterly pointless substitution. Scolari probably just wanted to annoy poor Joe Cole, who has yet to finish a game. I think Di Santo was meant to be marking Berbatov for the third goal.
Man of the Match
Pah! You’re bloody joking, right?
The frightening thing about this result is that United weren’t even at their free-flowing best. Imagine what could have happened if the likes of Ronaldo and Rooney actually played as well as we know they can (and you wouldn’t even have known Berbatov was on the pitch most of the time). It doesn’t bear thinking about. United’s best players were a 35 year-old winger playing in central midfield, Giggs, and Ji-Sung Park, an industrious hard working midfielder playing out wide. And what is even more depressing is that Alex Ferguson didn’t have his first choice centre-back pairing available either (though Jonny Evans did well).
What does the future hold for Scolari, who incidentally is the 12th manager to take charge of Chelsea since Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford? He’s guided us to only three wins in our past 11 games in all competitions. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that he will guide us to Premier League glory in his first season in charge – today’s result ended any chance we had of making a fight of it with United and Liverpool. Will he be given the opportunity to refurbish the squad and build a side of his own in the remaining two years of his £6m a year contract? Maybe the size of the contract will ensure that he is, given that the club is starting to behave in a more fiscally responsible manner in the current worldwide financial slowdown. Perhaps Abramovich will sell a yacht and a couple of houses and buy Scolari two wide attacking players and a striker. Then again he might just choose to sell the club.
What is indisputable is that we have been spoiled these last few years. Abramovich has spoiled us. Mourinho spoiled us. For a while it was real life fantasy football. Abramovich lavished on Chelsea world class player after world class player, and Mourinho delivered unprecedented success, winning back to back Premier League titles, the FA and League Cups, and Charity Shield. We gatecrashed the party, put some noses out of joint and made off with the silverware.
The silverware has long since been returned, and it’s clear now that the party is well and truly over.