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What can Chelsea learn from Man Utd defeat?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 12:00 UK time, Monday, 2 May 2011

Manchester United's next two opponents will have watched Arsenal's victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's team with interest.

Schalke may have an almost impossible task when they face United on Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final, although during this season we should learn to know better than to rule any team out.

Then Chelsea will travel to Old Trafford for a defining Premier League title battle four days later, with a renewed confidence after seeing signs that their opponents can be outwitted.

Many of United's problems this season, particularly away from home, have stemmed from their midfield, where an insistence on playing with two central midfielders has seen them concede possession.

Park Ji-Sung and United team-mates struggled to contain Arsenal's midfield

Park Ji-Sung and United team-mates struggled to contain Arsenal's midfield

That was the case again against Arsenal, when Michael Carrick and Anderson were continually picked off by the Gunners central midfield trio of Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and goalscorer Aaron Ramsey.

Ferguson usually picks a midfield three to match Arsenal and opts to break on the counter attack, but this time was different as he asked Wayne Rooney to drop deep and track Song.

The reasons for that may have come from a recent success in playing Rooney behind Javier Hernandez, not least in the comfortable 2-0 victory over Schalke last Tuesday.

Yet without an extra body in midfield, and with the influential Ryan Giggs absent through illness, Song quickly found a way to join Arsenal's attack and at the same time neutralise Rooney.

In fact, such was Rooney's role that he did not make a touch in the Arsenal penalty box.

Rooney played a lot deeper against Arsenal and he did not make a touch in the opposition penalty box

"I was surprised by how Manchester United set up," says former Arsenal defender and Match of the Day 2 pundit Lee Dixon. "I know Rooney can drop in and act as another midfielder but they really played a 4-4-1-1 and I think that was down to the personnel available.

"Although Rooney will drop back, he is not the best at wanting to and any Arsenal fan would have been happy to see him back there anyway.

"There were a couple of times when he was behind Carrick and Anderson in that holding role. I was thinking, what is he doing there? Basically, it was because they were short in that area.

"I'm pretty sure that, when it comes to facing Chelsea, Sir Alex Ferguson won't pick his side to play like that next week. They got overrun in midfield, but having said that, Arsenal didn't create too much."

In a hectic April, when United's big games came thick and fast, Giggs' impact was a common thread.

United's best two performances in recent weeks were away in the Champions League against Chelsea at the quarter-final stage and Schalke in the first leg of the semi-final, where the 37-year looked indefatigable.

Compare that with Sunday's defeat by Arsenal and the FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City two weeks ago where on both occasions the Welshman was missing.

Both defeats also came against sides who flooded the midfield and Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti may consider a similar policy in the game at Old Trafford next Sunday.

That will fit in with the Italian's orthodox 4-3-3 system but he might want to restore Didier Drogba as the central striker after the Ivorian played on the right of a front three against Tottenham on Saturday.

At times he cut a frustrated figure there despite a return to form in recent weeks, and Ancelotti will be mindful of his contribution in the Champions League quarter-final defeat at Old Trafford almost three weeks ago.

Drogba's influence in that game was obvious once he replaced the ineffective Fernando Torres at half-time. His 77th minute equaliser was only rendered meaningless by a lapse in concentration by his team-mates as United's Park Ji-Sung replied within a minute to put the tie out of reach.

Nicolas Anelka was also impressive in the first half at Old Trafford which leaves Ancelotti with a tantalising selection dilemma for the must-win game.

Although Drogba was peripheral on Saturday there were glimmers of the swagger returning to his game as he hit free-kicks from all sorts of range, hitting the bar with one of them from all of 35 yards.

That is backed up by statistics from his last six games where he has played more and contributed more compared to the previous six games after Torres' arrival at the club.

In that first run of six Premier League games where he played 303 minutes, he failed to score and assisted only one goal. He also only had five shots with a shooting accuracy of 20% and a pass completion of 55%.

The last half dozen games have seen an improvement where he has played 519 minutes, has scored twice and set up four goals. In addition, he has taken 28 shots with a shooting accuracy of 39% and a pass completion of 71%.

Drogba's growing confidence will be a boost to Ancelotti, and after admitting his error in leaving him out at Old Trafford, the manager has no reason not to go for broke.

"You presume that with Manchester United going for the title they won't be defensive at home but you just never know," Dixon adds. "Even though Ferguson will warn them, the players might just be a bit cautious. After all, a draw will do for them.

"I would imagine that Ferguson might even switch it round next week and put Dimitar Berbatov back in and leave out Hernandez.

"At home you would expect them to play differently but it is Ancelotti who has to take the bull by the horns and put United under pressure."

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    The game will be very different now that we have Luiz back in cb. It wouldn't have mattered so much had Alex not been injured, meaning we had to put Bosingwa in as right back. Chelsea's main hope rests in Didier Drogba. Their midfield certainly outclasses United's, but on current form their attack is very weak against the likes of Rooney and Hernandez. However, Drogba has been very strong of late, stronger than either of those two, and should he be playing like he has these last few games, I can definitely see a Chelsea win (although I am very nervous). Torres cannot start. I couldn't bear it if he cost us the league as well as Europe.
    It's been a crazy ride for the Blues. Not long ago we were fifth, and have come out of nowhere to push strongly for the title. Manchester United should just let us win, for the romance ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    United's last 2 games are Blackburn (who may well be ok now after Sat) and Blackpool, who are very porous defensively so the reality for Chelsea is that not only have they to win at OT but really they need to be looking at a 2 goal winning margin to stretch the goal difference to 4 between the 2 sides.

    In some ways, Sunday's game is very similar to the Liverpool v Arsenal game in 1989.

    United even if they did lose by a 1 goal margin would still feel favourites given their last 2 games as you would expect them to outscore Chelsea in their last 2 games.

    Liverpool could also afford to lose by 1 goal back in 1989 and irrespective of formations, its the mental approach to Sunday that will define things. Chelsea in the CL you felt were beaten even before they got onto the pitch at OT (and the inclusion of Torres was merely the icing on the cake that night), however could they gain from being totally positive whereas United yesterday seemed to suffer from a stick or twist syndrome, as a result they fell between two stools.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let's hope Chelsea don't learn in time for next Sunday :)
    But tbh, I think Arsenal can learn from Chelsea how to beat us, they've done it once in the last seven games, whereas I am sure Chelsea's record is better.
    Especially at Old Trafford.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have been banging on about how weak our midfield is all season. Please Fergie, buy big in the midfield department this summer! Wesley Sneijder, Charlie Adam or Luka Modric?

  • Comment number 5.

    As a chelsea fan im relatively confident we can get a result at Old Trafford. Feel that our strength in depth currently is immense - on the weekend to have the likes of Ramires, Anelka, Kalou, Benayoun, Alex and Bosingwa on the bench is absolutely huge. I feel in that sense Chelsea have an advantage over United. However on their day either side can easily outplay each other. Where Chelsea though do have a definite advantage though is that United have Champions League midweek - how much will their focus be on that rather than Chelsea? They have half a week less to prepare for the game and then their players will presumably have half an eye on the Champions League final to come. Home advantage though is a big thing and with United you never know - they could have grabbed a point against Arsenal despite being completely outplayed. Should be a fascinating game. Hope Torres doesnt start despite playing well vs Spurs - Drogba on current form is close to unplayable

  • Comment number 6.

    Can't wait for sunday
    Who knows if chelsea do go on to beat untd at ot .we are well in our rights to think we can put 3 goals past the jourdys and toffees respectively . 'Luiz was a big factor why we struggled to handle the little pea as Alex and JT cant cope with pace ' Just hope scalke can take enough out of utds legs ot force extra time (PUSHING IT) its not like mutd stand a chance of winning the champions leauge anyway with barca comming with little magician and inesta ready to show em whose boss.

  • Comment number 7.

    chelsea struggled to break down spurs at home. Their attack was on the most part rather blunt.

    They scored two illegal goals, so they will have to put in a mighty effort to turn utd over at home.

  • Comment number 8.

    Chelsea need to hit the ground running and do what they did last season, push United back, quieten the crowd and bag a couple of goals. Ferguson can then criticize the ref. for an offside and plainly ignore his boy's errors...hanballs, trips, dives etc. It's all very dramatic but it will really heat up the season. Chelsea have the tougher run in but if they win every game it would go to the wire on goal difference, can't see Blackppol or Blackburn holding up United. Arsenal still there just about and I expect they will cruise home on a high and be closer than was expected two days ago.

  • Comment number 9.

    United were very, very poor by their standards yesterday. I honestly don't think arsenal won the game because united couldn't handle them, Utd just didn't turn up.

    If United turn up next week and play to their capacity I doubt chelsea will be good enough to take all three points.

    I usually rate these articles', and it's not even that this is a bad one, but United bad play was their own downfall, not arsenals good play.

    Don't get me wrong though, arsenal deserved to win yesterday

  • Comment number 10.

    Where are all the United fans who said Chelsea wouldn't make the top four this season? just wondering....win or lose at Old Trafford, United aren't sitting as pretty as they thought they'd be.

  • Comment number 11.

    @ 10

    im sure by the 22nd of may we'll be sitting pretty enough :D

  • Comment number 12.

    This has been a problem of Man U during the entire season and one reason why Fergie is so desperate to get the likes of Sneijder. The problems were evident from the start and was a reason why they did not come to the top of the league until about halfway and did so due to Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov and Hernandez coming to form. Yet this very problem of an attacking midfield had brought out the best of Man U as well. Many worldwide critics have admired the resilience of the players for digging deep when other teams would have just given up. Look at the top 6 teams of the league. Other than Man U, every team has got a very strong and proven midfield and Man U have had the most number of injuries.
    Despite all these problems they've churned out the results. They reached the FA cup semi finals, almost through to the Champions League final for the 3rd time in 4 years and are still leading the Premier League. If any team deserves to win the league, it is Man U and Arsenal but Arsenal have thrown it away. So it is up to Man U to scrape through.

  • Comment number 13.

    12-
    The same happend to chelsea or does everybody foget the reason why we lost to sunderland 'we played ferreira at cb' its only like 2 weeks ago we had everybody back , ref bending gets mutd through games blackpool , west brom , wigan , Doubt they will get the same special treatment against chelsea and barca

  • Comment number 14.

    #1 god_save_frank_lampard good point about Luiz. Missing from both of the Champions League semi-finals he was the difference in more ways than one when the two teams met in the league at Stamford Bridge.

    He also provides an added zip to their counter attacking with his interceptions and his passing which could be handy for Chelsea if they want to start fast and establish an early lead. United's defence have been able to cope with most strikeforces this season but you wonder if as the season comes to a close they can only hold out for so long against bigger teams. Ferdinand and Vidic have been immense in recent weeks.

  • Comment number 15.

    #7 got it spot on IMO. Can't see Chelsea doing much when they struggled against us.

  • Comment number 16.

    @waloudi "Please Fergie, buy big in the midfield department this summer! Wesley Sneijder, Charlie Adam or Luka Modric?"

    I presume you'd prefer Sneijder or Modric!!

    Normal service resumed by Torres on Saturday, Chelsea just have to go with Drogba and Anelka up front to have a chance of beating Man Utd. Let's hope Ancelotti chooses to lose face rather than lose the title race.

    http://nedstratton.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/a-chelsea-title-win-would-be-a-guilty-pleasure/

  • Comment number 17.

    good piont

  • Comment number 18.

    We heard endlessly last season about how it was (supposedly) one of the poorest Premier League terms ever. Chelsea winning with "only" 86 points was part of the evidence cited.

    If ManU win this season, as seems probable, they'll do so with 82 points at the very most. But I'm not seeing the same stories about a decline in quality in the EPL.

  • Comment number 19.

    he he .. for GOD sake !! it is CL hang over !! all 4 clubs in semi has lost .. beside when did Arsenal threaten VDS? it was Arsenal GK who had to make more saves !! i hate people when look to a result and generalize from it .. football sometimes is about luck .. Sir Alex will play 2nd team facing schalke .. so our mid become more fresh !! Arsenal had an easy task facing tired teams..if park scored his chance at 1st half... am sure Dixion would had changed his opinion which shows that his opinion is based on one result .. one chance been converted .. ridiculous tbh if we call him an expert.. waste of TV licence fee on such above comment

  • Comment number 20.

    Tactics don't do no thing in this game....... All I know is MAn United crushing CHELSKI come Sunday... Come on Sir ALex, start Berba

  • Comment number 21.

    Conclusions from Sunday's game?
    1) United are seriously short of at least two midfielders - a creator like Beckham at his peak, and a stopper like Keane.
    2) Fergie is still not the master tactician some would like to think he is.
    3) After all the time he's been playing, nobody has any idea where to play Rooney.
    4) Anderson and Park are not good enough for Man Utd. Valencia is questionable.
    5) The standard of officials in the English game is shocking. Both teams should have had penalties.
    6) Alan Smith (on Sky) is perhaps the most biased and ill-informed pundit on British TV. His bias against Man Utd is shocking. His view of the game rivals that of Ron Atkinson.

  • Comment number 22.

    Arsenal's win yesterday is fantastic news for the Premier League. It just confirms that our league is by far the most competitive in the world, with three teams ( Arsenal, although big outsiders, are not 100 % out just yet ) still vying for the title. It puts the La Liga, where 3rd place is 25 points of Barcelona, to shame.

    Chelsea now have the title back in their own hands. Win next week at Old Trafford, which we have done before, and we will sit top of the league with just 2 games left. If we were to win the Premiership, it would go down as one of the best comebacks in football history after having been not so long ago 15 points behind United.

    Also, all you people saying Arsenal didn't deserve to win obviously didn't watch the game. They were the better side, passed their way around United on several occasions. Granted, they didn't create a bucket load of chances, but they only needed one in the end.

  • Comment number 23.

    #20

    Agree with all your points, apart from the one about referees. It is just not just our referees, every country has their fair share. The clasicos are proof of this. But referees are not helped in any way by the terrible sportsmanship of our top players. They are always trying to decieve the officials by acts of diving and feigning injury, and they do not know the concept of honesty : every decision has to be contested, no matter how blatant the foul. The officials also aren't helped by the lack of technology in the game. They have a split second to make decisions, and that is far from easy.

  • Comment number 24.

    It just wasn't happening for United yesterday. I think their midfield was the reason for their downfall. United will turn up next Sunday, they will be fired up for it. I think they'll win simply because of their home record and because they will gain momentum if they can see off Schalke quickly on Wednesday, because they will need to save some legs depending on what line up Fergie puts out.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Conclusions from Sunday's game?
    1) United are seriously short of at least two midfielders - a creator like Beckham at his peak, and a stopper like Keane.
    2) Fergie is still not the master tactician some would like to think he is.
    3) After all the time he's been playing, nobody has any idea where to play Rooney.
    4) Anderson and Park are not good enough for Man Utd. Valencia is questionable.
    5) The standard of officials in the English game is shocking. Both teams should have had penalties.
    6) Alan Smith (on Sky) is perhaps the most biased and ill-informed pundit on British TV. His bias against Man Utd is shocking. His view of the game rivals that of Ron Atkinson."

    ----

    I'd just like to elaborate on what you said about Valencia. He has not long come back from an injury that kept him out for 5 months. You can't expect him to be in the form in his life especially as he has rejoined the squad at the toughest time of the campaign.

  • Comment number 26.

    sorry I meant #21

  • Comment number 27.

    #21 You say Valencia is questionable but I agree with #25 he has only just come back from injury and was a huge part in Rooney's goalscoring form last season.

    I would suggest he has a massive part to play in the next couple of weeks. He is United's only genuine winger as Nani often cuts inside, and he could play a big part against Barca if the two teams meet in the Champions League final as he will pin back at least one of their full-backs. I was surprised he did not start against Arsenal on Sunday.

  • Comment number 28.

    I find it extraordinary that Man United are top, they have been really lucky all season but yesterday they got found out good and proper.

    Yet it was also another demonstration of how Arsenal are lacking - they should have destroyed United three or four nil (in addition to winning the title)

    If United fans think that the Blackburn and Blackpool games will be easy you are deluded - the toughest games of all at the end of the season are against the relegation strugglers.

    I'll wager it comes down the final game, which is all good fun ;o)

  • Comment number 29.

    I think Chelsea will win, IF DROGBA PLAYS, The only way Torres could possibly play is if Benayoun plays, Benayoun is a great passer of the ball and could maybe get Torres into scoring possession. I don't think Ancelloti should try this as this game is too big and Drogba has a good record against MU. Even then it will be a boring game. SAF will probably go ultra-defensive and play for the draw. 1-0 Chelsea with any luck . . .

  • Comment number 30.

    Chelsea to finish on 79 Points and that lot up norf 78 points

  • Comment number 31.

    "win or lose at Old Trafford, United aren't sitting as pretty as they thought they'd be."......

    ......if they win, it's 6 points clear with 2 games left, one of which is home to Blackpool....that would be sitting quite pretty to me. Don't forget, they'd stopped taking bets on Chelsea back in October.

  • Comment number 32.

    People are underestimating Man United's trip to Blackburn. Blackburn aren't the best team in the world, and United did beat them 7-1 earlier in the season, but United's away form has been so poor. It will be a very difficult game for United. Saying that, Chelsea still have to go away to Everton. This Title race has got a few Swings left. Arsenal Are out of it. For them to win Chelsea would have beat United. Then United and CHelsea would both have to lose one more game. And even Then our goal difference is not as good as chelsea's and United's so it's not going to happen. I think 78 points will win the league.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think if Chelsea win the league this year, it will probably be one of the most undeserved title wins of recent years. I don't think at any point since last October/November could you say that Chelsea have been the best side in the league.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33

    What a load of rubbish! Winning a league title, or any title for that matter, can't be deemed an undeserved victory. Chelsea are at the moment the form side. 9 vitories in 10 games and 28 points out of a possible 30 says to me that Chelsea are at this moment in time the best side in the league!

  • Comment number 35.

    Completely agree with 34. Chelsea's comeback is down to hard work, good management and more than a bit of luck in some games. You can either praise them for bringing it back or accept that United and Arsenal have been poor and have allowed them to creep back. Personally I think it's both. It's been a season full of delirious remarks from all clubs fans but at the end of the day, the best team wins the league and I'll be back on here to admit United were the best when they AND if they do. I doubt any United fans are big enough to admit that about the Blues comeback.

  • Comment number 36.

    #30

    "Chelsea to finish on 79 Points and that lot up norf 78 points"

    --------------------------

    I hope you haven't put any money on that because it's not mathematically possible given the remaining fixtures.

  • Comment number 37.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think if Chelsea play Drogba from the off, and have go at the left back position they will win the game. Drogba is immense, talented, underrated and strong. He is Chelseas only real potency. He will make the difference to the game. But I think Ancellotti will get it wrong again.

  • Comment number 39.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 40.

    I can't wait until Manchester United V Chelsea it will be the best match of the season unless SAF wants to get a draw, as otherwise both teams will be attacking with full strength. Although if Sir Alex Ferguson wants a draw this may be costly as if they lose to blackburn/blackpool chelsea might have the title but that will be unlikely. Ancelloti the genius has got chelsea from europa league to premier league champions in 4 months ( if chelsea win all our matches and have a higher goal difference than Manchester United) he will be kept by Roman otherwise he will be sacked which is a shame as Roman needs to understand you can't win a trophy every season and Chelsea won't find a manager which is better.

  • Comment number 41.

    It all depends on who Ancelotti decides to play, as a United fan I am hoping he plays Torres and Drogba together. As when both are on the pitch, its as if Chelsea have no strikers. However, it will be completely different if Ancelotti goes 4-3-3 as Chelsea's front 3 of Drogba, Kalou and Malouda look destined to score. The shalke game will also play an important role, as they will have to decide how hard they want to make Man U work to get a result, which will certainly take its toll.

  • Comment number 42.

    I see a big fat anti-climactic draw

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm a Chelsea fan, #33 what a nonsense statement!

    The team that is top is the best full stop. Whether it's us, United or Arsenal they'llbe deserved winners.

    My guy is that ManYoo will come out on top in the end, even if we take 3pts this Sunday

  • Comment number 44.

    Against United will want to win and a draw will be far from SAF's mind.
    Despite their lowly position, Blackburn's home record almost matches United away.
    A draw would be too much of a possibility to risk dropping anything against Chelsea.
    Having said that it seems Chelsea "face mission impossible" unless Blackpool's attacking ability returns to it's best.
    Drogba is the key. In the twilight of his career he is still the best. He defends well and makes as many goals as he scores. I think he has 2 more years at the top.

  • Comment number 45.

    United got excellent record at home and should beat Chelsea. But if Chelsea beat United, Chelsea would then be strong favourites to win the premier league. SAF must get his tactics right if he want United to win this important match. His tactics failed against Arsenal. Chelsea are currently having more luck than United and that could be the difference.

  • Comment number 46.

    I really don't understand this optimism of Chelsea about Sunday.
    Chelsea don't have the attacking force they had last season. I can't even be bothered to accumulate how many goals the Chelsea strikers scored in the second half of the season. Were they more than 10, in total?

    The match on Sunday is going to be a completely different proposition.
    People forget that Chelsea had a home game against Spurs, were as fresh as they could wish for and Spurs created as many chances, more or less, with attacking options that don't much United's by any means. No need to mention that Chelsea won with goals that shouldn't have counted.

    Let's wait and see.
    At the moment, United play a second leg semi final on Wednesday and, having won 0-2 in the away match, I can see them affording to rest players for the match on Sunday.

    It's about time Fletcher to be back. He's desperately needed.

  • Comment number 47.

    #43 wrote:
    I'm a Chelsea fan, #33 what a nonsense statement!

    The team that is top is the best full stop. Whether it's us, United or Arsenal they'llbe deserved winners.
    --------

    Yeah I hear the logic in that, but then again Chelsea beat Spurs 2-1 and not even the most passionate Chelsea fan would say that was deserved. (Harry's response by the way was stella! - SAF and AW can learn a lot about how to react to bad calls from that one)

    As for this weekend, lets not forget that Man U have won just 5 away gams in the league this year. The Arsenal result could hardly be considered a surprise. - Next weekend I predict a very different story.

    As a gooner i'd love to see us get rid of Cesc and use that money to buy a quality holding mid-fielder. Nasri, Wilshire and Ramsey provide plenty of spark. A holding player (in the mould of, but SIGNIFICANTLY better than, Song) would allow us to do to others what Man U always try to do to us. Absorb pressure and kill on the counter with clinical finishing from VanP (who's record has been astonishing this year - when fit) and speed from Walcott (I was loving his first goal against Spurs, reminded me of Henry goals of old). With a little more grit Arsenal would have walked the league this year, their recent form has simply been shocking - one big buy this summer could change that.

  • Comment number 48.

    #46

    We meet again! ;)

    We Chelsea fans are so optimistic about sunday because we now have the title back in our own hands. We were at one stage 15 points behind, now it is three and there is a chance that we could have totally overturned the deficit by Sunday night. To say that Tottenham's attacking options aren't up to much is also ridiculous : Bale, Van der Vaart, Modric, Pavlyuchenko aren't exactly defensive, and they are top class players ( Pavlyuchenko apart ). Chelsea deserved the win and they got it, albeit with a little luck which for lampard in particular is maybe a little overdue.

    About our attacking failures this year, if you look at our recent form, I don't think it really matters. 28 points out of 30 is pretty good going for a team with a poor attacking force as you point out. I would hate to see us when our attacking force is firing!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I actually mean I would love to see us when we are firing, sorry for the typo

  • Comment number 50.

    Too much over analysis based on a single result. Points:

    1. Utd played the way they usually do against Arsenal, draw them on and try to hit them on the break. Utd looked a bit flat upfront and gave up a soft goal and Arsenal derervedly took the points, while creating few other chances. As someone said, I think Utd were partly caught between sticking or twisting and when you half play for a draw it can be dangerous. It happens.

    2.The analysis of Utd's midfield is flawed. Picking out Giggs' absence as a reason is wrong. In both the City and Arsenal games which Giggs missed, Utd were coming-off big CL games in midweek and at this stage of the season tiredness can be a factor. Both games were just single goal defeats.

    3.In the two CL games against Chelsea and in the Schalke game Rooney was outstanding playing as a No.10. In this role he DOES become the 3rd midfield player and makes a huge difference. The fact that he was flat against Arsenal was the difference but there's no question in my mind that that's his position, once he has a striker like Hernandez who takes the main scoring responsibility.

    4.You have to laugh at the guy who says Park isn't good enough for Utd. Park is having an excellent season and has played a big role recently. One game and the plastics are out! As for Valencia. He's been outstanding since he's come back from injury and has been singled out by Fergie for praise on more than one occassion. Laughable comment to suggest he's not good enough.

    5. It all adds to the excitement of the PL and keeps things alive for the fans. Whoever wins the title will be deserved champions. Next Sunday's game is huge and could go either way. Chelsea are on a good run of form while Utd have an outstanding home record. Nerves will play a part and Utd have that midweek game against Schalke. But let's not forget that Utd have just recently beaten Chelsea home and away. How all that psychology plays out could be key.

  • Comment number 51.

    #33 Truefan

    You haven't been paying close attention to Chelsea since their slump, have you? In the last 15 PL games Chelsea have been the best side in the league. Out of a possible 45 points Chelsea have gained 35 while United have gained 30 (as have Liverpool over the same period under Dalglish). So your comment hardly makes sense when put in context.

    On topic: I also believe that the game between Man U and Chelsea will probably decide where the title goes, simply because the winner of that match will have momentum in their favour and we all know that is a powerful force when it comes to football.

  • Comment number 52.

    What Chelsea fans don't know is that they can't beat Everton on the final day.. The team that eliminated you from the FA Cup, your traditional source of silverware, right under your Stamford Bridge noses.... Come on Chelsea fans just forget the league dream

  • Comment number 53.

    I think referees have been fairly bad this year but the Arsenal/United game last week was far from the worst.

    The handball was missed by just about everybody at first glance and although United have the most fans and the outcry has been pretty large, it was far from the nailed on penalty that everyone is making out. The ball is a long way from Owen and although Clichy does seem to kick him on the calf Owen flings himself to the ground way too theatrically for my liking. Owen has not got posession of the ball and they are both going for it. In the referee's mind, clearly the contact is incidental.

  • Comment number 54.

    Lucky Pete;

    Let's just hope United v/s Chelsea on Sunday be a match where result in the end comes from legitimate goals scored. Let it not end up like Chelsea/Spurs last Saturday, where goals were "scored" by the match officials instead of Chelsea players. Last season at Old Trafford, Chelsea won with Drogba scoring a second goal when he was 2-3 yards clearly in an offside position. If that match ended 1-1, without the official (linesman) intervention in favour of the Blues, United would have had been Champions.

  • Comment number 55.

    Arsenal beat ManU simply because for once they played like men and not boys. They defended intelligently and they were patient. Even when they were one goal up, they did not rush madly forward with that boyish enthusiasm to look for more goals. Rather they were cautious and defended their territory quite well. Again, I think ManU played the game at the Emirates with mind on Wednesday which was a naive thing to do. Chelsea can win at the Theatre of Dreams. But their coach must behave like the coach with 2 champions league cups behind him and not like a beginner. In a game like this one the toddler Chelsea Fan knows what selection should be used. A caution though; Ashley Cole must be told that he must stay and defend against Nani or Valencia, both of whom are fast players with good foot work to boot. All too often, Ashley forgets his defensive duties and creates problems for Essien, Terry and co. Suddenly, Chesea's full backs are becoming their Achille's hill.

  • Comment number 56.

    There is one fact for Sunday's match at Old Trafford: it's going to be a hard fought match. And that's all.

    There are no similarities with last season's match. Last season, Chelsea's attack were flying, while this season they don't even know if they're coming or going. Drogba (who deteriorated in speed and effectiveness, big time) will have half his mind on Marseille perhaps and his other half on when he's going to be substituted by Torres. Anelka doesn't know if he plays one of his last matches in a Chelsea shirt, while Torres will be thinking whether he'll be allowed to have a torrid game, yet again this season. It will all be left to poor, old Lampard to try and save the day. And Chelsea fans surely know it.

    Last season, Chelsea beat United at Stamford Bridge, while this season they already lost twice to United, having beaten them only in the Premiership game and they have to say many thanks to snow for that. Remember? :)

    United will come out to play the match at a fortress of a home this season, having the confidence of having reached a third Champions League final, having beaten in the process this very opponent they'll be facing on Sunday.

    Luis has been a revelation for Chelsea. Still, he's one of those players who can flirt with cards as much as Vidic does, just he's the defender who will be tested more. A few weeks back, he gifted Stoke City a goal, losing the ball in the wings and putting Chelsea in a heart breaking process of thanking God that Fuller missed a header to the far post, in the dying seconds of the match, with the goal at his mercy. Many would argue it was a point earned rather than two points lost, because Stoke were brilliant but, yet again, it was a stadium where Chelsea used to have happy days.

    It's going to be a difficult match but, mainly, because United will be playing their 11th fixture in the last 36 days. Because Chelsea don't even know what format they should try, these days, having attackers who know they'll leave and a good manager who knows he will also leave. When it comes to spirit, the two sides couldn't be further apart.

    Tomorrow, United play a Champions League semi final. Chelsea's manager, players and fans will be looking at United's starting XI. Because they know it's SAF who is pulling the strings. The rest is all about hypotheses and hyperbole, used to reach wishes rather than expectations.

  • Comment number 57.

    Chelsea's midfield is very strange this season. In the past they've been defensively solid, stroked the ball around the pitch, and, through Lampard, very creative with a killer final ball. That hasn't really been the case this season, especially in the final third. They missed Lampard hugely, but since his return he seems to have struggled to be the prolific creator and goal scorer that he was consistently been for many years now. Hopefully he's got at least another season in him of his best (although last season will probably be hard to match), because if so, there is NO reason why he and Torres cannot form a better partnership than Torres and Gerrard.

    Chelsea have also seemed to struggle to get width from the full backs this season as well, which certainly wasn't the case, specifically through Ashley Cole, last season.

    They need to look at bringing a proper flying right-back to compliment Ashley Cole and take the pressure off Lampard to create. They also need a top right footed wide forward to play on the left of Torres as it looks like Anelka isn't really cutting it there, and Benayoun probably isn't of the standard required, and I don't see the point in them moving Malouda on as he fits his role perfectly on the right. It isn't much, but it could make a huge difference next season. And probably a proper holding midfield player, Essien hasn't been the same since his serious injury, unfortunately. They need a robust partner for Ramires/Essien if they're going to persist with 4-2-3-1 which has been their best formation for a long time.

  • Comment number 58.

    Its all got very interesting!!
    I've said since we sold Torres to Chelsea that he has characteristics that wont suit Chelsea's play. Greedy on the ball and fails to play team mates in when he has no options himself.
    Drogba is a force to reckon with, and with his physicality, Vidic and Ferdinand will be shattered by half time. Then, and only then, when a couple of goals have gone past Van der Sar, bring on Torres. Defenders will struggle with his pace, like Man U vs LFC Old Trafford last season.

    Ancelotti has to forget what Roman says, stick with what he knows. 4-3-3 Drogba at the top. And with Luiz back in the defence, pacey players like little pea can be kept at bay.

    Im hoping for a Chelsea win, as a Pool fan i cant bare to see united win another league title. It will hurt way too much. ;(
    Either way, what an interesting finish to the season. This is why the Barclays Premiership is the best in the world. YNWA

  • Comment number 59.

    I don't know what it is about pundits and opposing fans but whenever United lose one game, all of a sudden they're saying United won't win anything. We have won the premier league more times than our rivals put together! We've won it 11 times! Chelsea and Arsenal have only won it three times and we all know how good Arsenal's double winning team was. United have been able to win it with about five completely different squads though, we know how to win.

    Chelsea have a quality squad but they haven't been able to win the Champs' League but we've won it twice in the last twelve seasons (need I mention that we won the 2008 final at the expense of Chelski).

    I repeat: we know how to win. If we can finish the job against Schalke tomorrow, and we should be able to rest players, we will be on a massive high and will go in to Sunday's game with massive belief and determination.

    We were a no-show at the league's only French team on Sunday, we seemed to accept the defeat. If we beat Chelsea on Sunday, that defeat will not matter and we will make sure that no Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Man City fan can say we're not deserved champions.

  • Comment number 60.

    I think the next tie breaker when two teams have the same points should be head to head match up between the two teams.

  • Comment number 61.

    Most of this seems to be a transcript of what was said on MOTD2. Ah well, reduce, reuse and recycle to save the planet.

  • Comment number 62.

    After the near end of season one thing is really striking my mind. After all the bad time and criticism of Chelsea and ManU, again all have come down to these 2. They were out of form, Injury problems, Ageing problem all was there, But in the end it is really amaizing how these 2 teams are the only contender for the title. Hats of to both Chelsea and ManU, whoever wins the league.

    And as for next season, both Chelsea and ManU might need one creative midfielder, Lampard is not the same anymore and Scholes has already lost it. I expect 2 top class buy from SAF and a major sweep out in Chelsea, They need players like Luiz or Torres. Young and Hungry. Where as Man U needs a Spark, who can create something in the games like Sunday. Then it will be again Chelsea vs Man U next season. Whatever Wenger thinks fo Arsenal they are not winners anymore, and I am not even counting City and Liverpool in the equiation. (long way to go)

  • Comment number 63.

    1 ) United were poor on Sunday, rather than Arsenal being spectacular. Arsenal did not create much for all the posession gifted them, and their one goal was very soft with a touch of luck. The "luck" comes in due to the crowd of players the ball had to get through without taking a touch on any.

    2 ) As has been said, United were set up wrong and did not really know what they wanted to do. In the end they did very little.

    3 ) Most United supporters have been saying all season that our midfield is poor with little creativity to boot. Valencia definitely needed to start, and Giggs is always missed as he is one of our few sources of any creatvity.

    4 ) Consider the records of United this season away from home and at home, and you can see Chelsea have a major task on their hands. One I am far from certain they are up to.

    5 ) Even a draw for United almost certainly ends eny hope Chelsea have.

    6 ) If Chelsea win they need to win BIG, as United are almost certain to have the better goal difference over the last two games.

    7 ) I hope Chelsea start Torres as we have seen time and again he weakens their strike force.

    8 ) Let's hope for a good game, with proper officiating, unlike Chelsea's "win" over Spurs. Chelsea should not be in this position for two reasons - firstly they should never have "won" against Spurs, and secondly United forgot to turn up on Sunday.

  • Comment number 64.

    chelsea know how to beat united. luiz, ivanovic and ramires should all have been sent off in the game at stamford bridge (helpfully moved). the penalty was a dive. two goals against spurs, neither of which should have stood. chelsea won it last year, beat united in an f.a. cup final and two league cup semis all thanks to the officials. why should this season be any different? chelsea will bully, dive and hope to get another offside goal or two.

  • Comment number 65.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 66.

    65. At 09:54am 3rd May 2011, Mr Chelsea wrote:

    You guys are ridiculous moaning about decisions going Chelsea's way.

    Do you really want me to list out the decisions which have gone in United's favour this season?


    I can still feel bitter about Un**ed's 9th goal against us at OT,definitely off-side...

    On a more serious note Mr C,fans will always say that team A are lucky with this decision,or never lost with that referee.

    The ref gets one view and one view only.The "pundits" in the TV studio go over it 73 times to show that Smith was a fraction off side.

    It seems to have become the done thing to blame referees one way or the other.He should have given this,not given that,blah blah blah.

    Just accept the result,referees are doing their best in an impossible light.Trouble is,it seems no-one does that any more.Must be someone's fault.

  • Comment number 67.

    At 09:45am 3rd May 2011, jem wrote:

    Your post takes myopia to a new record high, Arsene could indeed learn from you.

    An absolute hilarious post, and the best thing I can say about it is that is clearly does highlight your passion for your club. Well done on that front, that is what supporting your team is about!

    ps

    You forgot to add that Ancelotti should have been sent off to for a blatant trip of Fergie.

  • Comment number 68.

    Talking about decisions in the past never ends as all clubs got in the wrong or right end of decisions in the past.

    What I know is United are going to field many fresh stars against Chelsea on Sunday, ripping the benefit of the 0-2 in Germany.

    At least, this almost-title-decider between United and Chelsea is going to be played in a much better spirit than an 'el farsico' today where fans, players and managers of the two teams seek refuge in the gutter of arguments - if fans used that sort of language, all postings would have broken those House Rules.

    I understand the need of Chelsea fans for encouragement.
    I also understand the desire of pundits to place their case for a prolonged interest to the title destination this season.
    Everybody points the finger to United's away record this season. Not one mentions the home record, for obvious reasons.

  • Comment number 69.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 70.

    stillbrighter
    -----------------

    Super analysis and summary about Chelsea this season!

    If I had to argue one point it may be about Benayoun, purely because he has not had a chance to show what he can do in this Chelsea team, but I suspect you will be proved right on this point also.

    Great post!

  • Comment number 71.

    Mr Chelsea
    --------------------------------------
    You are addressing United fans who can't see a balanced picture, you and I should both give it up, they are not interested in a fair debate on this subject.

    I cite Jem's post as exhibit A.

  • Comment number 72.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 73.

    An interesting article appeared on the press today, which alleges that Abramovich asked an executive in Chelsea's board to give him a list of players he would like to be acquired in the summer. Who makes purchase decisions at Chelsea? Any light on this?

  • Comment number 74.

    Why bother then, saying Chelsea have it easy with refs when they scold people for saying EXACTLY the same thing about united.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't really complain about referee's 'favouring' teams; every team has decisions go their way and ones that go against (well apart from Barcelona obviously who seemingly get everything ;)).

    What does annoy myself and many fellow reds is the amount of coverage decisions that go for us get compared to ones against. Just one example, the penalty Blackpool should have had at Bloomfield road ran for about 4 days, United get all the decisions blah blah blah. When EXACTLY the same foul happened a few weeks later at Old Trafford with Dunne barging Nani against Villa, it didn't even make the report in certain newspapers.

    Still, refereeing decisions aside, it'll be a hell of a game next week.

  • Comment number 75.

    Football UK

    I think you should asking that question to the journalist who wrote the story in the first place.

    If he is honest he will tell you " No, I can't shed any light on this, because I made the story up to help sell more copies of my newspaper"

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 75, Roman Philosopher,

    Looks like the closest to the truth.
    You can never trust football journalists in this country or any other.

  • Comment number 77.

    Still, refereeing decisions aside, it'll be a hell of a game next week.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Agreed, and United are still massive favourites in my book, even in fact, if they ended up losing by one goal.

    I just think United with both Vidic and Ferdinand playing have enough to keep Chelsea at bay.

    God I hope I am wrong!

  • Comment number 78.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 79.

    There is a question mark on Chelsea this season. Essien has been immense last season while, this season, we've seen him mostly nervous and no close to his usual high standards. Having lost Ballack this season, when Essien doesn't play well Chelsea look much weaker in midfield, although Ramires keeps improving.

  • Comment number 80.

    So, pretty much the only thing that Chelsea can learn from the Man Utd defeat at Arsenal (for which the game was virtually a cup final) is that United won't make the same mistake again against a 3 man midfield.

    Quality tactical analysis there!

    As far as the future game itself, should be a cracker. I just hope Vidic turns up as good Vidic rather than nightmare Vidic.

    We can hold out fine against the Germans, so we're sharp and looking for the victory to seal our historical turnaround in clinching a record beating league titles haul.

    Can guarantee there will be a least 2 contentious incidents and decison in the game though, which will probably decide the destination of the points at least. Would be nice to know that one man doesn't get to make such a decision, but such is the way the game is stubbornly set to remain in the 19th century.

  • Comment number 81.

    Football_UK wrote:
    There is a question mark on Chelsea this season. Essien has been immense last season while, this season, we've seen him mostly nervous and no close to his usual high standards.
    ----------------------------------
    Sorry to burst your bubble on this one, but last season Essien got injured in the first week of November, and did not play for Chelsea again.

    However, you are right that Essien is struggling this season and he is nowhere year the player he was 3 seasons ago.

    Luckily for us Ramires gets better and better though!

  • Comment number 82.

    Some people here are just eternal naggers. Crying about referre decissio, luck factors and what not. These things are aprt of football and these are the things which make us discuss. Every team faces both ends of the Coin. SO is there really any logic behind pointing one or two particular incident?
    And also bringing tech into football will make the game very very slow. I dont know if pace is gone from football how good will it be?

  • Comment number 83.

    # Roman Philosopher,

    I didn't feel the need to find encouragement as a United fan from Essien's loss of form, so no bubble there.

    The fact is Essien is not playing to his high standards this season, Ballack has been missed on many occasions and Ramires, although I'm expecting him to be top class next season, he's not there yet.

  • Comment number 84.

    Sorry, I don't understand. How can this article state that United's problem was that they only had two in central midfield, whilst also saying that Rooney played as a midfielder?

    The fact is that United didn't quite turn up whereas Arsenal did. I suspect complacency had a lot more to do with it than tactics.

  • Comment number 85.

    I don't think Chelsea stand a chance for the title, this season.

  • Comment number 86.

    I note that you aren't contesting the facts.

    fergie had better not take schalke lightly. they might be 2-0 down, but seeing the likes of gibson on the team sheet will give them all the encouragement they need. chelsea will play a tired united after a week off (again) and they will try to cheat their way to victory because it is what they do every time they play us. or anyone else, come to that. they're still mourinho's team.

  • Comment number 87.

    Do Dixon (& Keown) still think - as they did at the end of the 2008/9 season - that Carrick & Fletcher are better than Mascherano & Xabi Alonso?

  • Comment number 88.

    jem

    Cant you just shut up fromc alling Chelsea a cheater? Do you only remember decissions against your team and forget all the decission that have gone for your team?

    What a hypocrit

    Wrong decissions are part of football. So please stop crying. If you call chelsea a cheater then all the club in world are cheater. All have recieved one or two decissions in favour of them.

    Have you understood or you need more explanation?

  • Comment number 89.

    Fletcher and Carrick are expected to be immense on Sunday.

  • Comment number 90.

    Chelsea to finish on 79 Points and that lot up norf 78 points
    Sorry should have read CHELSA on 79 points 77 for that lot up norf!!

  • Comment number 91.

    Would love to see UTD win absolutely nothing this season, Woud have preferred Arsenal to pick up the league but Chelsea will do, Cant see past Barca for CL either... Come on you blues (and a bit of maroon)

  • Comment number 92.

    @ 90, Cooke2Tambling2OsgoodGOAL,

    this season, it's more likely for Chelsea to finish on 73-75 points, actually.

  • Comment number 93.

    @88 Jem

    I'm not a Chelsea fan but they did not in any way cheat... Yes they got favourable decisions but that was in no way their fault! And assuming yout YTD what about Rooney's GBH worthy elbow that went unpunished or Vidic's hand ball ( should have been Rec and a ban) it's swings and roundabouts, we all get them for and against and UTD have nothing to complain about

  • Comment number 94.

    @93

    Your UTD

    (Red and a Ban) Really should go back to school

  • Comment number 95.

    I remember the man utd vs chelsea game last year at old trafford,and i was surprised at how much better chelsea were in every department, they completely dominated the match and kept the ball very well and were worthy winners. And i think that it is possible for them to do the same again on sunday, they will have luiz, which will be a huge benefit for them and i think that they will have learned alot from the champions league matches. I think that they realise that they will really have to dominate possession, which they are well capable of doing but failed to do it in both champions league matches. I would go with the 4-3-3 and play drogba up front with anelka on the right and malouda on the left and then bring torres on with 30 minutes to go as his pace will cause the united defense problems. But i think it is really ancelotti's decision whether to start ramires or mikel,i mean if he wants to dominate the ball further up the pitch them ramires would be the obvious choice and especially in the 4-3-3 both him and essien will take turns over who will cover when they are attacking, but he may want mikel as he will keep possession but he only tends to pass it side to side and doesn't really advance the ball aswell as ramires, ramires is also alot more energetic and better at running with the ball, but ancelotti may choose mikel so that he can man mark rooney and take him out the game, but i really do fancy chelsea to win this.

  • Comment number 96.

    54.
    And do you remember Macheda's goal? Practically pushed into the goal with his hands.

  • Comment number 97.

    93 swindonbluearmy

    Absolutely spot on, trying to convey the same message to him from long time.

    Me also not chelsea fan, but surely they dont pay officials to get decission in there favour

  • Comment number 98.

    Sir Alex should give Wayne Rooney the free role to roam around the opponents half with one thing on his mind: attack, attack, attack!

  • Comment number 99.

    98. At 13:23pm 3rd May 2011, 1CarlosTevez wrote:
    Sir Alex should give Wayne Rooney the free role to roam around the opponents half with one thing on his mind: attack, attack, attack!

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I assume you are referring to the use of his elbows?

  • Comment number 100.

    Even if we beat man u, im still seriously worried about the everton away game! I cant see man u dropping points in their games (possibly blackburn, but i think they have too much quality overall) whereas everton is the last team you want to be playing on a title decider, we're going to have to bring our a game to that one if things go our way on sunday

 

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