WELL, where to start? I’m not sure what I enjoyed most on Tuesday night: the demented celebrations following the Luiz volley; Drogba and Ramires toying with the United defence and driving it to the point of madness; Luiz giving Rooney a taste of his own medicine and getting away with it, or Fergie’s trite attempt to come over as the hard-done-by grandfather type.
All after a first half which saw Chelsea start brightly, then succumb to the red dominance. I saw no way back.
Ancelotti confounded all his critics by not only making spot-on substitutions (even though I was not convinced they were the right ones at the time) but by obviously also delivering some sort of rallying call at half time. The second half has been described as a battle of wills which saw Chelsea show the kind of mettle that delivered them the Double last season.
The relief around the ground was palpable as we fans saw the team that we had grown accustomed to in the last few years – one of strength and defiance – willing to mix it with anyone that put themselves up against us. The only questions which remains are where has it been hiding since early autumn, and is it back to stay?
Predictably, much is being made of the referee’s poor performance which I think unfairly plays down Chelsea’s superb second half where they fought their way back into the game by determination and hard work. Also, in almost every instance where a referee has had a poor game, the accepted circumstance is that the winner of the game was the sole benefactor – this was not the case on Tuesday.
The Torres “goal” should have stood, Rooney dived in the penalty box just before he scored (no punishment), Ramires could have had a penalty, the constant dissent from the United players saw no action from the referee, the Welsh Queen Mother of football should have seen red rather than yellow for his spiteful challenge on Drogba which made no attempt at all to get the ball.
I could go on but we’d be here all day. The United fans on at least a couple of occasions were singing “We’re Man United, we do what we like” – they know the score, Ferguson knows the score, even most referees know the score.
What United get away with, in the main, is pretty petty, but it does have a cumulative impact and this is down to their manager.
Ferguson’s standing in the game I believe is worth between 8-10 points a season for United. He generates the facade of a witch hunt against United, when we all know that the very opposite is the case. The FA, the media, even some opposition managers all fall into line and play their respective parts because he is so powerful.
You cannot take him on nor challenge him without appearing paranoid (ask Benitez) and you will find little support if you dare. It has gone on so long now that it is the status quo and we have all accepted it and I can’t see it changing until Old Red Nose hangs up that wrist watch he likes to tap so often from the sideline.
Of course the only downside of our victory is that it has helped the Gooners in their quest for a trophy which does send a collective shudder around Stamford Bridge and dampens the glee which everyone felt at their defeat against Birmingham at Wembley thanks to another humongous defensive blunder.
But the reality is that we needed the points as well as the performance and we can only hope that Arsenal live up to their contemporary reputation as chokers.
As great as the victory over United was, it will only be worth anything if we keep up that level of commitment. Blackpool have proved an enormous banana skin to the great and the good this season so we need to sidestep that one next Monday and also finish the job off against Copenhagen.
It’s a shame that the Champions League home leg is currently looking as if it’s going to be very poorly attended. Before the usual suspects sharpen their poison pens to scribe the usual codswallop on the fickleness of Chelsea fans, let me point out why.
Those that run our club have decided to hike up the prices significantly to the point where many have simply refused to go. My ticket was just under £60 and I don’t even sit in the expensive seats; virtually almost everyone I know has decided to give the game a swerve and I think this boycott could see the stadium at least a third empty.
Chelsea have already ramped up the loyalty points in a desperate bid to sell the tickets and I believe that they are due to offer even more points.
But once again the club totally missing the point here. The world is in recession; people are losing their jobs; in the current climate people do not have the money to pay for already expensive tickets – without the added slap in the face of an average 20 per cent increase.
Our club do not learn lessons. Fans voted with their feet before, and a more realistic pricing structure for the Champions League was introduced; but greed has once again reared its ugly head and those at the bottom of the economic football triangle are the ones being requested to top up the coffers.
It’s good to be signing this week off on a high; it’s been a long time coming. We need to work to secure and improve our position now and with Tottenham and City still left to play at home that is more than possible.
Come on Chelsea.