Manchester United v Chelsea – Game of the Season Lives Up to Its Billing
With Manchester United and Chelsea separated by only three points going into yesterdays encounter at Old Trafford we had the prospect of one of the most hotly contested top of the table clashes in quite some time. Often big games fail to live up to their billing, however this game had everything – top goals, committed play, tactical genius – the lot. It was an excellent match with Jose Mourinho proving why he is such a highly rated coach. Anyone can buy a load of £20m+ players, but it takes a talented manager to know how to use them.
Ironically Mourinho was only able to prove himself in such style after picking an entirely illogical starting line-up. In the first half Chelsea were just too square in midfield. Ordinarily Mourinho’s side can simply overpower the opposition whoever they are playing and however they line-up tactically, however Man Utd use Giggs and Ronaldo to such devasting effect on the wings that for 45 minutes yesterday Chelsea barely got a kick. The Chelsea midfield was ripped apart with Lampard and Essien unsure whether to go wide or stay central. As a result Saha, Rooney, Giggs and Ronaldo just saw way to much of the ball.
Where other managers would have been more cautious and stck with their original game plan Mourinho saw his side were being out played and had the confidence to make changes. With Robben coming on for Geremi, Chelsea were immediately improved. Pushing Essien to right back was an inspired move and from halftime until they claimed the equaliser, Chelsea were sublime. Robben kept Gary Neville pegged back in his own half whilst Essien covered the whole right hand side leaving Ballack, who was nominally on the right wing free to roam.
Sir Alex had no response to what Chelsea had to offer and in the end United were lucky to hold on for the draw. And who would have believed that after the first half? Well done Jose. Overall though credit must go to both teams for playing at such a high pace, with such quality for such a long period of time. Only after Chelsea equalised did either side take their foot of the pedal. It really was top of the league stuff.