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Ancelotti's bravery pays off

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Phil McNulty | 17:00 UK time, Saturday, 3 April 2010

Carlo Ancelotti's expression of choice is poker-faced - and he revealed the gambler within as Chelsea struck what may yet prove to be the title race's decisive blow at Manchester United.

All logic suggested Ancelotti would respond to the absence of Manchester United's injured inspiration Wayne Rooney by restoring his own master marksman, fit-again Didier Drogba.

Ancelotti resisted the temptation and boldly kept Drogba exactly where he was during the 7-1 demolition of Aston Villa, on the bench. The Italian's left eyebrow is permanently raised, and the expression was mirrored among Chelsea followers when his selection was revealed.

The ploy was an unqualified success, with Ancelotti able to leave Old Trafford celebrating a win that was as much a personal triumph for the Italian as it was for a Chelsea team that has regained control of the Premier League title race with only five games left.

joecole_blog_pa.jpgJoe Cole's season has been disrupted by injury - photo: PA

Ancelotti put his reputation on the line by keeping Drogba under wraps at the start, no doubt well aware of where the finger of blame would point had Chelsea failed to secure the win they needed.

The faith he placed in the Chelsea side that thrashed Villa was handsomely rewarded with a deserved three points - and when Ancelotti needed it, fortune favoured the brave in the game's defining moment.

Drogba was introduced for Nicolas Anelka with 20 minutes left as United were finally gathering some sort of momentum after struggling to exert any authority on Chelsea, who led courtesy of Joe Cole's early goal.

United's faint hint at a revival came to a shuddering halt as Drogba thumped home the second, despite receiving Salomon Kalou's pass in an embarrassingly offside position.

Chelsea claimed an injustice of their own when Federico Macheda set up a frantic finale with a goal that went in via his hand - but the more vehement protestations were United's and rightly so.

It capped a tough afternoon for referee Mike Dean and his fellow officials. Dean, who was rightly criticised for incorrectly awarding Blackburn a penalty at Burnley last week, was tested again as he refused respectable claims for spot-kicks from both sides.

Let no-one doubt, however, that this game got the winners it deserved. For the most part Chelsea, inspired by the outstanding Florent Malouda, were the more composed, ordered and dangerous team.

And it delivered an ominous signal for the remaining games that Ancelotti felt confident enough to leave Drogba out from the start and still claim three points, while United struggled desperately to find any rhythm or serious threat in Rooney's enforced injury absence.

United, who lost at Everton after a midweek Champions League win against AC Milan, looked heavy-legged and laboured following their defeat to Bayern Munich in Germany.

It would do a grave disservice to Chelsea to simply attribute this win to United's fatigue. This was an impressive demonstration of the renewal Ancelotti has presided over since a dismal few days when they went out of the Champions League to Inter Milan and drew so tamely at Blackburn.

drogba_blog_ap.jpgDidier Drogba started on the bench, but came on to score the winner- photo: AP

Chelsea played with confidence gained from 12 goals against Portsmouth and Villa, and when United did mount a predictable surge after Macheda's goal, the old resilience was on show.

Malouda's running and intelligence typified Chelsea, especially in the first hour, while there were some welcome glimpses of the Joe Cole of old - maybe not enough to force his way back into Fabio Capello's World Cup plans, but certainly enough to attract the England coach's attention.

From the invention of his finish at the Stretford End to the creation of a perfect pass that should have given Paulo Ferreira a goal, Cole looked like a man enjoying his game again after a long haul back from a serious knee injury.

Rooney could only watch in frustration from Old Trafford's executive boxes as his importance to United's cause was underlined with every passing minute, and the focus will fall on his replacement Dimitar Berbatov, especially after he missed an injury-time chance to earn a point.

Berbatov deserves a measure of sympathy because many intelligent runs went unrewarded by his uninspired United's team-mates, and for too long he was left isolated as Chelsea dictated possession in midfield.

Sir Alex Ferguson, while condemning the officials, accepted the force was with Chelsea after they claimed these three priceless points, but the twists that have characterised this season means United must not be dismissed.

Rooney may return for the Manchester derby in a fortnight and Ferguson's prediction that the race may not be concluded until the final day of the campaign still holds good. United have come back from worse positions than this and Arsenal's latest dramatic late escape against Wolves keeps the pot bubbling.

But Chelsea now have one of football's most precious commodities - momentum. And much of the credit for their return to prime position in the Premier League goes to Ancelotti.

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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Showed Chelsea's strength in depth, compared to United's reliance on Rooney... Think Chelsea may be in for the title, could have done with a draw from Arsenal's perspective.

  • Comment number 3.

    yyyyeeeeah boi

  • Comment number 4.

    This was a hammer blow for Utd today. Anything but defeat and they were in pole position. But their midfield got over run and Berbatov played like he so often does - averagely. Personally i think Berbatov and Veron are two of the worst signings for such money the game has ever seen. Lets not even mention the likes of Taibi, Djemba Djemba, Kleberson and the likes. If it wasn't for ooooooodles of cash and the best youth team ever seen having come through the ranks, Fergie would have won a 10th of the medals that he has

  • Comment number 5.

    " Berbatov deserves a measure of sympathy because many intelligent runs went unrewarded by his uninspired United's team-mates, and for too long he was left isolated "

    thank you for mentioning this.

    I can see the Utd supporters blaming him.

    Utd were overrun in midfield. was Sir Alex scared? instead of playing his usual big game formation with 3 across the defense he adopted essentially 4-2-4.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dissappointing result today but manu can still win the premier league,arsenal are still in premier league race by getting that late winner. Only 5 games left in the season, all 3 teams got 2 play spurs and that is where here chelsea can drop points!

  • Comment number 7.

    Utd - one man team? Discuss! I would be worried about the match with Bayern now.
    Well done Chelski - the better team won.

  • Comment number 8.

    Here we have a billion dollar stadium, two teams worth a billion each, a billion people watching, nasa inspired footballs, lightweight football boots and kits, energy diets and sports psychologists and the game in 2010 is settled by an incorrect offside decision and here we go again with the weekly lottery and farce of professional football, was he ? wasn't he? How can journalists and professional sportsmen in football take themselves seriously and believe anything of what they say or write? It's completely ridiculous.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ancelloti got it tactically right, but SAF lining up with 2 holding midfielders was pretty much giving Chelsea a free reign in the middle of the park. He tried to combat this by bringing Giggs in to a more central role but I can barely recall 2 occasions that Giggs actually done something with the ball.

  • Comment number 10.

    # 8

    Bit like the Wolves player given a straight red for what was at most a yellow card offence. It's football!!!!
    Mechada put the ball in with his hand, plus 2 good penalty shouts.

  • Comment number 11.

    Come on you GOONERS GOONERS GOONERS GOONERS, Amanda Cerasale. Watford, Herts,

  • Comment number 12.

    FAO Match of the Day editors.

    Take another look at the Park penalty claim. Zhirkov gets the ball first. It's not a penalty. Please don't allow your football 'analysts' to miss this.

    The other incidents:

    Neville on Anelka - clear penalty.
    Drogba goal - clear offside.
    Macheda goal - clear handball.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    So that's a great tactical move to get the linesman to not give Drogba offside before he scores ? Sounds more like luck to me

  • Comment number 15.

    united were found out badly today, a true 1 man team. berbatov looked more derby county than man united and showed what a true waste of 32 million he really is.

    it's sad to concede that the most vile collection of football players ever assembled will probably win the league now, but it looks that way. the chelsea money machine look to have done enough with united still facing 3 weeks without rooney. i just pray spurs or liverpool can get one over on chelsea and save another part of football from dying.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Drogba blantantly more reason to bring in video etc. man United didn't deserve to lose. I'm not a MU fan, I just think that football is very unfair with all the wrong or missed decisions. LONG LIVE RUGBY, a MAN'S sport and no problems thanks to video.

  • Comment number 18.

    Congratulations to Joe Cole. What a strike !

  • Comment number 19.

    Drogba scores and the Ref awards a goal. Ferguson makes a "video appeal" (TWO video appeals per team) 15 to 30 seconds later a free kick is given for offside. Rory Delap takes up seven minutes of the game with his throw in's so his centre half's can get into the box. Introduce "two video appeal's per team" and let's have some fairness and get rid of the cheat culture, meanwhile it's a lottery and a farce !

  • Comment number 20.

    Amazing result. My day could not have gotten off to a better start. I couldn't believe it when Chelsea started with Didi on the bench... no matter what the stats say, in a big game, you always start Drogba. But obviously the move paid off. Tactically, we were perfect, albeit more so in the first half than the second. When things started to get a bit out of control near the end of the game, I thought Carlo made the right decision to bring on Ballack. I thought things slowed down considerably after his introduction to the game. And Malouda - wow what a change from when he first arrived at The Bridge. Chelsea may not be as young, but our depth and experience paid off today, while Rooney's injury definitely exposed Utd's reliance on him. The title is now ours to lose...

    But what a great season! Everything to play for: top spot, 4th spot, relegation (well except the last position on the table anyway) AND there's a World Cup this summer so I won't be completely lost come June, relying on the Golf Channel only...!

  • Comment number 21.

    # 13:

    Oh for goodness sake - what goes around comes around. Utd have had their fair share of decisions go their way - get over it - the best side won.

  • Comment number 22.

    As for Man Utd's goal, the last two things to touch the ball were Macheda's left and right arms. He stood there like a performing juggler before pushing the ball into the goal. I think that evens out the Chelsea offside goal.

  • Comment number 23.

    There was an irony in the second goal. If I was given access to the BBC archive and the side on camera angle at that end of the pitch, I will find many examples of linesmen missing Utd players being offside and not given. It does not mean to say that I defend a poor decision but Utd have been beneficiaries of many such decisions so the irony is delicious.

    The title is not over. Question ? At the start of the season when Liverpool were still a top 4 team, how were Chelsea allocated 2 away games at Man U and Liverpool at the key end of the season ? When were Utd treated thus? The argument that you play each other twice does not wash because the nature of the EPL is that teams are less consistent in the first half of the season so if you are allocated a greater proportion of away games at higher teams early on that is advantageous, you can lose those games and the damage is not as severe, how often have teams run away with the title in the first half of the season ?Not many.. Utd should be grateful for this fixture scheduling for it is that which gives them hope, without Rooney they are a one man team in the biggest games. It will be ironical if Spurs with their appalling record beat or draw Chelsea, and then Liverpool of all teams do Utd a favour (whats the mood of Liverpool fans, shades of last day when Blackburn won the title ?)

    Hansen has said it and I have to back him when I say that this Utd team has really not pulled up trees, they should not have won the title last year, and despite today's hiccup,the fixture list suggests there is still plenty of banana skins for Chelsea.

    Finally, well done Chelsea for displaying a positive attitude at OT, others should follow suit. If Bayern demonstrate the same on Wednesday, its bye bye Utd

  • Comment number 24.

    This season has certainly got a few more twists in it yet. If anything is to be learnt, ManU are not to be underestimated despite their setback today. As mentioned, Spurs have yet to play a hand in this, as do Citeh.

    On another note, can anyone enlighten me as to which fans have more cardiac health issues than Gooner fans? I felt absolutely sick with relief after Bendtner's headed finish.

  • Comment number 25.

    Its apparent that some dont watch the match and only listen to the commentators. Drogba was offside. But then macheda handballed. So it cancels out. And Macheda used both his hands to guide the ball.
    In the first half Park could have gotten a penalty. But no way was it a blatant call. Only 50/50 because Park used the defender to his advantage and exaggerated his fall. He could have stayed on his feet if he was totally determined to get the ball.
    Then Anelkas penalty chance was also 50/50. But i will say that Neville was lucky not to get sent off the way he was flying around right throughout the match.
    Man Utd had the advantage in possession for about 25 mins, the rest belongs to Chelsea and thus Chelsea earned their win.
    Drogba despite being offside scored a clinical shot worthy of a great striker. Almost identical to Ibrahimovic goal against Arsenal in the CL.

  • Comment number 26.

    arsenal once again showed the resiliance needed to be champions. i applaud wenger for rottating the squad as Barca will need energy to run around. my 1st glimpse of the Arsenal line up toda7y and i thot we were definately out of this tie,... Wenger needs to showe us of his tactical prowess come teausday after he has had a chance to ssee how barca will line up.

    Chelse still have tottenham and Anfield to go to so i tghink the league is still open. i expect chelsea to drop pouints at Liverpool and totenham and Manchester to drop points at their #Manchester derby. Arsenal should be weary opf tottenham and city coz they also stand to drop points there,... but the league unfolds...

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Drogba's goal may have been offside but it makes up for the penalty which should have been given for Neville on Anelka. Zhirkov got the ball in the challenge with Park as did Lampard with Berba. Then there's the United goal which comes off the guy's hand, so overall 2 bad decissions against Chelsea, 1 against Man United, hence stop your moaning.
    Chelsea have completed a deserved double over both Arsenal and now Man u and should win the title.

  • Comment number 29.

    Momentum, as you said it Phil, is very key at this stage! Chelsea have that but the topsy turvy nature of this peculiar season may render that advantage meaningless.

    I feel sorry for the injustice that some fans may claim after games such as this. However, in football..."could have, should have, would have" doesn't cut it! There's only "have's and have not's". I believe that we are in for more drama. Especially with Liverpool and Man city still to play the title chasers and contribute more twists to the plot.

    It's been entertaining and i'm loving every bit of it!

  • Comment number 30.

    It was really intriguing seeing United host Chelsea without Nani - Carrick in the starting line - up, instead fielding the out of form Valencia and not using at any point Rafael D.S. The problem signs were there with Bayern and no remedy was evident today. Again the midfield was fully outplayed by the Chelsea counterparts and the attackers were static and isolated. The ball covering work that Rooney does so well to help deploy lethal counter attacks was rarely seen. Cohesion between the lines was very low.
    Was it the over exertion of midweek or the much fresher opponents, the fact remains that Chelsea were the better team very well organised cleverly positioned to cancel key Utd. players and very effective. Ancelotti mastered an excellent performance.
    HopefullY SAF will pull strings together in view of Tuesday's CL showdown and regain the supremacy shown in many instances this season.

  • Comment number 31.

    You are simply the best. You believe that chelsea is better than man.u today.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well said Fedupwithgovt!
    Chelsea have suffered in the hands of the officials in every CL match they play in. United have been the luckier ones - fixtures' list, not drawing Inter or Barca, own goals scored, penalties (fake mostly), Carling Cup final, the list is endless...

    Come on gunners! Liverpool will not let Chelsea win and ManC will not let SAF win.

  • Comment number 33.

    Drogba scores and the Ref awards a goal. Ferguson makes a "video appeal" (TWO video appeals per team) 15 to 30 seconds later a free kick is given for offside. Rory Delap takes up seven minutes of the game with his throw in's so his centre half's can get into the box. Introduce "two video appeal's per team" and let's have some fairness and get rid of the cheat culture, meanwhile it's a lottery and a farce !

    I completely agree with you. The FA and all the managers need to get together and sort something out once and for all. It's not a case of "losing the human element" that some have said will come by using technology over referees, there will always be a place for referrees in the game but every match of the day has at least 3 managers complaining about refereeing decisions.

    Tennis is the best game in the world in terms of justice, and a similar system of 2/3 official appeals by the manager per match would not break up the game and holds referee accountable whilst managers will no longer complain after the game.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    The Drogba goal decision for me shows once again why linesmen SHOULD NOT have the responsibility of calling the line. Just let the play go on and check the tape to see if it was offside or not and then decide f its a goal. Easy!

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear oh dear. Is that the best English football has to offer? Barca vs Real pales into insignificance in comparison lol - Who'd look forward to watching that when you have today's dross to enjoy. Dross now in 3D down your local pub.

    2 squads packed with the cream of Spanish Brazilian Dutch Argentinian and Italian talent. Not. Comprising rather of either nobodies of international football or have-not-beens from the mid to late 90's. How embarrassing. The first had zero-risk-freebie Michael Owen as 1st sub and now he got injured rely on a kid nobody around the world has heard of to come on and save them. The others take Deco off who was at his prime with Mourinho's Porto and bring on Ballack who was at his peak in the 2002 WC and CL final. Hoofs, sunday league challenges, awful officiating & lack of respect, unforced errors every half a minute, astray long balls & goal kicks, and players unable to improvise technically or string more than a handful of passes together.

    "Ancelotti bravery pays off", what bravery putting 11 behind the ball and nearly paying for it again? Hastily made up a theme out of nothing there because the individual quality was too shocking to talk about.

    Best rated and highest quality footballer on the pitch Malouda who was voted worst transfer last season and is on the fringes of a mediocre French national team.

    And clubs clearly now in tier 2 of European football that, understandably with the talent at their disposal and complete lack of funds even for half-decent transfers, more often than not get outplayed by the top Spanish German and Italian and occasionally French and Portuguese sides.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ancelotti's "bold move" only paid off because Drogba was allowed to stand two yards offside. Maybe Berbatov would have had similar success today had he been allowed a similar advantage.

  • Comment number 38.

    The title race could come down to whether Liverpool are still chasing fourth place when they host Chelsea at Anfield in the penultimate game.

    They are well capable of beating Chelsea if they can still make fourth... But if not, will they bust a gut to help Manchester United win their nineteenth title, thereby overtaking Liverpool themselves??

    I think not.

    (Mind you, that would be 'rough justice' for Ferguson who has had 'help' from both Steve Bruce and Alan Curbishley near the end of previous title races with Chelsea).

  • Comment number 39.


    dear Oh dear....Spain have 1 team in the CL quarter finals Italy has one and the Premier league has 2. So i'm afraid that blows all of your arguments out of the window. Remind me what happened to Real Madrid again in the last 16...again?

  • Comment number 40.

    'Berbatov deserves a measure of sympathy because many intelligent runs went unrewarded'

    And his reactions were slow, link-up play poor, finishing non-existent when he had his two opportunities, and up against the chealsea defence couldn't muscle his way out a wet chip poke.

    MU looked tired in the first half which was a natural reaction to playing midweek in Europe midweek. Berbatov always looks tired...

  • Comment number 41.

    Phil, what do you make of Ancelotti's first season in England? I personally think he has been great and should get a lot more credit for what he has done.

    Under him, chelsea have had 7 out of 7 victories against big 4 opposition and that could be crucial come the end of the season

  • Comment number 42.

    chelsea were very good in the first half, but they were camped in their own box for much of the second half and hardly deserved all three points. poor refereeing aside, neither team would have deserved all three today. that linesman needs to be suspended though, the penalty claim for park shouldve been seen by him as should the offside. the other linesman didnt cover himself in glory either but can at least use the bodies in the way excuse for the anelka foul and macheda incident. two games against chelsea have been heavily decided by rubbish refereeing though.

    Deco and cole shouldve both walked too, cole went through the back of parl, shouted at the ref and had nothing said to him. neville went through malouda, got up and got on with it and took his booking, Scholes was tackled after the ball had gone by deco, only a minute after he had been lectured for a tackle on deco himself and the ref turned a blind eye. Mike dean is an appalling ref, in fact the standard in the entire league has been appalling since about october

  • Comment number 43.

    Games over!!

    United LOST (ha!) Chelsea WON.

    Decisions go either way in every game! I cant believe the amount of moaning United give considering the amount of decisions that go there way!!

    so get over it!!

  • Comment number 44.

    The game today may not have been a classic but it was still exciting to watch with the prospect of Manu U sneaking an equaliser. If you want to compare between the Prem and the rest then you should remember how our teams consitently reach the last 4 and final, plus last year it should have been another all English final as Chelsea were better than Baraca and had there been a competant ref would have won. Why would you want a squad of brazilians, spanish and argentines. In my opinion they drag down the game by trying to make it a non contact sinister sport. If you saw Chelsea Inter then you'll understand. Inter went down after a touch and stayed there rolling around for a minute trying to get their opponent booked. Meanwhile they were also wrestling Chelsea players to the ground at all corners. If Manchester United play at the high tempo that defines this league above the rest then they can easily beat Bayern. Basically i find it hard to see how you can say English teams are second tier when they are on a par with Barca and will be in the final

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, you should get some facts right. Ancelotti left Drogba on the bench because he was unfit to play for 90 minutes, having hardly trained all week. Be sure that Drogba will lead the line for the rest of the matches.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hmm-to be honest Chelsea were the better team today so had United got the win, it may have been unfair.

    What I thought was a bigger underlying Issue was the two teams who were top of the prem league, were both set-up not to lose I thought. Although Chelsea were the better in terms of possesion, I dont remember either team repelling attack after attack from the opposition. I thought it was poor that the two best placed teams in the league in terms of position didnt want to lose-it seemed to be "lets score a goal and shut up shop".

    Whilst I grant that the magnitude of the game was massive in terms of position, neither team seemed to want the win more the other, if that makes sense? It looked like, the money in terms of league champions and runners-up plus the money from gaining entry in to the champions league was mre important than trying to win the game-so is it now a case of money dictating the big games at the end of the season as opposed to going for the juggular and running amok against the opposition to show superiority.

  • Comment number 47.

    If United can't beat Chelsea at OT who CAN stop them? It is going to be a blue year and not a light blue one.

  • Comment number 48.

    It's usually better not to rise to the bait but crediting Ancelotti for a win which depended on an incompetent official is a stretch of the imagination too far - or are you suggesting Ancelotti has brought some of the more unsavoury parts of the Italian game to England?

    If Wolves can be fined for making a team selection which 'might' have an effect on the league even though it doesn't affect them, how much more is the league damaged by officials who can't be bothered to apply the rules, even when the decision is obvious and simple?

    The losers today weren't just in Manchester, Arsenal supporters had their ideal result stolen from them and the whole league was cheapened. If Chelsea do win the league by two points or less then Simon Beck can point proudly to the table and say "I did that".

  • Comment number 49.

    As a Chelsea season ticket holder I was only surprised about the fact that Ancelotti put his neck out with the starting line up but it is the one I would have chosen. Personally I have been saying for weeks we needed to drop Drogba not because he is a bad player but because the team has played better this season without him generally. With him in we are generally a bit more one dimensional. Yes he has scored a lot of goals but the team itself scores less with him in.

    With regards to penalties as someone above has said you need to watch closely because the ball does clearly deflect when it passes Yuris leg the best angle to see it from was the end to end view where its quite clear the ball was initially going to the right on a diagonal then suddenly is running straight up the pitch.

    The Anelka pen I have seen seen someone state that it was just a shoulder barge but again if you look closely you can see Neville also got his leg (plus he was never going for the ball in the first place).

    Finally as for the 2nd and 3rd goals of the match both were bad decisions i don't actually blame the ref for missing the Macheda one but the ball does bounce off his arm (after his chest) and head for goal afterwards when it may or may not have gone wide or to one of the Chelsea players otherwise.

  • Comment number 50.

    now i can see why we don't see English referees & assistants in the world cup and in European stages.

  • Comment number 51.

    chelsea proved this season that they are the better beating manu at home and away... manu had most of the decisions favouring them.. get over it.. the better side won the game... Malouda, Evra were the decisive factors in the game..

  • Comment number 52.

    no mention of how chelsea were hard done by by the ref today in the pathetically biassed english media. anelka penalty? macheda handball? and it's not as if drogbas was the winning goal, we were already 1-0 and utd never looked like scoring. all you chelsea hating london-utd fans, just accept that chelsea are deservedly top of the league!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    It can’t be an easy game for both the teams. It’s a very important game for Chelsea. They played under pressure all the time more then United. It may be not a nice game form Chelsea side. It’s all about winning. So they got the 3 points .

  • Comment number 54.

    Don't see how you can equate Macheda's alleged handball & Drogba's offside.

    One happens in a crowded pen area, one happens with no-one else around.

    One you'd need binoculars to spot FROM THE LINE, which is where WE should be thinking from, one you'd need to have your eyes shut to miss in that position.

    As Chelski also stole 2 pts at the Bridge off us with a 3-way wrong decision for the only goal, don't let's pretend it's the first time this season the officials have been poor against Utd.

    And why is it Utd NEVER get an easy game straight after a Euro 2nd Leg? Even on paper?

  • Comment number 55.

    Sounds like there were a few decisions could have gone either way. That's why football is a sport and not a science.
    The better team usually wins in the end.

  • Comment number 56.

    It always amazes me that whenever United lose it appears that the game is "cheapened". United were beaten because Chelsea have greater depth. One poor decision was offset by another and the end result was fair.
    Until I saw that Arsenal had struggled against Wolves, I thought United were headed for third spot. Now Chelsea I think will win going away. The game cannot be "cheapened" if the best team win in the end.

  • Comment number 57.

    First off, Credit to Chelsea, they played much better in the first half, and took their chances when they came in the second.

    IMO the 2 penalty shouts cancel each other out, as do the 2 dodgey goals, and I couldn't really argue with 1-0 Chelsea s they were much more up for it.

    Guess Berba blew his big chance today!

    3 points of note however

    1- I love how when teams beat UTD the opposing manager is always hailed for his Tactical sense, words like genius get banded around a lot, with Mourhinio it's all the time, same with Benetiz in Europe (this year excluded). However When UTD win it's never because of our tactics, prime example being last seasons CL fixture agaisnt Arsenal, not a single media outlet gave any credit to SAF for Utds tactics, all the plaudits went to the playes, and the critique to Arsenal. However, the moment UTD loose SAF's tactics are always blamed.

    2- And leading on from the 1st, It's amusing how many Chelsea fans who were calling for Ancellotti to go after the CL exit are now hailing his genius. Considering the years of mediocraty before your sugar daddy came along you'd think you'd be a little less fickle!

    3- The title is far from Chelsea's, 1 loss and if UTD win and match your other results the momentum will quickly change, so many of you should stop counting your chickens because there has been many twists this year and with 15 games (total) left for the top 3 teams there's plenty of chance for mistakes.

    My Predo - Liverpool to hand utd the lead by beating Chelsa at Anfield thus hauling them into 4th and alowing us to beat their leauge titles won record!

  • Comment number 58.

    Man Utd looked jaded today and clearly missed Rooney's presence. This was most evident in the first half, when at times as they played out of defence you could almost see the expression on the face's of United's midfield as they looked around (in vain) for Rooney. On top of that you had perhaps the wrong choice of personnel out there for United, surely Nani should have started, with Giggs coming on later? Very little if any real pressure was put on Chelsea's defence in the first half and only a few somewhat clumsy attempts to get behind them. Credit must go to Ancellotti on his choice of personnel/team formation, Chelsea always looked more dangerous going forward; although once again what luck that was going went their way on quite a number of refereeing decisions (and some non-decisions)- SAF may have to revise his opinion of Mr Deane. However as they say "its never over until the fat lady sings", but as she prepares for the final act, she has just changed her outfit from Red/White to Blue/White!

  • Comment number 59.

    Nice try but i disagree. Macheda handball was very blatant. He used both hands to score. So many scream about Henry handball for france vs Ireland. This Macheda used both hands. How about that? So you say the referee could not see that clearly? There seems to be alot the referee and linesman did not see. Yes they failed to see Drogbas offside. They also failed to red card Neville who was flying around with studs on multiple occassions. I personally felt that Anelkas penalty was more obvious than Parks.
    And as usual the commentators and pundits do not accurately reflect what is going on the pitch sometimes.
    So alot of people miss other important moments.

  • Comment number 60.

    Let’s face it, Manchester United are not the force they were even 12 months ago. They are far too reliant on players at or past their best, and lack any plan B in the absence of Wayne Rooney. Sir Alex Ferguson’s professed emphasis on youth hasn’t worked this season, with the side still too dependent on the likes of Van der Sar, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and other players on the wrong side of 30.

    Having said that, they are entitled to a level playing field as far as on-field decisions are concerned, and what is likely to cost them the title this season is not so much their own inadequacies, obvious as these are, but the crucial decisions that have cost them points against their main rivals, Chelsea. The goal that Chelsea scored at Stamford Bridge came from a free kick that should never have been given, and there were at least two other offences in the build up to Terry’s winning ‘goal’. In the return game at Old Trafford they were undone by a goal so offside (Drogba’s) that it raises serious questions about the competence and impartiality of the officials. Two points less for United and 4 extra points for Chelsea will probably determine the outcome of the Premiership.

    All this should not blind Sir Alex to the need for serious rebuilding at Old Trafford. Too many of the younger players have failed to deliver. There is a desperate need to find a competent replacement for VdS, who can’t go on forever. There is a need for cover in central defence. There is a crying need for a creative midfielder. And there is a need for a goalscoring striker to take some of the weight and expectation off Rooney.

    Unless these gaps are filled, United’s immediate future looks rather bleak.

  • Comment number 61.

    United have three away games against strong home teams. City, Blackburn and Sunderland.
    Chelsea have Spurs and Liverpool away and then three easy home games.
    I don't think Chelsea will lose again this season but even if they do, the two points advantage and better gd, with more to come against Stoke,Wigan and Bolton.
    Chelsea will possibly drop 4 points away, United will drop all three against City alone.
    Arsenal are too inconsistent to be a factor.

  • Comment number 62.

    The advantage gained is not permanent. Any one loss in the next 5 games can wipe it off. That is mathematics. Football momentum however is not a matter of numbers, its something of the mind. Chelsea have to carry a confidence that would shrug off any refereeing misadventures too. They have to cope with and cater for human error like today's offside decision going against them as a possibility. They will do well to remember under what unfortunate circumstances they lost the CL s-final to Barca last year.

    So not a thing forgone as yet.

    Congratulations to Ancelotti; selection masterstroke was something that threw all ManU plans out of kilter. Teams do not spend days on an approach and then readjust in a matter of minutes. A surprise is a surprise.

  • Comment number 63.

    Chelsea has only one person to thank:The referee! I wonder the rationale of most of his crucial decisions in that course of the game.

    I begin to fear for fair game if such a ref. is invited to officiate EU continental OR World Cup matches. God forbid!

  • Comment number 64.

    All this talk about United without Wayne Rooney. Lets not forget Chelsea were also missing some very important first team players. Chelsea today proved how strong they are. Well done to Paulo Ferreira, Yuri Zhirkov, and John Obi Mikel today for filling for the likes of Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Branislav Ivanovich is what i think.

  • Comment number 65.

    >> The losers today weren't just in Manchester, Arsenal supporters had their ideal result stolen from them and the whole league was cheapened. If Chelsea do win the league by two points or less then Simon Beck can point proudly to the table and say "I did that".


    This endless caterwauling is getting tedious. The only reason the game was decided by Drogbas (admittedly offside) goal was because the officials also got the call wrong on Macheda's "goal". The officiating was poor, yes. It needs to be better, yes. But the team that should have won did win. That's the bottom line.

  • Comment number 66.

    It was already 1 nil to Chelsea, then Drogba scored from offside, Then Man Utd scored through Macheda's handball to make it 2-1 to Chelsea. But if you take away both Drogba's and Macheda's goals then it would still be 1 nil to Chelsea and we were by far the better team in the first half.

  • Comment number 67.

    Twirlip you have it wrong. Didn't you know only United can be cheated.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm struggling to understand how all these people on here are suggesting that Chelsea were "the better team"?
    I thought they were by far the better team in the first half, and United by far the better in the 2nd.

    United had:

    More posession. 52% (United) - 48% (Chelsea)
    More territorial advantage. 54.7% (United) - 45.3% (Chelsea)
    More passing success. 80.5% (United) - 70.3% (Chelsea)
    Equal shots on target - 3 each.
    More shots. 10 (United) - 8 (Chelsea)

    Overall, United were the better team.

    Both teams had blatant penalties turned down, the foul on Park was as clear as day, as was Neville's on Malouda.
    The officials had a poor day all round.

  • Comment number 69.

    Fergie had 30 million quid to spend. He could have spend 25 on Tevez and kept the change (5 mil). Instead he spend all of it on Berbatov and let Tevez go. Bad mistake which he will regret to the end of his career. He will probably give 'an open hearted interview' some day in the future and admit that it was the biggest mistake he ever made..

  • Comment number 70.

    Good blog Phil, but I have to take issue with you on one point.

    "Chelsea claimed an injustice of their own when Federico Macheda set up a frantic finale with a goal that went in via his hand - but the more vehement protestations were United's and rightly so."

    I don't think anyone disputes the fact that Macheda blatantly handled the ball and probably with both hands, this means it should have been disallowed. I find it interesting that when a Frenchman cheats our Irish friends there is an international outcry but when a Man Utd player does it against Chelsea it gets marginalised.

    Drogba's goal should also have been disallowed, but Drogba would not have been aware for sure whether he was offside or not and ultimately it comes down to a linesman's error. Macheda however must have been fully aware of what he had done and only he will know if it was deliberate. He deliberately misleads and conned the ref, so if anything surely Chelsea had the right to be more aggrieved.

    Both goals were clearly illegal and both should have been disallowed and both teams had a right to feel equally aggrieved.

  • Comment number 71.

    Red-Rio-Roon-Ryan, Chelsea had 6 shots to 3 on target and did what they had to do. SCORE FIRST!

  • Comment number 72.

    Yadda yadda yadda, was it offside, was it a pen, it really doesnt matter, Chelsea won and United lost. Those are the simple facts.

    I do find it very interesting though that whenever United lose, the ABUs come out in force and start saying all manner of ridiculous things. Most common are:

    "united are a one man team" - We were a one man team last year too apparently; take a certain Mr C Ronaldo out of the team and we would fall apart. So, we sold him and here we are challenging for the league and champions league still....go figure.

    "man utd only win things because they get favourable decisions" - see todays game for evidence that United get their fair share of bad decisions too. It evens itself out over the course of a season.

    "united are an aging team" - yes, this is true, some key players are coming to the end of their careers but the same can be said of Chelsea too, everyone is expecting a large overhaul of their squad at the end of the season as well, yet noone seem to mention this as being a problem. Also, when we thrashed AC Milan, it was because they were an old team....yet the average ages of the teams had united's as marginally older...

    As i said before, if i had to lose one of the two games (obviously, i would rather win both games), i would be happier to lose this game today if it meant we win on Wednesday against Bayern. I am wondering if the Bayern game was in Fergie's mind when he kept Nani and Carrick on the bench today?

    I am still not prepared to say the title is over, like so many people are doing. Before the start of the game the destiny of the league was in both Chelsea and Manchester United's hands, after the result today, it is in Chelsea's hands only, United need to win all their remaining games and need Chelsea to slip up. If we are still in touch come the meeting of Chelsea and Liverpool then i think things will get very interesting.

  • Comment number 73.

    United had:

    More posession. 52% (United) - 48% (Chelsea)
    More territorial advantage. 54.7% (United) - 45.3% (Chelsea)
    More passing success. 80.5% (United) - 70.3% (Chelsea)
    Equal shots on target - 3 each.
    More shots. 10 (United) - 8 (Chelsea)

    Overall, United were the better team.


    Your numbers are wrong. To be polite about it.

  • Comment number 74.

    #68 Red-Rio-Roon-Ryan,

    Statistically, Utd were the better team, but watching the game I felt Chelsea shaded it. They simply looked more threatening, except for a period of about twenty minutes in the second half when Utd were well and truly on top. Add to this that they were the away side and it becomes clear that Chelsea's performance was a better one than Utd's.

    I agree with what appears to be the consensus view - the midfield battle went decisively in Chelsea's favour, with Lampard, Malouda and Cole all contributing more positively than their opposites. There was a lot of energy in Utd's play, but a lack of quality on the ball - I've come to admire Fletcher and Park, but I wouldn't rely on them to unlock a stubborn defence.

    The officiating was poor - I would say 'shocking' but I'm not shocked. With the furore surrounding the penalty in the Liverpool game last week and the media harping on about Dean's generosity in that department, it was going to take something impossible to ignore for them to award a pen. Neville's foul probably came within that category, though the foul on Park was also a very good shout - he might have got his had he not gone down quite so theatrically.

    Chelsea's to lose now. The rest of us will once again be hoping Liverpool can pull out a performance when the two sides meet.

  • Comment number 75.

    Here are the game stats from the Beeb.

    Possession 56% United to 44% Chelsea.

    Shots on target United 3 (inluding Machadas hand ball) Chelsea 5
    Shots off target United 6 Chelsea 6
    Corners United 3 Chelsea 3

  • Comment number 76.

    Let's face it, United have been well beaten twice in a week. Scholes and Neville have been poor but no-one can claim much credit. They have a depressing record against top half teams this season. The writing was on the wall after the Community Shield but no action was taken. Bayern will score on wednesday and they may even score twice, that'll make it interesting!

  • Comment number 77.


    Nice try yourself-the problem is, Deane or assistant has first to spot the handball in a crowded area THEN, if either saw it, was it deliberate? We won't know, but they maybe did see it & decide it hit Macheda & therefore it stood.

    The offside really was a shocking error. I've run the line in games many times & you ball-watch with one eye, the other is on the back defender to watch offside-that way, you usually co-ordinate it so the run from deep doesn't have you flagging like a demented train guard.

    Blimey, Drogba could've signed his autograph for 3 fans the time he was stood in an offside position before Kalou let the ball go to him! By all means, keep your flag down until the pass/cross arrives, but do put the bloody thing up when someone's ben so far offside for so long.

    And they get paid for it now!

    Both the pens were possible, but Deane would not have called either before his cock-up last week any more than now. Sorry, neither was clear-cut on the day, though MOTD might suggest otherwise, which neither Deane, assistant nor you & I can use at the time!!

    There were a couple of Chelsea players as well as Gary Neville & Scholes who pushed their luck throughout the game with tackling. The reffing wasn't that bad, but the assistant really fouled up with that offside-the ref calling these, as suggested elsewhere, is better, but how often will he be in line or able to spot the run from deep-the answer's 4 assistants instead of 2, because at least that way, one of the 2 in any given half of the pitch is unlikely to blink & miss it!

  • Comment number 78.

    come on man utd... you can do it...

  • Comment number 79.

    Annus horribilis for MANU. This result today - and on Wednesday they will be demolished by Bayern.

  • Comment number 80.

    >> Twirlip you have it wrong. Didn't you know only United can be cheated.

    That does seem to be the way some people think.

    I'd guess that at least 40 offside goals are given every season in the Prem. But it's only a major controversy which "cheapens the whole league" if one is given against man United! Meanwhile, the Hand of Machada is just no big deal I suppose. There's a sense of entitlement on the part of some (not all) United supporters. They just expect every decision to go their way.

  • Comment number 81.

    Anyone betting against Fergie's Man Utd would be a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I still think there are a few twists left and would not rule out Utd though losing Rooney at this stage has been crucial.

    However hats off to Chelsea who showed what could be achieved with an attacking strategy at OT. Rafa please note.

  • Comment number 82.

    When will ManU supporters wake up and see what a complete liability Giggs is

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Coleusman if Drogba could have signed 3 autographs while in an offside position, where was the defence?
    I understand your sarcasm, but surely justice was down. United gave their all in the second half, but were just not good enough

  • Comment number 85.

    AND, as for Utd have had 12 own goals scored for them so should consider themselves lucky!!!!

    Give me a break! So applying pressure and getting the ball into dangerous areas, having shots on goal, swinging in corners and free kicks of high quality which result in defenders turning the ball into their own net is all about luck!!!!!!!

    Yeah, good one!!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    I love it when Man Utd fans and their manager complain about the referee after losing a game, do you forget about every other game when the man in black is practically wearing a green and yellow scarf? No team in England, no the world, has so many game changing decisions go their way as you do! And that is a FACT!

  • Comment number 87.

    >> Let's face it, United have been well beaten twice in a week. Scholes and Neville have been poor but no-one can claim much credit. They have a depressing record against top half teams this season. The writing was on the wall after the Community Shield


    Ah, the Community Shield! Thanks for reminding me. That's three times this season United have lost to Chelsea, and they've blamed the officials each time.

  • Comment number 88.

    United had:

    More posession. 52% (United) - 48% (Chelsea)
    More territorial advantage. 54.7% (United) - 45.3% (Chelsea)
    More passing success. 80.5% (United) - 70.3% (Chelsea)
    Equal shots on target - 3 each.
    More shots. 10 (United) - 8 (Chelsea)

    Overall, United were the better team.

    Less goals: Man U 1 Chelsea 2 (this stat is decisive in football)

  • Comment number 89.

    "but the twists that have characterised this season means United must not be dismissed"

    dismal grasp of grammar. i wish the entire country paid my salary to get simple things wrong. "twists...mean" not "twists...means". twists cannot means. plural things cannot means. they can mean. but they cannot means. c'mon phil.

  • Comment number 90.

    Firstly, the penalty claims. Park had a clear shout for a penalty, with the defender making contact whilst the ball carried on without changing direction or pace. A thoroughly awful Gary Neville was lucky to get away with the barge on Anelka. That said, Mike Dean was not well positioned to see the foul, especially since Anelka was shaping to shoot, making it look as though he slipped and missed the ball.

    Phil, I disagree that Chelsea were clearly the better team. Possession isn't everything, but midway through the second half, United were dominating with 67% possession. That must say something about which side had the momentum in their favour. No question about Drogba's offside position. In fact, Mike Dean looked towards the linesman instantly after Drogba had scored, suggesting that he thought there was a possibility that Drogba was offside. Shocking from the linesman. Again, we were lucky to get away with Macheda's goal, so overall, I suppose you could argue that the penalty claims and the last two goals can be considered to cancel each other out. However, like you say, momentum is one of football's most precious commodities, and these decisions changed the momentum of the game.

    Lastly, I thought Berbatov was great today. It's a shame that Park, Valencia and Giggs were woeful in supporting him.

  • Comment number 91.

    Its all over for Man. U,they will loose to Bayern on wednesday,and then go on and loose at the week end,for the gunners they are just taking part,Barca shall trash them,and the they shall also loose at the weekend,Man u. without Ronney iis no team,look the way they had to struggle and score with hand ball against chelsea,they dont deserve to go to semi

  • Comment number 92.

    ya no its hard to read this, i didnt realise man united fans were such sore losers, the way you lot are harking on about the offside decision, and the "blatant" penalty missed by the officials. are forgetting the goal that never was v tottenham a couple of years back, you no the one with roy carrol scooping it out of the net? how about the way neville goes in for his tackles every time he plays? running from distance, studs up trying to get the ball, even though nine times out of ten, he gets the player instead! or what has been become premier league legend, that of fergie time! and you dont seem to be saying much about the macheda handball which he scored from? and you want to talk about fairplay! face facts;i wont go as far as to say that you are a one man team, because even without rooney your still a threat, but without rooney, you are an average team, berbatov, is possibly the worst bit of business in pl history, on par with schevchenko! lazy, uninterested and certainly not fit to where the man united shirt that such legends of the game have graced before. youve had your fair share of luck in the past, as has every one else, are people forgetting the champions league, chelsea v barcelona last year? or against barcelona at the nou camp with anders frisk? everyone has bad luck, until messyrs platini and blatter decide that video technology is needed, its going to be part and parcel of football until further notice! what comes around will certainly go around people! accept the simple facts; in football to win you have to score more than your opponent. ie chelsea 2 manchester united 1.

    end of!

  • Comment number 93.

    Post #72. At 9:32pm on 03 Apr 2010, SirMouseburger wrote:

    Spot on and well said. Come on United!

  • Comment number 94.

    I honestly don't understand the complaints from the Utd fans. Both the 0-2 and the 1-2 were irregular. Utd could have equalized, they did not, so Chelsea won.

  • Comment number 95.

    While I have no sympathy for the clear offside and injustice against man utd today, for me they had it coming.

    It was about time they got some injustice at old trafford - as an arsenal fan we have had a fair share of dodgy decisions that have cost us a match at old trafford.

    Having said that I would really have wished for another score line maybe 2-2 would have suited us. I do quite suspect that there are more twists and turns for the title race and I would caution chelsea fans not to celebrate yet.

    It clearly shows that Man U has flattered to deceive this season and so I dont agree with Phil that the result had a lot of bearing on Rooney as United as won 7 times this season when Rooney has not played.

    So simply.. chelsea put in a performance and Man U did not as simple as that.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    Man U didn't look to have the same zip without Rooney as they did with him pre-injury. Berbatov's performance was average as usual, and while he did well against Bolton, Chelsea aren't Bolton.
    Now it's onto Bayern, with Schweinsteiger and Robben back from suspension and injury respectively, to perhaps heap more misery on United and possibly knock them out of the Champo if they play like they did today. I do not get the feeling that it will be like the Milan match, because Bayern are simply different class from them.
    Anyway, well deserved win for Chelsea!
    (LFC and Bayern fan in peace)

  • Comment number 99.

    To coleusman:

    Utd were just about to equalize when Droggers got his goal. We STILL pulled one back after that affair.


    Did you see that in a crystal ball?

    BTW, your name-calling (Park) is appalling.

  • Comment number 100.

    Hey Phil, you forgot to mention Drogba started on the bench.


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