Monday, October 29, 2012

Can You Hear the Drums, Fernando?: Manchester United 3 - Chelsea 2

IMG_6000 - Corps of Drums
Photo by tony.evans on Flickr

Q. So, Sir Alex employed a diamond formation to slow down the Chelsea midfield, correct?

A. A funny thing happened on the way to a diamond in the midfield, and it's name was Ashley Young. Unexpectedly in the starting lineup for the first time in ages, Young was part of a four man midfield that saw United playing their traditional 4-4-2 attack. Although anchored up top by Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, the starting XI saw Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia join Young in the middle of the park. As per usual these days, the defense consisted of Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra, with David De Gea in the net.

Q. So, Chelsea obviously took the lead.  How early did their first goal  come..?

A. In the fourth minute. Off the back of David Luiz. Into his own net, remarkably.  And just like that, instead of trailing, the Reds found themselves in an unfamiliar position this season, a goal to the good at the Bridge.

Q. The Chelsea response...?

A. They gave up another goal before the 12th minute had ticked by. Two attacks, 2-nil United, with Van Persie left all by his lonesome at the top of the box to finish off a sublime Valencia pull back.

Q. The strangest moment of the first half?

A. It had to be David De Gea's foot save of David Luiz's swerving free kick. Now THAT was different.

Q. Amazing....  How'd the two teams look?

A. Chelsea looked slightly rattled for the first half hour, while United looked smooth as silk. I can't remember another half of football this season in which United looked so dangerous on the ball. When the game hit 35 minutes, though, Chelsea began to find their footing in the match and put on a spell of sustained pressure.  They eventually set siege to the United goal.

Q. Were the Reds able to escape the half with their two goal lead intact?

A. No. Juan Mata's fine free kick resulting from Rooney's terrible tackle just outside the box made the Reds pay and pulled back half of the visitors' advantage. Mata almost made them pay again after De Gea offered up a poor kick out, but the United 'keeper made up for his error with a fine save to preserve the lead -- just. The save was one of a number of unbelievable efforts from De Gea, who was just about singlehandedly responsible for the United lead at the break.

Q. More of the same in the second half?

A. Unfortunately, yes. When Ramires headed the ball past De Gea the scoreboard may have been set to level, but it was Chelsea in the ascendancy.

Q. Doesn't sound too good.  What happened next?

A. Branislav Ivanovic denied Ashley Young a clear goal scoring opportunity and was shown a red card by referee Mark Clattenburg. The call was obvious, and the foul left Clattenburg no wiggle room -- the Serb had to go.  To take advantage of the situation, Sir Alex swapped out Cleverley for Chicharito.

Q. And...?

A. And then Torres was shown a yellow card, his second of the game -- for simulation. And was handed his walking papers.  Drummed out of the game, one might say.... And Chelsea fans cay what they want about Clattenburg's call on the foul, but Torres should actually have been gone before the half for a prior outrageous foul.  But there's no denying that the call changed the game, with Chelsea now down to nine men and just trying to hang on.  Best of all, the resulting substitions saw Roberto Di Matteo shuffle his lineup, and pull Mata out of the game.

Q. And then...?!

A. And then a slightly offside Chicharito punched home a Rafael cross/shot for a 3-2 lead. In truth, the Reds were slightly fortunate, but let's be honest: United were overdue an offside goal against Chelsea.

Q. Do the result feel fair?

A. Fair? Who cares about fair in this rivalry? The three points are in the bag, and that's all the matters for now.

This is farlieonfootie for October 29.

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