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Man Utd v Chelsea: Match Thread

The big game today; some would say the defining game for either side, but I’ll leave the building of hubris part to the folks at Sky.

But before talking about the game let me talk about yesterday.

Yesterday was beautiful. The day before yesterday was hilarious. Fat Spanish Waiters should stick to waiting on orders in Spanish restaurants. Not write/give speeches. It would be a stretch to link said fat waiter’s bile with the 0-0 draw at the Potteries yesterday, but there couldn’t have been a better sight for a Manchester United fan.

Liverpool’s 0-0 draw at Stoke was frustrating on only one count: the inability of Stoke’s big men to put one of Delap’s laser guided missiles into the net.

Anyway…

Chelsea have a decent away record this season. However, their early season euphoria seems to have been all but wiped out. Their record against the big sides has been nothing to bleat about, while serious doubts have been cast over Scolari’s tactical nous and ability to influence a game when things aren’t going right.

Their only saving grace is our own poor form this season.

We have struggled with many things this season. ‘Harsh fixture lists’, injury to some of our stars, integrating a new signing, rotating players, sometimes, without apparent regard for tactics. Travels to competitions like the Super Cup and the World Club Championship haven’t helped our fixture cramp either — which is more punishment than reward for our outstanding last season. [Someone must consider having these tournaments before the season starts. It’s really odd trying to switch to a tournament that is a reflection of our previous season’s achievement, when we are really busy defending our titles in the current season.]

Chelsea would likely start Drogba upfront and follow their usual strategy of playing three men in midfield to cramp our style (rather the lack of it this season). But Drogba starting today would mean we need Rio back in defence. Evans has been an excellent deputy so far, but people the size of Drogba would need defenders of Ferdinand’s ilk. In short, I am not really sure if Evans is ready for Drogba, yet. If Ferdinand is fit, Fergie will play him.

Upfront it’s likely Rooney and Berbatov will play while Evra is, according to Fergie, ‘our freshest and fittest man on the pitch.’ His return is welcome as always.

I am not going to guess how our central midfield will be so I’ll leave the discussion to you lot.

Prediction:
1-0 to United.

I’ll leave you with some quotes from Fergie, before I end this [I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on it’s context]:

‘People say every season, it’s going to be three or four teams challenging for the title. But I’m of the opinion it comes down to two teams when you enter the last month. Chelsea have contested the league for the last four years and I think they have the experience to be our main rivals again. You have to think that will count for something. It’s a change for Liverpool fans and players to even be talking about winning the league. They haven’t been able to do that for 19 years, or at least a good few years. It was important for a team like Liverpool to get a good start. They needed it and it has given them a greater expectation. Experience is important, though. It’s been proven every team will drop points. Experience teaches you to not drop as many as the rest.’

447 Comments

447 Comments

  1. Michael

    12 January 2009 at 17:34

    I read this on another forum, haven’t checked to see if its true but if so its interesting, although except for Hull those games are very tough:
    β€œFletcher has missed 4 PL matches this season, in which United lost to Liverpool and Arsenal, drew with Villa, and let in 3 goals at home against Hull.

    In his 15 PL matches so far, United have conceded just 3 goals, the last of which was in October!”

  2. Stephen

    12 January 2009 at 17:36

    @Michael: Liverpool, Arsenal and Villa away, not the easiest fixtures mate.

  3. Michael

    12 January 2009 at 17:43

    I did point that out

  4. john freakin' o'shea

    12 January 2009 at 17:59

    @the three Rs: i saw that at the caf mate!

  5. john freakin' o'shea

    12 January 2009 at 18:04

    Wow, count berbatov suddenly has his minions already.. i’m pretty much sure it feels just like yesterday when half of the world is bashing the count, with only a few sticking for him. wow golly moses how things have change in such a short span of time. πŸ˜†

  6. magno

    12 January 2009 at 18:07

    I wonder what language Berba and Vidic were speaking in? I just found out that ?????? ????? is Vidic’s actual name…

  7. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 18:13

    @the three Rs: Thanks for the kind words and encouragement mate. Honestly, it means a lot when somebody out there gets me and understands where I am coming from rather than jumping to conclusions about me and feeling threatened by my personality or what they perceive my personality to be.

    It has been quite a year for our club and we have had way more highs than lows but sometimes those lows do tend to bring us way down. I never want to experience an off season like the one that just passed again. And this season for me has been a wash from an entertainment point of view, until yesterday of course. Yesterday made up for four months of torture where you felt locked up in a cell, constantly beaten and teased with food, while only being given bread and water in order to survive. The bare minimum in sustenance. Sort of the way United has played. Always doing just enough to steal win or even just get a point but avoiding total death and starvation. Well yesterday felt like they cashed in the Get out of Jail card and they not only were released from their prison environment, but had the biggest juiciest rare steak and chips to celebrate their release. An analogy of relief to be sure but in reality, we fed on Chelski hide yesterday and it tasted great. πŸ˜†

  8. john freakin' o'shea

    12 January 2009 at 18:14

  9. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 18:14

    @the three Rs: That’s quality mate. I just howled when I saw it. Berba’s really giving to that fat waiter with some force and vengence. Too Sweeeet! πŸ˜† AWESOME!

  10. Rd

    12 January 2009 at 18:17

    Too much positivism and happiness in this blog for my liking, come on doom and gloomers, there’s gotta be something you could pick out from yesterday’s match? A hair outta place on Ronaldo’s head, Park, Phelan? πŸ˜›

  11. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 18:22

    @Craig Mc: When I think of all the BS that defenders get away with in the box like the clutching and shirt pulling (did you see Carvalho against Ronaldo), i just feel using the pick and roll play is so small an infraction and in fact, why would it be considered illegal? It’s gaining position without really fouling or touching somebody, just getting in their way. I loved it and the communication between players was good to see and it happened more than just that one time. It was great to see them change up their corner kicks and even try some tricks because I complained just last week that their corner kicks were stale and lacking any kind of imagination. I guess they listened to the old Grognard at the end eh? πŸ˜†

  12. edwin

    12 January 2009 at 18:28

    @antsBoy: Neither would I! Id love to see what all the fuss is about live at Old Trafford!

  13. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 18:30

    @Craig Mc: As far as beating the parked bus defenses we face, you are absolutely right about improving our final ball and finishing. That’s where we have not seen the kind of improvement one would expect over a half season. The squad should work on finishing drills more. This is where I wonder if Phelan is doing his job. As for more speed, yes it would be nice but once you reach the Berlin Wall which is the Park the Bus defense, then speed is of no concern, unless you incorporate a little more finesse like chips and lob passes. It might not be a bad idea to show less aggression offensively in the first 20 minutes in order to force their defense out more and get them thinking that an attack is not a bad idea from their side. Once they come out a bit, we use our pace and wide players to get around and get that one goal that forces them to stop using the strategy.

    Vidic said it yesterday in the interview. If we scored more goals early, this would force teams to try to catch us and that’s when we could take advantage of their changes and the space granted to us and score more goals. It really is about taking our chance early to set up the rest.

  14. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 18:38

    @Rd: Couple of things. We should have scored five or six goals and our free throws were really crappy. I also was getting pretty pissed off with Rooney’s petulant attitude towards that muppet of a referee. Hows that for doom and gloom? That’s the best I can do mate. This was nearing perfection due to who we beat and considering how impossible it has been for others to beat this team over the years as well as score more than two goals against them. Not only did we beat them soundly and put three past them, but we could have and should have doubled the scoreline and we never gave them more than one half chance all game (Drogba’s muff). It was a game for the ages and one I will continue to go a back and watch on my dvd player for quite a while. Man what I would have given for this kind of result in the CL Final. But watching Terry do his thing and then crying is still probably more priceless than beating them 6-0, don’t you think?

  15. dan(u-ol)

    12 January 2009 at 18:41

    @RedDevil: really, because there was a bloke before your time that went by the same name!

  16. Stephen

    12 January 2009 at 18:45

    @Grognard: It capped off a wonderful season seeing that rent boy crying like a baby! πŸ˜† πŸ˜† πŸ˜† πŸ˜†

  17. magno

    12 January 2009 at 18:52

    @Grognard: It’s true that something needs to give concerning breaking through the parked bus defences. In my experience in sport, you don’t always have to win a point, you can provoke the opposition into losing a point…this translates as: instead of unsuccessfully trying to thread the ball through the eye of the needle for 70 minutes, forcing your own downfall, you can mix it up by forcing the opposition into making mistakes and feeding off of these.

  18. johnsom33

    12 January 2009 at 18:54

    @Grognard: I want to revisit the Belleti tackle on Ronaldo again. I know you brought it up earlier, but everyone kinda skipped over it in their post game euphoria. How He didnt recieve a red card is beyond me. From watching it is real time I thought Belleti should have gotten a yellow when Ronaldo skinned him the firs time. If ronaldo would have gone down, it would have been an easy yellow, but Ronnie stayed up. Watch the replay again and watch Belleti face after ronaldo skips past him, He is furious. His yese damn near turn red and he is totally focused on tackling ronaldo, He doesnt even look at the ball. He goes in with two feet FROM BEHIND and even has his right foot well above Ronaldo’s knee! Thats tackle alone should have been an automatic Red, not even counting the yellow he should have gotten a few seconds earlier.

    I really wish the media would stand up for Ronaldo when he does play the right way. Ronaldo would have been in the right to go down after the first tackle, but he played on and kept attacking. How was he rewarded? By a horrific lung from behind, It is only a matter of time before one of the EPL star players is going to be hurt like Eduardo.

  19. colver

    12 January 2009 at 18:58

    John freaking o’shea yeah it was pretty funny that stunt Vidic and Berbatov pulled off. Im guessing they were speaking in Russian because when Eastern Europe was communist everyone learned Russian as a second language.

    I cannot foresee any major changes in the upcoming games. Our team is on a roll and you don’t want to break up a winning team too much.

    Obviously Carrick will return to the side to replace Giggs. Rafael will play the midweek game as Neville cannot play more than a game a week. Nani might start but I expect Ferguson to keep with Berbatov and Rooney up front. I can see Ronaldo playing both games because the man is a machine and the more games he plays the faster he will get back to top form.

  20. the three Rs

    12 January 2009 at 18:59

    The clever but disgracefully disallowed corner kick as well as the communication before Berba’s goal are very positive signs of training ground imagination and is just what lots of us have been saying should be happening.
    I sense too a gathering of momentum and a clarity of focus. It was obvious that the harsh fixture schedule, coupled with the foreign trips was going to put our challenge somewhat on hold till the New Year.
    I’m glad that again it is our squad of players that have got us primed and champing at the bit. Being in all the cups is for me a big bonus as the increased number of games means more players get game time.
    I assume shooting practice is always an integral part of training and cannot be the reason for our low goal tally. Bobby Charlton has some interesting points about shooting in his first book – basically see the white of the goal and hit it early. As he proved, you can score from distance on a regular basis. I think that is not practised as much in a 5 a side format which I wouldn’t be surprised is used quite a lot in training. I think our play has been more 5 a side like this year and has been more like Arsenal’s in that respect. Anyone else think that?

  21. johnsom33

    12 January 2009 at 19:00

    Its time someone had a wee word with rooney about his mouth. In my book he was beyond lucky to not get sent off after his little tussle with Cole. I was in favor of Mascherano being sent off against us last year, and anyone being honest with themselves knows that Rooney acted far worse than that little argentinian git. It seemed Rooney was going out of his way to get sent off. How many times can you tell a ref to “fuck off” in a match or turn your back on him. I am greatfull that Webb didnt have the bottle to send him off, because I am not convinced we would have won that game with out Wayne. The boy is class but he needs to get his mouth in order.

  22. Stephen

    12 January 2009 at 19:13

    @johnsom33: Mate he didn’t behave far worse, Mascherano completly lost it Rooney’s was a rant, the Argie kept going and going. I agree that he does need to calm down somewhat.

  23. Liam

    12 January 2009 at 19:30

    @johnsom33: If you take away the fire he becomes a much lesser player. I notice you skipped over the way Ronaldo has been doing it in basically every game so far that he’s played. Even Giggs went over and started shouting at the linesman yesterday. Rooney is a bad loser and that’s what makes him such a good player. Scholes, Cantona and Keane have been known to lose their cool on numerous occasions throughout the game and were sent off/ banned many a time and it didn’t effect their legacy. He knows when to stop short of a red now I feel. Who was it against Derby and Southampton trying to get the players motivated? Rooney. If everyone on the field had his desire we’d be a better team and wouldn’t have lost to Derby

  24. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 19:56

    @Liam: See I just don’t buy into that thinking. What are we asking him to do, stop running, stop hustling? No, what we are asking him to do is all the things he does on the field except when he decides to act like a petulant boy and try to win an unnecessary ball near the touchline where he has no chance of getting to it without going through a player and for him to grow the fuck up, act like a man and stop bitching. And you know something, the manager cannot instill that thinking into him unless he punishes him. The best way is for his teammates to confront him and tell him they don’t appreciate his risking the team’s chances with his acts of stupidity. Either that or get them to wrap a bar of soap in a towel and beat the crap out of him collectively while he is sleeping. πŸ˜€ Something needs to be done to get the message across to him that he is acting like a Neanderthal at times. Those moments have nothing to do with his regular game.

  25. the three Rs

    12 January 2009 at 20:36

    Rooney pushed his luck yesterday. Webb would have been within his rights to punish him. He is one of our better refs, I’d say, and does deserve more respect than he was given. Roo appeared to turn his back and ignore him in a similar way to what Ashley Cole did with the ref in question then.
    I am more than happy for the opposition we get for being successful but the football public are completely right in their judgement of Rooney’s petulance. He is a role model whether he likes it or not and our modern child does not need to see his antics – many are awkward enough to deal with already.
    i am not talking of extracting his competitive edge but removing his stupid behaviour. When he loses the ball and charges after the player involved my heart is in my mouth as to what will happen. Am I the only one? I hate foul play and I hate petulance. Fergie needs to sort Rooney out. I think Capello would be anxious at aspects of his display last night as he remains one of his few real talents.
    I was a qualified referee but chose not to pursue it as I played rugby and could not do both. After my playing days I coached my son’s football team for 7 years so refereeing again was put on hold. My son’s team were competitive but not one yellow card was given to them in all that time. They were very clear where I stood on the subject of foul play in any of its facets.
    The best referees are fairly invisible but cannot be when players are in their faces.
    As a referee you are the custodian of the rules, trying to allow the game to flow. The respect campaign was not helped yesterday. They also need the help of technology. Video linkage must be the way forward. There have been some awful mistakes made this season.

  26. ROOOOONEY

    12 January 2009 at 21:07

    CRISTIANO WON IT

  27. gator

    12 January 2009 at 21:12

    @Craig Mc: no not that goal ronaldo had a goal from play called back for offside and the replay showed conclusively that it was not and should have been allowed. chelscum where too slow to get the trap or catch him and were left standing still as he blew past with roon the provider i think. but that was the other disallowed goal from ronny.

    @johnsom33: totaly. this is why im pissed this time ronny stayed up brilliantly and the ref motioned for him to play the advantage and this prat comes back in with a scissor tackle from behind with intent on bringing ronny down and not even close to playing the ball and i was livid that it was only a yellow. i think he was just scared to bust out a straight red bc of the importance of the match same with reluctance to fully punish roony for his histarics.

    but this is fucking ronaldo’s game all up he doesn’t get the calls when he is brought down and the tackles on him are increasing if frequency and ferocity. So he can be expected to dive at any contact, a reasonable cause and effect in any social experiment. but this time he stayed up on the first one so cheers to ronny and hopefully he will continue on without regard for his safety however scary this is for him his team and his fans, and hopefully he will begin to get protection and not be hurt in the process that i feel will take a while.

  28. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 21:14

    @the three Rs: Every couple of months I help a good friend of mine try to sell his sports collectibles at shows. At these shows we also sell football jerseys. I remember one time a kid and his mother looking at the jerseys and the kid selecting the Rooney jersey. The mother literally slapped his wrist and said “No, not him. I prefer you select another player that isn’t such a brat.” I kid you not. A mother telling her kid he can’t have a Rooney jersey because of his reputation. They ended up buying a Leo Messi Barcelona jersey instead. It just made me laugh and comment to my friend that Rooney is a great player but his childish behavior is dropping his stock with parents. So your comment regarding role models is so true. And this was way out in Canada. Imagine how much of an influence his attitude has on kids in England.

  29. phoenix red

    12 January 2009 at 21:14

    My voice is only coming back to me! What a performance! Pure fuckin class!

  30. Grognard

    12 January 2009 at 21:20

    @gator: That’s the problem with todays footballing mentality. Just because he is frequently and viciously fouled, does not mean he should dive at the first sign of possible contact. Either way you look at it, it is cheating. I sympathize with Ronaldo but I think more action would have been taken by the FA and UEFA to punish those who try to hurt him if it were not for his dives. I would prefer all players took from the great Pele who was constantly hacked to pieces because of his intimidating skills but continued to show grace, class and self control through all of it. And that is why he is still revered today and never forgotten. A true ambassador for the game and how it should be played. If only today’s greedy and selfish players tried to emulate him instead of Maradona, the game would be in better shape. Maradona was a truly gifted genius but he was also and still is nothing but a hood and a punk.

  31. gator

    12 January 2009 at 21:22

    @Grognard: im down with that. you dont even have to stop the clock the ref and linesman take time to talk abt plays all the time and just add time to the end.

    Just have an assistant ref or two watching from the booth like in us football and if there is a discrepancy he could be on a headset with the rest of the refs and linesmen. and have a set amount of circumstances that would be reviewable by the booth ref only. i dont think that you should be able to challenge anything as it would take more time and could get out of hand but off sides and corners maby even dives could easily be reviewed by a ref in the booth with minimal time wasted.

  32. gator

    12 January 2009 at 21:28

    @Grognard: i agree i am not for him diving i was just saying that it is a predictable cause and effect situation if you look at it from a scientific study pov. and i applaud him not going down on the first one. this is something that has always hindered his greatness imo. If he could just keep on without worrying abt what the ref is going to do and just keeps with his game eventually the refs will have no choice but to be on his side. Going down so easily is sometimes effective and causes someone as young as him to develop a bad habit. hopefully he is growing out of it and the refs will respond.

  33. zhoro

    12 January 2009 at 21:40

    colver and magno: Berbatov and Vidic don’t have to use any language but their respective ones to understand each other as Bulgarian and Serbian are closely related. They have also indicated that they are good buddies off the pitch as well so communication between them should not be a problem.

    p.s. My first comment. πŸ™‚

  34. Liam

    12 January 2009 at 22:00

    @Grognard: I remember a friends dad telling me that Pele could win a game without even touching the ball. This was because the other team had to mark him with about 3 players to shut him down and this freed up his teammates. This is what Ronaldo did (mostly) yesterday and what I think he needs to learn to do more often

  35. magno

    12 January 2009 at 22:36

    @zhoro: Interesting, thanks for that

  36. Craig Mc

    12 January 2009 at 23:42

    @Grognard: Rooney attitude won’t have any impact on selling his shirts in England mate, because the kids here are all like Rooney – total brats πŸ˜† . That goes for their parents too.
    I mean you had Chelsea DADS with kids on the terraces yesterday, chanting to Ronnie that he should have died in his tunnel car crash. I mean, come on, wishing players deaths shows the attitude parents in this country pass on to their kids, fecking atrocious Grog.

  37. Craig Mc

    12 January 2009 at 23:48

    @the three Rs: No your not the only one three R’s. Rooney is a petulant prat, and at times when there is nothing to be a petulant prat about. I mean just consider where he comes from mate, the land of thuggery – from their production line we have Barton, Gerrard and Rooney. We used to have nutcase Jimmy Case and Coke head Fowler, need I say more?. Compare them with our production line, apart from Keene who could have been a scouser, we have Becks, Giggsy, Red Nev, Scholesy, etc etc etc – all saints πŸ˜† .

  38. Craig Mc

    12 January 2009 at 23:53

    @Liam: Ronaldo has been responding because ALL THE THUGS in the premiership collectively are out to break his legs, in tackle after tackle. If Rooney suffered the treatment Ronni does, he would be in HMP internship right now, and for years to come, because he would do some opponent GBH+++++++.

  39. Craig Mc

    12 January 2009 at 23:57

    @johnsom33: I agree mate – Rooney should have been OFF, he deserved it. Then perhaps Fergie would do something the feck about him. He does himself no favours, great player or not. No good to us if he gets himself sent off, and costs us the game. Wise up Fergie, as you are doing in other things at present.

  40. Craig Mc

    13 January 2009 at 00:09

    @john freakin’ o’shea: Some of us have been beating the Berba drum since his very first kick of the ball for Man United. That’s why we have our own Berba elitist club. As for the rest – fuck off bandwagoners πŸ˜† . If I remember correctly it was the same with Hargo, but the elitists WON OUT again πŸ˜€ .

  41. Craig Mc

    13 January 2009 at 00:12

    @Stephen: Hahahahaha – love it mate πŸ˜€ .

  42. Grognard

    13 January 2009 at 01:18

    @gator: You allow each team three occasions when they can challenge a call in a game. The replay booth is called and the decision is made in less than two minutes. I don’t like the idea of the time being added at the end though. Just stop the bleeping clock for two minutes as this has nothing to do with injuries or regular in game delays. Then start it once the decision is made. I’ve had enough of referees destroying games and team’s seasons with crappy blind calls when technology is available that can take the guessing out of the game. It’s time that football moved into the 21st century.

  43. Grognard

    13 January 2009 at 01:20

    @gator: Do you think he is growing out of it? I sure don’t and to be honest, I think Fergie condones it because even if he gets the call 20% of the time, it helps the team.

  44. Grognard

    13 January 2009 at 01:22

    @Liam: Very true. It’s not about him scoring goals, it’s about him making the others on the team do it for him. Free up space for them. Now if they all could just hit the target more often, we’d be untouchable.

  45. Grognard

    13 January 2009 at 01:26

    @Craig Mc: That’s bloody disgusting and a total lack of good taste and class. I guess I have to take back my curses for Tery to get cancer and die now don’t I? πŸ˜† And all those times when Drogba is on the screen and I wish for somebody to “snap his spine”. This sport brings out the worst in all of us mate but wishing a players death is just so wrong on so many levels. I hate Frank Lampard but my heart went out to hi when his mother passed away. My God when it all comes down to it we are all human beings sharing the same space and air. All except that alien piece of shit John Terry. πŸ˜†

  46. Grognard

    13 January 2009 at 01:28

    @Craig Mc: And I just want to remind you that I belong on that elitist list because I was all for Berba from day one as I was for Hargo ten years before he even showed up to OT. Love those lads. Just love them.

  47. colver

    13 January 2009 at 03:02

    Yeah I cringe when I watch Rooney mouth off the referee on every single decision. He should focus on the game and leave the referees to do their jobs. We all know referees are shit but we are good enough as a team to win even if decisions go against us.

    Fergie does nothing about it because he fully shared Rooney’s view that every single unfavourable decision a referee makes is wrong. In fact he probably sees Rooney as his on-field diplomat.

    Similary Cristiano would get a lot more protection from referees if he didn’t roll his eyes and pout every time he doesn’t get a decision in his favour. When he does that the referees naturally assume he is a drama queen so are less likely to help him out.

    Something really needs to be done though with the referees. We are in an elite football league with millions of dollars pumped in and tens of millions watching every match. Yet the refereeing is amateurish, inconsistent and sometimes laughable.

    If the EPL is to move away from its roughhouse reputation we need to punish the hardmen who scyth down the skillful players.

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