Fergie's Mistakes Were As Costly As Dean's
Sir Alex Ferguson blasted Mike Dean and his linesmen, claiming that you need quality officials for a game of this magnitude 'and we didn't get that'. Which is true. However, it's just one side of the thing.
One could argue that you need a quality team selection for a game of this magnitude and we didn't get that, either. Starting Scholes in his third game in a week was a baffling decision - surely Fergie should have known his energy levels aren't enough for such exertions any more. And so it proved as Scholes tried to dictate the play from the centre circle which might work against Hull and Burnley but not against Chelsea.
In the light of starting Scholes who was overrun by Bayern, too, it was even more baffling to select another oldie, Ryan Giggs. I guess Fergie's intention was to send out a starting XI which is capable of keeping possession, playing it patiently and capable of exploiting the tightest of spaces. In theory that sounds good but in practice the lack of movement meant we were closed down immediately after spending ages trying to win the ball back.
Gary Neville might be experienced and he has a good positional sense and everything but Malouda runs around him twice before Gary realises he's there. Rafael, for all his faults, at least has pace to keep up with Malouda who, predictably enough, ran riot, especially as the back four did not receive enough protection from the midfield - the reasons outlined above.
Still, despite all this, United managed to build up a head of steam in the second half and looked like they might snatch an equaliser somehow even though the lack of good movement (Ryan, Paul, Dimitar, I'm pointing my finger at you) meant that we could not really create chances. Still, at least Chelsea were pegged back in their own half.
So what did Fergie do? He removed Park, one of those players capable of putting pressure on the defenders and midfielders attempting to play the ball out of defence and also brought off Scholes while leaving on Giggs who was anonymous. He brought on Macheda and Nani which, in practice, meant that Giggs and Fletcher were left to struggle against Lampard, Deco and Mikel.
The substitutions immediately saw United conceding the midfield again and it was over. Chelsea were more than comfortable after we went to 4-4-2. If Fergie wanted 4-4-2 he should have removed Giggs, too, and introduced Carrick. They, at least, would have had some chance to hold the midfield which would have been crucial to attempt a late onslaught. Instead we ended the game with a central midfield partnership of Gibson and Giggs as Fletcher was withdrawn in the dying stages. Only Fergie knows why he left on Gary Neville instead of Fletcher...
We were pitiful in the last 20 minutes due to these poor substitutions even though Nani and Macheda were quite good, actually: they combined for a goal (which Chelsea disputed but it would have been extremely harsh to rule it out for accidental handball a minute after Drogba scored from an offside position that could have been spotted from the touchline at Eastlands, let alone Old Trafford) but the others failed to make the most of their freshness and energy.
I hope the lessons have been learned. I don't think United can afford to start with Giggs, Scholes and Neville against Bayern because we will be overrun. The former two are good options to be brought on late if we need composure but we have to start with the same team that beat Liverpool, except of course Rafael should play instead of Neville and Berbatov will have to start instead of Rooney. Then we'll have a chance...