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Monday, November 07, 2005

Three defeats so far mean nothing to Mourinho

I hadn't banked on Sir Alex using 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 to equal that of Chelsea's formation, I felt he would go for a battling 4-4-2 to go back to basics and aim to restore more pride into the team. Expecting Wayne Rooney to go head-to-head alongside with Ruud Van Nistelrooy seemed a better spearhead than the Dutchman alone. Rooney's role yesterday was less the striker and more the soldier to VNR's general, just as the other 9 men were comrades for the cause. Man Utd came out fighting from the kick-off, it was the classical beginning to a game crucial to their own campaign, much less of the other Premiership teams. Crucial to themselves for their fans, crucial to themselves for the manager, on his 19th anniversary at the club, and the injured club captain. The publicity from the words of Roy Keane sparked unrest at OT, the rapid withdrawal of filmed Keane interviews, the veil of secrecy drawn across the pane of those who knew, it was a matter that was to remain continuous behind closed veils.

The key moments came from the Man Of The Match Alan Smith. Utd needed a Keane out there to bring forward the charge and Smith was that man. The tackles were not reckless, ill-timed, weak or hopeful, they were spot on and tough. There is nothing like being criticised for lacking on the pitch, further to have it publicised and raised to a crescendo it has been the past week. Smith showed he felt it more, than most, and as a Yorkshireman demonstrated that he at least lacked not in faith for the team. And others followed suit, Chelsea had Didier Drogba's effort to put the ball over Edwin Van Der Sar, after Frank Lampard's superb ball over the defence, and Asier Del Horno coming behind Darren Fletcher to meet a Lampard free-kick only to miss it by inches, were Chelsea's only decent chances in the first half. Utd kept up a mount of pressure whenever a Blues player came in contact with the ball. Decent cross and nice goal from Fletcher, regardless of whether it was meant or not, it counted. But that was the first half.

In the second half, Utd tried to pick up from where they had left off before the break but Chelsea, as expected, came looking for the equaliser, numerously. If Utd had withered in coming forward, they aimed to make it up in defence, backs to the wall, Rio Ferdinand, who slacked off when Drogba controlled for his first-half chance, made sure of meeting in-coming balls to clear, along with Mikael Silvestre. John O'Shea was found slightly unfocused on occasion when Joe Cole threatened on the wings and when Shaun Wright-Phillips took the England man's place, but the overall defensive effort managed to keep out Chelsea when needed. Drogba danced a little in the box, creating a diversion for Lampard to steal in and be denied by Van Der Sar. Eidur Gudjohnsen came on for Michael Essien and make more of a threatening impact, creating the chance and ball for Del Horno to attack from a late Lampard-type run and effort that just went over. Gudjohnsen also pulled back for Damien Duff to strike but the Irishman scuffed his effort and Drogba poked the ball past the post.

Though Chelsea failed to take their chances, Utd had theirs too. Paul Scholes was teed up to strike from outside when Rooney passed across, but went wide. Fletcher pulled back a ball at the goalline for VNR to meet with time and little resistence but he snatched at it and it went up high and over, Rooney went close with a shot at goal but was deflected off Paulo Ferreira. If Rooney is discontent at not playing a more central role beside or behind VNR, then he didn't show it. He knew his role was more than for himself, it was to raise the game for Utd and he duly took to his task, chasing, shutting down, passing, more focused in this 'unsettling' position.

Jose Mourinho spoke of diving, presumably from the Utd players, but the Chelsea players were not shy of it themselves. Gudjohnsen was seen on replay to have blatantly dived, infuriating Christiano Ronaldo, who was less in contact with the ground than before himself. Cole became frustrated in the first half over a number of decisions against Chelsea and he too went down easily in the second half. Damien Duff dropped to the ground when fairly challenged in the first half, so it was 6 of one and half dozen of the other and the diving was very minimal. What wasn't was Utd's strong defiance to Chelsea, but as Mourinho seemed to show in the post-match interview, it is a defeat, the third out of all competitions, but Chelsea look still to be unhindered. Six points apart from nearest side Wigan, they will seek to return to business as expected when they open at home to Newcastle.

Another who was correct in his post-match interview was Smith, when he said all those watching know from where the inspiration to defy came from, and that the game only brought 3 points, the form has to continue away to a well-run Charlton, smarting from a hard defeat at Ewood Park. The same commitment from yesterday needs to be found again for the Valley, otherwise the next criticism will be televised.

Two mentions. One goes to the Chelsea fan on Fanzone, who made more noise than the Blues' fans in the stands altogether, and the other to Graeme Poll, who seems so unorthordox at times to me. Booking Fletcher for becoming slightly irate with the linesman, who simply waved the Scotsman's protest away and Fletcher duly followed, only for Poll to instantly book him. Drogba was booked for protesting further when Silvestre fouled him coming in for a header, though I'm unaware whether that was the final straw of patience the official had with persistent Drogba protests, who is now suspended for the Newcastle match. I felt Smith hardly put a foot wrong all game and felt his booking wasn't necessary. Other than that, the Hertfordshire official had a decent hold on the game and it was, overall, an entertaining clash.


RedsMan.

4 Comments:

Blogger T said...

Good commentary on the game Redsman. MOTM was Alan Smith and what none of the pundits commented on was that the had a definite man-marking/shadowing role on Frank Lampard. This was called for on EFT last week and Lampard was to a large extent neutralised, therefore cutting off Chelsea's most dangerous and creative threat.

This was an excellent tactical decision by Ferguson, another one was too place Rooney on Makalele when the Chelsea defence got possession of the ball.

Ferguson was ready to take his chances with giving the freedom of OT to Essien- and it was a calculated gamble that certainly paid off. Gudjohnsen was more effective with the space he was given, but in the end Chelsea didn't have enough to cut through Man Utd's second half rearguard.

Man Utd played with the passion to merit victory. They were the better team in the first half, and were then content to sit back and take the pressure in the second half. If Keane can create a reaction like this from players when he is still a player himself- than has OT found its next manager?!

But for today the plaudits must go to Ferguson for his tactical approach that won the match. Some of the questions marks I had about him were removed yesterday.

(P.S. I look forward to also seeing Blindjak's article later on...)

11/07/2005 12:30 pm

 
Anonymous Rob said...

Not sure I agree with the previous poster's comments about Chelsea's lack of penetration in the 2nd. On another day, a team like Chelsea would have buried more than one of those chances. But still, we have no complaints. A battling game, United won, and now we have to come back with a strong showing against Newcastle.

11/07/2005 12:32 pm

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

T. your analysis was spot on, something I failed to mention in the article. Anyone just joining the site could read the exchange of comments in the 'Man Utd divided as Wigan chase Chelsea' article, particularly that from abdul. And as Smith and Co retracted in the second, Lampard and Essien used the freedom, Essien to less effect why he was subbed.

Rob - no doubt, Mourinho and Co are merely grazed, not wounded. That is the element of building the squad. The Portuguese has spoken of the strengths in the sections of the team and that is why he says they are spectacular. Such a spectacular squad are not allowed to lie down, someone like Terry wouldnt even think it. Toon Army have done well with three wins recently so it will be an interesting battle at the Bridge.


RedsMan.

11/07/2005 4:42 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Thanx Redsman and Rob. Newcastle have a lousy record at Stamford Bridge in the last two seasons (nine goals conceded) so I fancy Chelsea's chances for a good win in two weeks time. Yep, Abdul did make a good comment backing up my Lampard man-marking suggestion... for once Ferguson and me thought alike!

11/07/2005 6:39 pm

 

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