Date:Sunday September 23 2007
Carlos Tevez scored his first United goal as the champions beat Chelsea in a game that will be memorable for referee Mike Dean's performance.
Chelsea, rocked by injuries and the departure of Mourinho, started in a formation designed to contain United but they were not very successful: we could have taken the lead very early had Cech not saved brilliantly Rooney's great effort.
Rooney and Tevez were both lively and though Ronaldo was denied space by Cole and Malouda, we looked infinitely the more positive side. Giggs could have scored from Rooney's great cross and we should have been awarded a penalty when Joe Cole fouled Evra yet Dean waved play on.
It was his first mistake and things might have been different had he made the right decision on this occasion. In the 32nd minute, he made a definitely wrong decision: Mikel's challenge was a nasty and late one but it did not deserve a red card - a yellow would have been sufficient punishment. But the Wirral man sent off the Chelsea midfielder and the whole context of the game seemed to change.
Bizarrely, for a few minutes it seemed United were more disturbed by the sending-off than their opponents as the champions lost their fluency which was there to see before the red card. But a brilliant cross saved the day: it was deep into injury time when Giggs, collecting a Brown header on the right, swung in a cross with the outside of his foot and Tevez lost his marker and overtook Cech to head us into the lead.
It was a beautiful goal and it was clear after the break that Fergie and his players would be satisfied with a fifth straight 1-0 win. The strategy wasn't difficult: keep the ball. United did it to such effect that Chelsea had no chance of trying to equalise. Shevchenko, Joe Cole and Malouda were all ineffective while substitutes Kalou and Wright-Phillips struggled to make any contribution.
Dean's evening took a turn for the worse when he failed to book Rooney for a stupid push against Ashley Cole and then did not send off Joe Cole whose terrible sliding challenge could well have broken Ronaldo's ankle.
Amid all these controversies, there was some football, too, and Carrick's over-the-top ball would have deserved a better finish than Giggs' who fired way over the bar. But mainly, our players were content to sit back and keep control as Chelsea were unable to pose any threat.
In the end, Mike Dean confirmed that he would be the main talking point after the game as he awarded a penalty after substitue Saha's theatrical fall. But I think that was a penalty: Ben Haim kicked Saha indeed though I agree that the Frenchman's reaction was exaggerated to say the least. He converted the penalty but Cech almost kept it out with his legs...
Saha could have added a third but like Giggs' before, he also wasted a clear chance after a brilliant ball behind the defense. In the end, it was a good, comfortable win for United who finally managed to score two goals in a game. Mike Dean will be criticised and rightly so but we were the better team before the red card and had he awarded the penalty we might now celebrate a victory without any second thoughts about the referee.
And would have Chelsea produced such an off-colour performance with Mourinho in charge? You only have to look back as far as the game against Arsenal in May, when they played 45 minutes with ten men, to get the answer.
Date:Sunday September 23 2007
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