At Least We Outplayed Chelsea
Well, I was right in the end: United lost at Stamford Bridge, as the whole world had expected they would. Yet me and the world were both expecting a dominant performance from the home side and we were both mistaken. Very much mistaken, in fact.
Fergie fielded the three-man midfield this game has been clamouring for and suddenly Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson demonstrated why we have the faith in them and why they, as a unit, cannot be considered inferior to Chelsea's much-vaunted diamond.
Fletcher absolutely dominated the midfield, he was first to every ball and distributed it simply. Carrick, after a slow start, really came into his own and with a bit of luck he could have scored while Anderson was strong and precise throughout.
Another big surprise was the excellence of the defensive combination of Brown and Evans who barely gave a moment's breathing space to Drogba and Anelka. Chelsea could never get a hold on the game because we were all over them in the middle of the park and the defence held firm, unexpectedly.
We could have created more, though, that goes without saying. Sometimes caution prevailed but that is natural at such a menacing team like Chelsea. However, our passing was crisp and confident and we were willing to test their resolve. Valencia could have tried to dribble past Ashley Cole more often; Giggs had an off day and even though I understand SAF's reluctance to swap his experience for the pace and skill of a 20-year-old I believe he should have sent on Obertan earlier.
Rooney was a little bit isolated in the first half which is also a criticism of our attacking play but he really came to life after the break, dropping deep, spreading passes and threatening from long range. He missed the best chance of the game after being teed up by Valencia and could have scored early in the first half as well - but more about that in a different article, I don't want to spoil this one with mentioning that man who did the most to ruin our day.
So, we were unlucky and maybe we should have been a bit braver but not many teams will go to Stamford Bridge and play better than we did today. Chelsea are not as good as everyone (me included) thought and we are not as bad as everyone (myself included) thought. There's a lot of football to be played this season and if we play with this kind of determination and maturity, with a bit more efficiency added, we could be competing for the title, even though we may fall short of winning it again.
I won't say it feels like a victory as it most certainly doesn't: it's a sickening defeat. But for the first time for a while we have reasons to be proud of the team and to be content with the way they applied themselves on the pitch. And that is very important.