Date:Sunday May 20 2007
Chelsea won the FA Cup thanks to a brilliant goal from Didier Drogba but United could have won this game had they dared to take risks in attack.
You surely had to come across the term 'mouthwatering' if you read any newspapers before the Cup Final. The media expected the top two teams in England to play a spectacular game. They did not get their wish.
The new Wembley's first Cup final was a rather tight affair, chances few and far between. Both teams were cautious in their approach and never left space behind that could have been exploited.
And in that case, I think United committed a mistake. For this is Chelsea's style of play, it suits them fine. What happened on the pitch during 120 minutes was what Mourinho had wanted before the game.
Sir Alex opted for a one-man attack and selected Fletcher instead of Smith. However, Fletch was higher up the field than usual and more often than not, Scholes stayed behind with Carrick. Ginger Ninja excelled in that role, he was confident in possession and his distribution was first-class.
However hard he tried to launch attacks, his team-mates seemed reluctant to go ahead. We saw very few threatening runs from Ronaldo, he usually passed the ball to the closest team-mate - not exactly why we love him. Giggs' attempted killer passes were neutralised by Chelsea's defence whilst Fletcher and Brown offered no threat on the right.
Having said that, I still think we were the better team during the game, if only marginally. Our defence was just as solid as Chelsea's, Drogba was anonymous and only Joe Cole offered some threat in the first half. He should have got a yellow card at least for the assault on Brown after five minutes but that hardly mattered in the end as Mourinho substituted him at the interval.
His replacement, Robben was lively and Brown was a bit uncomfortable at times but still, United looked more likely to score, with Rooney in excellent form. The 21-year-old striker's runs, positioning and crude physical strength caused severe discomfort to the Chelsea defence but the Essien-Terry pairing excelled once again and when Rooney got past them, he could not beat Cech. But it was clear that United had been afraid of scoring, somehow. It was too typical when Giggs got an excellent ball, he was clear on goal on the left side but hesitated too long and the chance was wasted as Ferreira caught up with him.
Of course, it was Giggs who missed the greatest chance of the game, in extra-time. Some more excellent work by Rooney down the right flank and the England striker hit a low cross into the box. Giggs, sliding to make contact with the ball, hit it a bit awkwardly so instead of shooting it into the net, the ball popped to Cech who held it firm. Giggs who could not stop himself pushed the keeper behind the line.
That's where Steve Bennett made a grave mistake: he did not blow his whistle. The ball was clearly behind the line so he had two choice: give the goal or give a free-kick. He did neither, ensuring that we will talk about his decision as a mistake. That matters little, of course, for I think it was a foul and he should have given a free-kick. And anyway, it will pain me for a long time to think that what would have been if Giggs had hit the back of the net...
He hadn't and we were punished for it in the 166th minute. Mikel, who excelled in the game after stamping on Giggs early on, launched a ball into Drogba's direction who knocked it to Lampard and raced clear of our defenders who appeared to be caught out by the pace of the Ivorian. Lampard sent the ball brilliantly into Drogba's path with a clever flick and the striker scuffed it into the far corner before the advancing Van der Sar could have stopped him.
And that was it. Chelsea won and deservedly so: they converted one of their chances while we did not. We cannot blame the referee, our luck or injuries: we just should have scored once, for we had the chances to do so. We were more convincing in front of goal during extra-time and I think Smith's introduction made the difference, he took much of the burden off Rooney's shoulder - so he might have been sent on earlier.
But it doesn't matter now. The season is over and never forget that though it's ended in a low, it has been a brilliant one. Hold your head up high and don't forget that we have won the Premiership! For now, congratulations Chelsea. I'm looking forward to our future contests. I will come up with a series of season reviews so check us often!
Date:Sunday May 20 2007
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