In a game packed with controversy, goals, red cards, world class saves and talking points, Manchester United left Stamford Bridge with all 3 points and moved back into second place in league after this pulsating top of the table encounter.
Team LinupsCHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Hazard (Sturridge), Oscar (Azpilicueta), Mata (Bertrand), Torres. Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Moses, Marin. MAN UTD: de Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez), Young, Rooney (Giggs), van Persie Subs not used: Lindegaard, Anderson, Nani, Welbeck, Scholes
Much has been made of the slow starts that United have made this season. After falling behind in 8 out of 12 matches this campaign already, it was important for our defence to ensure we didn’t conceed early on and give ourselves yet another mountain to climb. But after some nice link up play between Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, who returned after a lengthy injury, Rooney fired the ball in towards Robin van Persie. The Dutchman’s powerful shot cannoned of the post onto the back of David Luiz and went in. United were ahead after just 4 minutes. It was the perfect start.
United, who had reverted back to a traditional 4-4-2 formation, really bossed the opening exchanges of the game, and after some more neat play down the right, Valencia drilled the ball into the box to find Robin van Persie who fired it past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal. United were flying and 2-0 up inside 12 minutes.
We had more good chances over the course of the first half but we all knew that our goal would come under seige at some point. Chelsea started to get back into the game and started to create some good chances, especially through Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. David de Gea and the back 4 were doing well to keep Chelsea at bay. A David Luiz free kick that seemed to move in the air tested David de Gea, who kept the ball out after an unorthodox save with his feet.
Following last seasons game at Stamford Bridge, where David de Gea pulled off a superb save from Juan Mata to earn a point, de Gea was at it again. This time as the ball was put into the box, Fernando Torres rose to meet the cross, and with ball seemingly heading into the goal, de Gea somehow managed to claw the ball from behind him and push it round the post. Spectacular!
As the half drew to a close with Chelsea still pressing to get back in the game, Eden Hazard stole the ball from Wayne Rooney in a dangerous area. Rooney tracked back and rather petulantly flew in at Hazard and gave away a free kick 20 yards from goal, picking up a yellow card for his efforts. Up stepped Juan Mata, whose inch perfect free kick flew past the wall and the unsighted de Gea to make it 2-1. United’s resistance was finally broken just before half time.
After the break, it was more of the same, Chelsea attacked, United defended, and after just eight minutes of the second half Chelsea were level. A lovely ball by Oscar was picked up and excellently controlled by Mata, who lobbed in a deep cross towards the back post. The United defence could only nod it out to Oscar again who crossed into the awaiting Ramires to head past de Gea. It was 2-2 and Chelsea were in the ascendancy.
But just when United fans around the globe thought Chelsea were about to do a United style comeback, Robin van Persie turned his man and slid a delightful ball into the path of Ashley Young who got in front of his marker. Branislav Ivanovic did what he could to retrieve the situation but tangled with the United and England winger. After a quick check with the linesman confirmed that Ivanovic was the last man, referee Mark Clatenburg had little choice but to show the red card and give Ivanovic his marching orders.
Then as Chelsea prepared to make a change, Mikel played the ball into Fernando Torres who moved towards the United goal. The Spaniard was challenged by Jonny Evans, and as the referee blew the whistle and reached for his pocket, the Chelsea fans demanded a red card for Evans. The yellow card came out, but to the disbelief of most of the supporters, it was issued to Fernando Torres for simulation. This was closely followed by the red card after his earlier booking following a nasty looking challenge on Tom Cleverley had earned him a yellow. Chelsea were down to 9, much to the disbelief of Daniel Sturridge who was about to replace Torres.
Ferguson seized the opportunity and went for the win. Cleverley was withdrawn after his quiet performance and replaced by our super sub, Javier Hernandez. And that soon paid off. Robin van Persie’s effort was saved by Cech, who tipped the ball onto the post. Chelsea cleared but only to Rafael, who drilled the ball back into the box only for Hernandez to flick it into the back of the Chelsea net. 3-2 United. It was only after watching the replays that we saw that Hernandez was in an offside position as Rafael’s ball came in, but due to Hernandez’s speed and the amount of bodies in the box, the linesman didn’t flag.
There was still a few more chances and it was thought that Chelsea were going to finish the game with 8 men after John Obi Mikel appeared to bring down Antonio Valencia, only for the Ecuadorian to harshly pick up a yellow for diving. Valencia did however have a great game down the right hand side and frequently had the beating of Ashley Cole and David Luiz. He had an excellent chance to make it 4-2 in the late stages but he scuffed his shot and blasted it wide.
So United left Stamford bridge once again amongst a sea of controversy but vitally with the win, the first time they had done so in 10 years. It was a win that halted Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the campaign and brought us within a point of the summit. It also leaves our mouths watering at the prospect of our next encounter against Chelsea, which comes on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. If it is anything like this fixture, we should be in for a cracker.