United: It's Officially A Wobble Now
United lost the big battle at Stamford Bridge. That is the cold, hard fact. No matter how we rue the linesmen's peculiar decisions, our bad luck and other things, the most important is that we are now ahead of a usually desperate Chelsea side only on goal difference. That is a shame.
Let's get the referee out of the way quickly. We were robbed of two great chances because of wrong offside decisions. Vidic's tooth was kicked out without any punishment. And of course there was the penalty: I have yet to see a replay that would convince me that it was a deliberate handball. Carrick's arm did not move towards the ball, it wasn't above his head, it was in a natural position - he just could not get out of the way.
But still, United should have taken at least a point. In the first half, we were way too cautious and responded very badly to Chelsea's pressing. Vidic's withdrawal did not help, it appeared to strike a blow to our confidence. Therefore we couldn't have had a complaint if they had taken the lead in the first 25-30 minutes.
They hadn't and we regained our shape. Fletcher and Anderson were quite good and it helped us to keep the ball better, only for Nani and Giggs to lose it almost instantly. Nevertheless, we kept them out for the rest of the half - almost. The goal was disappointing to lose, especially as Brown was drawn so far out of position by Drogba and his subsequent cross of course found Ballack unmarked.
Still, I liked the way a Ronaldo-less United responded in the second half. We took the game to Chelsea, pressed them, retained the ball - though it's true we did not create much. We did not need to: Ricardo Carvalho provided the perfect pass for Rooney who raced clear of Terry and struck a sweet shot into the bottom corner of Cech's net.
Of course fate felt it had to deal another cruel blow: Rooney got another knock to his hip bone and had to come off. Ronaldo replaced him which might have been a good move had then Giggs came off for Tevez. The goal obviously shocked Chelsea and we came stronger and started to create. Anderson was particularly impressive by running at the defence at pace - so it was a big surprise when he was replaced not by Tevez but O'Shea...
It knocked the stuffing out of our attacks and Chelsea came back to exert pressure. It still could have been withstood but for the decision discussed elsewhere. Then United threw off the shackles and actually created more than anything during the previous 85 mins: a Ronaldo shot and a Fletcher effort was cleared from the goalline as Chelsea's famous and apparently neverending luck came to their aid yet again.
But it's getting my goat really: if we can play like that and cause them as much trouble then why we had to be so bloody conservative again? Fergie sent out the wrong message by apparently settling for a draw: Chelsea, unlike Barcelona, have the luck and the killer instinct, to punish us.
Anderson's substitution might have been down to a minor injury, I don't know. But even if it was, it should have been Tevez who came on. We could have ended Chelsea's unbeaten home run: we were the better team after the goal. Until the two quick substitutions, that is.
Still, cheer up everyone. We're still in pole position to win this goddamned league. I was looking forward to finally celebrating a league title at Old Trafford (we haven't clinched it at our own ground since 1999) but so be it. Beat West Ham, cheer on Newcastle and beat Wigan. That's all.