Date:Sunday September 21 2008
Manchester United earned a 1-1 draw at Chelsea today afternoon after taking the lead in the 19th minute, only to see their hard work undone by Salomon Kalou.
We made a bad start to the season and after the dismal 2-1 defeat at Anfield not many gave a chance for United to win at Stamford Bridge. But we gave it a very good go.
Sir Alex opted for a simple 4-4-2 formation, with Rooney and Berbatov up front, Park and Hargreaves on the flanks, Fletcher and Scholes in the centre of the midfield. This unexpected line-up surprised even Chelsea as United dominated the opening 20 minutes.
We passed the ball around well, Rooney being the centre of everything and did not allow Chelsea to gain any measure of control. Soon the chances started to come: first Fletcher dinked the ball wide after Hargreaves's low cross then after Cech's poor clearance Rooney lobbed the ball just wide.
On 17 minutes, United missed their greatest opportunity of the opening exchanges. Rooney was once again the architect: a quick counter-attack saw him taking on Terry then instead of shooting he laid a clever ball into Ferdinand's path but the defender's effort was blocked by Petr Cech.
Two minutes later United got the goal their football deserved. Rooney started the attack, sending a brilliant ball into Evra's path. The Frenchman outmuscled Bosingwa inside the box and cut the ball back for Berbatov whose shot was parried by Cech but Park was there to tap it in.
A richly deserved opening goal at Stamford Bridge - stuff of dreams really. But we commmitted the same mistake that's been haunting us since Anfield: we allowed Chelsea to take control, we surrendered possession to easily so they pressed us firmly during the remaining 25 minutes.
However, they came close on only two occasions: first, still at 0-0, when Joe Cole controlled the ball with his hand then fired wide then after illegally winning the ball from Fletcher, Anelka was released though being offside and he fired above the bar.
These two instances underlined the support Chelsea enjoyed from Riley and co. in the first half though they at least made the right call when dismissing Malouda's appeals for a penalty as Edwin van der Sar clearly made contact with the ball before clashing with the French winger.
Two injuries disrupted the play as well: first Carvalho had to be taken off - Alex took his place - then Edwin picked up an injury at the aforementioned incident and Kuszczak replaced him.
The Polish goalkeeper was confident in the second half - and so were United. Fergie made the right call on 54 minutes, bringing off the ineffectual Scholes - who already had a yellow card - and introduced Ronaldo. Chelsea, of course, had more possession but did very little with it as Neville, Evans, Ferdinand and Evra did a superb job, Fletcher, Hargreaves and even Rooney helping them out.
Still, can't deny Chelsea had chances. The biggest was Anelka's but he did not realise that the ball was there to tap it in after Joe Cole's cross and United escaped. Joe Cole himself could have equalised as well after latching on to Ballack's long ball but he fired straight at Kuszczak.
Berbatov was ineffectual and that had an impact on our attacking play but United were always dangerous on the break, especially after the introduction of Ronaldo. Said winger raced clear on the left with 13 minutes to go then instead of cutting the ball back from the byline to either Berbatov or Fletcher he chose Rooney at the far post but Wayne could only find the side-netting from a difficult angle.
This proved costly as two minutes later Chelsea were level. Rooney fouled Ashley Cole in the middle of our half and from the subsequent free-kick Kalou headed home from 10 yards. Disappointing goal to concede and it could have been avoided.
We tried to raise our game for the remaining 10 minutes and the best chance was ours: Fletcher hit Alex with a ferocious shot after more good work from Ronaldo. But it ended 1-1 which is a very good result - but also a very disappointing one as we came very close to finally breaking Chelsea's unbeaten home record.
But, mark my words, United are definitely on the up.
Date:Sunday September 21 2008
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AUDIO: van Gaal Ahead of Newcastle Match (Tuesday March 3 2015)
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