Chelsea Needed That Blue Pill
You know which one I’m talking about. The miracle pill for middle-aged men, that sure-fire cure for impotency where it matters. Chelsea seemed toothless up front barely mustering a shot on target throughout the game. Frank Lampard had a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead, but could only caress the ball towards a waiting van der Sar. Torres struck a peripheral presence on the field, and you could be forgiven if you saw shades of Andriy Schevchenko in the hapless Spaniard. Chelsea need not have looked any further than a 37-year old presence on the field with them, for inspiration. Ryan Giggs ran circles around men a decade younger than he was, and only seemed to get hungrier with every passing minute.
If the Blues needed another lesson in aging gracefully, Edwin van der Sar certainly embarrassed the visitors by putting in an astounding couple of tackles to deny a heavily advanced Nicolas Anelka. When this season is done and dusted, Roman Abramovich would do well to sit back and ponder how his team of not so merry men got undone by two over-the-hill Red Devils.
Jekyll and Hernandez
For someone who makes an embarrassing display of public piety by kneeling down on the field, eyes raised to the heavens, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has shown himself quite to be adept at doing the turncoat. With the game evenly poised, Hernandez ran right into John Terry who held his ground albeit with his arms raised midway up. Hernandez proceeded to clutch the side of his face, and the England captain could only look on aghast as the referee pulled out a yellow card. With Terry then walking on tenterhooks, it was only a matter of time that the Blues central defense cracked out of sheer fear of putting in a tackle at the threatening Mexican.
Certainly, Chelsea’s puzzling team selection seemed to hammer the final nail into the coffin of their title charge. It was certainly a criminal offense to keep the Ivorian on the bench, when you consider he provided Chelsea’s solitary goal on the night. The result begs the question as to why Didier Drogba was benched when it was evident to all that his pace and immense strength were what the doctor ordered for The Blues.
There might have been a slight chance of more, had Nicolas Anelka stayed on. But Ol’ King Carlo chose to replace him with the clueless Kalou – a player who is yet to figure out what his role in the side is. Bringing on Ferreira in the end, was about as pointless as getting the Stamford Bridge janitor to play a bit. Chelsea played a non-traditional 4-3-3, and it seemed to imbue them with renewed vigor. But poor team selection, a lack of strategy and utter confusion would ensure the Blues under Carlo Ancelotti have failed to progress past the Quarter Finals for the second time running.
The Death Of The Carlo School Of Thought
Let’s not mince any words here. Sir Alex Ferguson has out-thought, outlasted and out-maneuvered the Italian. Carlo’s reliance on Ramires seemed to be working miracles in the first 30 minutes, but like all things too good to be true fell apart when it was needed the most. Ramires threw in a pointless, horrendously timed tackle on Nani who went down like a house of cards and faced the ignominy of having to leave the field under the watchful eyes of Roman Abramovich.
Not only has this result shaken the very earth beneath Carlo’s feet, it has also stunned the hordes of Carlo’s faithful backers into accepting their blue-eyed manager isn’t all that he was touted to be. Carlo has fallen down a bottomless pit, ever since the departure of Ray Wilkins, clawing his way up occasionally only to fall again. Torres may be an Abramovich purchase, but it is beyond belief that Carlo Ancelotti would not have been consulted. Perhaps the Italian felt added competition for the role of chief striker was precisely what the club needed; unfortunately it seems to have lost him the dressing room and quite possibly even his job.
Red Letter Day At Wembley
It’s ironic that this present Manchester United side, sweeping aside all the competition in its path, would have been seen as a United side at its nadir in seasons past. And yet, Manchester United, whom so many had written off at the start of the season, and especially during the Rooney-gate episode, have proved to be the most resilient side in club football.
They may have had a few nervy moments against their English rivals from West London, but the Red Devils were evidently the better side. Champion sides often deliver their best when their backs are against the wall. United could well have been in that position, when 10-man Chelsea equalized. But with their supporting actors grabbing the spotlight, it was almost inevitable, that United would hit back after refusing to be cowed down. All it took them was a minute to reset the balance of power, when a lesser team might have crumbled under pressure after a Drogba equalizer in such a crucial tie.
United have a golden opportunity now to march all the way to Wembley, where they will take on the survivors of the Spanish clash of champions. It would be poetic justice if van der Sar, and perhaps even Ryan Giggs, were to retire with the winners’ medals around their necks. More so, if they go on to seal the treble.