This game was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated fixtures in reason seasons of the Premier League. Going into it, United held a 3 point lead atop the table with Chelsea their closest rivals just 3 points behind them. A win today for Chelsea and they would finish the day on top of the table. What would happen? Who would win? All around the ground nerves were jingling as the first whistle blew and the game got underway.
Without even enough time to catch our breath, we were 1-0 up. A sublime ball from the mercurial Ryan Giggs gave Park the opportunity to release Hernandez and his pass caught Luiz flat footed, letting Hernandez run through on goal and slot in an excellent finish when only 36 seconds was on the clock. It was the dream start. Hernandez is beyond any United fan’s wildest dreams and he has now tucked in 20 goals this season. Nobody expected him to settle this fast in his first season in the Premier League as strikers such as Diego Forlan have proven how easy it is to fall at the wayside. What a signing he has turned out to be and the best part about it is that he cost just 14% of the fee paid for Fernando Floppes.
I knew that if we scored a goal in the first 15 minutes then we would be able to get a solid foothold in the game and I was not wrong. We were absolutely fantastic, dominant, superior, every superlative that can be attached to a football team is appropriate in this situation. Chelsea were completely lost in the first half and their best chances, unsurprisingly, came from set pieces and Drogba threatened with a couple of free kicks but Van Der Sar stood up to the challenge.
Park. Ji. Sung. I can’t believe how this guy does not make the headlines more often. He has been absolutely fantastic in both ends of the pitch. Not only did he give the assist for Chicharito to score his goal but he has made countless interceptions and tackles across the field and his boundless energy has paid dividends today. Great team selection from SAF and he has proven once again what a tactical genius he is.
The second half began by Chelsea taking off Luiz and Mikel and brought on Alex and Ramires. 2-0 down and they don’t even bring on Torres? What a negative substitution by Ancelotti, who was backed by SAF in the match programme as he cited that he didn’t deserve all the negative attention he was receiving. On this performance, maybe SAF was wrong (for once). Torres did eventually come on in the 60th minute for Kalou but instantly failed to make an impact with misplaced passes and runs that ended in nothing. He still remains a shadow of the striker that tormented United so many times on previous occasions.
On the stroke of the 68th minute, Lampard prodded a foot out to meet Torres’ knock-down and Chelsea inexplicably found themselves back in the fixture. Nervous times awaited us United fans as the game seemed to drop in pace and suited Chelsea a lot more in the second half. Going into the 82nd minute however, we still looked comfortable. Despite Ferdinand, Fabio and Evans all dropping at the same time with minor injuries, we were holding off the Chelsea offensive. Rooney then found that he had 2 opportunities in quick succession but we just couldn’t find the 3rd goal that would kill the game. Hernandez was missing chances and it looked like we just couldn’t finish the game.
It didn’t matter. The final whistle blew and United had emerged victors from the most challenging of games this season. Now 6 points ahead atop the Premier League with 2 games remaining, we have all but sealed our record 19th English league title. Liverpool have lost a major bragging right and it doesn’t look like they will be gaining any new ones any time soon. An absolutely fantastic performance from United today in every respect. We held firm at the back with the gruesome twosome of Ferdinand and Vidic being the brick-wall they have always been. Nobody could have asked for more today and all we have to do is gain 3 points away at Blackburn in our next match to secure that illusive title and plonk ourselves firmly down on Liverpool’s perch.
PS – I wish I had put my prediction down as a bet (see preview of Manchester United vs Chelsea) !