Manchester United Place One Foot On The Podium




Nemanja Vidic

Manchester United broke into spirited celebrations at Old Trafford as the players and staff celebrated what looks like a certain 19th League title for the Reds from Manchester. The joy was boundless as even Sir Bobby Charlton couldnt suppress a smile of joy and Sir Alex Ferguson even took a couple of bows in front of the Old Trafford faithful at Stretford end. A goal on 36 seconds from Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and another headed effort from captain Nemanja Vidic were sufficient to guide them to a 2-1 victory over Chelsea and with only two games remaining, put them almost certainly out of reach. Frank Lampard snatched a consolation goal for the Blues but, with a below par performance, Chelsea just might have put Carlo Ancelotti at the risk of facing the axe. Once again, it has been the genius of Sir Alex that has made it possible for a squad with few individual stars to emerge triumphant and, on the whole, make this season a successful one.

Sir Alex seemed to have made the right calls in selection. Picking Valencia ahead of Nani and the winger delivered the goods, making sure that Ashley Cole rarely got on the frontfoot whilst giving him a torrid time at the back. Another of Sir Alex’s big game men, Park ji Sung made all the difference in the world as he brought with him an unending supply of energy, winning the ball in various areas of the pitch and playing a hand in the lead up to both of United’s goals. Chelsea, however, had a forgettable day at the office with nobody turning up for the game with nearly enough hunger to be playing in a title decider.

Manchester United were sent out by their manager with a fire in their belly and were quick out of the blocks. Park ji Sung threaded a through ball to Hernandez, who made no mistake to put his team up 1-0 on just 36 seconds. David Luiz found lacking. Chelsea couldn’t get anywhere near the ball as United passed it around with a flair which has been lacking for much of the season. In the 8th minute, Rooney struck a venomous shot from range and Petr Cech did well to palm it away for a corner as it was destined for goal. United continued to pile the pressure on the clueless Chelsea players and a typical well controlled run from Giggs saw him pass the ball to Park Ji Sung who floated a ball to the far post, only for Hernandez to miss it by a whisker. The attacks flowed on as Rooney sot wide after a beautiful flowing move involving Park and Valencia.

Chelsea finally had an opportunity on 18 minutes, as a cross from Malouda hit Vidic before reaching the head of Drogba. Van der Sar made a save and a shot from Kalou on the loose ball was stopped by Van der Sar. Park Ji Sung continued to impress with his work rate and in the 23rd minute had a shot on target from wide out on the left. The surprised Petr Cech conceded a corner and after an initial short corner, Ryan Giggs did well to get past his man and send in a cross for the unmarked Nemanja Vidic to head home. There were roars of triumph all around the stadium as the fans celebrated their team playing like Champions. Chelsea finally managed to get a hold of the ball and Kalou forced a fine save from Van Der Sar as his header would have just crept in under the crossbar. The rebound was volleyed into the sidenet by Ivanovic. This was followed by a good freekick from Drogba to which Van der Sar had to make a diving save. Ivanovic, who had earlier received a yellow card for a late challenge on Rooney was extremely lucky to stay on the pitch as Howard Webb decided to be extremely lenient inspite of him clattering Rooney on two different occasions subsequently. United continued to pile on the pressure to ensure a strong finish to the first half.

Ancelotti seemed to have made one or two tactical changes as well as addressed the injury concerns by replacing Luiz and Mikel at the beginning of the second half with Alex and Ramires. Sir Alex replaced John O Shea with Evans who had a good second half performance. United were content with playing keep-ball as they knew Chelsea had to chase the game. In the 55th minute, a cross from Valencia struck the outstretched hand of Lampard and on 99 occasions out of 100, it would have been a penalty. Both the linesman and Howard Webb turned a blind eye to an event which would have generated a lot of controversy had final the result not gone in favour of United. At the other end, Kalou went down in the box with a non-existential touch from Vidic and had his penalty appeals immediately waved away. It seemed to be a period in which the referee had a lot of decisions to make, with Valencia going down in the box. But the referee deemed the ball was already out of his control. Drogba had a shot roll wide after the ball had hit his arm. And out of the blue, in the 68th minute, Ivanovic got his head on a cross and Lampard stuck his leg out to score. Chelsea never really threatened after that. And soon after, Alex stopped what looked like a certain goal from Rooney after initial pressure from Valencia had put the ball through to Hernandez. In the 78th minute, United found themselves with 3 defenders suffering knocks and 2 of their back 4 off the pitch, having received treatment. However, there was no damage done. Rooney was in the thick of action, shooting wide, finding himself one on one with the keeper who thwarted him and then having his shot deflect just over the bar in a span of 90 seconds. United thought they surely had the game buried when their Golden boy Hernandez found himself in the middle of the 6 yard box with a Valencia cross coming in. Surprisingly, the Mexican faiked to make clean contact and the ball went over the bar. Torres, soon after, sent a shot wide of goal. Valencia had a gala last few minutes as he did well to find Hernandez first and then Rooney, both of whom failed to score. In the 93rd minute, Van der Sar theatrically mopped his brow as a ball from midfield dropped just over the crossbar. He might as well have turned around and winked at the fans and done a little jig as Manchester United won their first premier league encounter against Chelsea under Carlo Ancelotti.

It is a result which puts United on the cusp of making history by winning a record 19th Premier League title. And it is a tribute to the brilliance of their manager that they have reached this point without a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Beckham in their side. Next stop, Wembley!

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