It ended 0-0, it was a pre-meditated slap across Chelsea’s face (figuratively speaking, of course) and despite a few shaky moments in the last 15 minutes, United pulled it off.
Not much to say about the game, except that if you didn’t watch it, you needn’t have bothered.
However, there still is plenty to talk about in terms of what the ref did wrong, what the match meant for Chelsea, for United and for the FA Cup final, and what United can take away from this game.
Chelsea starting XI: Cudicini, Ferrieira, Terry, Essien, Bridge, SW Phillips, Diarra, Makelele, Mikel, Scott Sinclair, Salomon Kalou.
In effect this was a 4-3-3, with Sinclair and SWP supporting Kalou from the wings.
Chelsea subs: Cole came on for Mikel, Sahar for Sinclair and Morais for Diarra.
Manchester United starting XI: Kuszczak, Kieran Lee, Brown, O’Shea, Heinze, Eagles, Fletcher, Smith, Richardson, Solskjaer and Dong.
United were playing their 4-5-1 with Ole supporting Dong from the right.
Manchester United subs: Carrick for Heinze and Rooney for Dong.
He makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s very easy to blame him for wanting to hog the headlines but the reality isn’t always as sinister – Poll is simply an over-zealous referee who takes the banter personally and is strong on clamping down on the chatter / complaints he gets from players AND managers.
Seeing SWP tell Poll to calm down spoke volumes – Terry was too frazzled to talk normally (never a good sign if a captain doesn’t have the self-control to go over and talk to the ref without swearing at him), Essien had just been booked for getting angry and throwing the ball downwards for having a foul called on what he thought was a fair tackle and Poll was just concerned with getting the decisions right by the letter of the law.
He got a few decisions wrong, and the most comical one was when he got into an argument with Mourinho. To be fair to Poll, Mourinho was out of order, but tomorrow morning the papers won’t carry that – they’ll call Poll a headline-greedy bastard.
And – because this has to be said – the Heinze booking was fucking ridiculous, as bad as the Essien booking. On the replays they showed of it, Heinze comes complaining about the Mikel tackle (or something like that), Poll tells him to go back, Heinze doesn’t, so Poll starts asking him: “do you want one? do you want one?” and bang, he shows him the card.
At this point it’s hard to be sympathetic with Poll. He had a situation where a player came up to him and complained, he’s dealt with these situations time and time again, and instead of dealing with it calmly as he is expected to, he gets caught up in the emotions and books Heinze.
Was Heinze wrong? Probably, yes. Incessant complaining with the ref never changes things, so there really isn’t any point of doing it. But you don’t give people yellow cards like this, it’s a ridiculous decision.
Chelsea wanted to win, Manchester United couldn’t have been bothered until Rooney and Carrick were sent on. To think that Heinze was the biggest threat for United says it all really.
Chelsea had 9 shots on target, United had 0. Possession was 51-49, but you’ve got to make the keeper work and United simply didn’t have the players available to do that.
From Chelsea, Sinclair looked good, Sahar isn’t bad either and everyone else (especially Kalou, Bridge and SWP) were made to look a little better than their regular good selves thanks to a weakened United side.
The result will be a disappointment for Chelsea – they wanted to win, they tried hard and went for it but it didn’t come off for them.
Fergie will take this result without any problems. It was a bore draw, but a massive improvement on the 3-0 hammering United got last season. United came to Stamford Bridge with avoiding defeat first and nicking a win second on their minds, and they got it half right.
Means nothing as far as the FA Cup final is concerned, apart from the fact that it will be full of crunching tackles and will probably contain more than the arguments we saw tonight. It will be, in effect, the ‘third’ final for Chelsea and United, just not the stage we were hoping for though.
Coming next, a look at the United players who played tonight and what their future holds for them.