Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1: Title all but decided as Blues limp out of race with a whimper

09 May 2011 12:56
ShareTake a bow, Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson did so before the Stretford End moments after the final whistleand rightly so given how impressive his side were on Sunday.

Not for the first time this season, they have proved themselves players who rise to the occasion. A team who now sit within touching distance ofthe 19th league title they so desperately crave because they possess a spirit that has too often been missing in their main rivals.

Game over: United are now certain to win a record 19th title thanks to their victory over Chelsea

They destroyed Chelsea on every level here at Old Trafford: technically and tactically, but also mentally. They were strong where Chelsea were weak, focused where Chelsea suffered fatal lapses in concentration. A group of players, once they secure the point they need from their remaining two games, who will be worthy champions of the Barclays Premier League.

Ferguson will obviously take enormous satisfaction from knocking Liverpool off their perch but he will also derive great pleasure from the way they have taken the title off Chelsea, too. The  margin of victory might have been bigger had Howard Webb awarded a penalty, possibly even two.

Are United inferior to some of the teams Ferguson has created in the past? Quite possibly, but it is time to move on from such comparisons and instead recognise the qualities this group possess.

Qualities that have not only allowed them to all but land Ferguson's 12th championship but gain a place in their third Champions League final in four years, too. Never mind a 17th win in 18 home league games.

Easy Peasy: Javier Hernandez scored with little over half a minute on the clock

MATCH FACTS MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-1-1): Van der Sar 7; Fabio 6 (Smalling 88min),Ferdinand 7, Vidic 7, O'Shea 6 (Evans 46, 6); Valencia 8, Carrick 7, Giggs 7, Park 9; Rooney 8; Hernandez 8. Subs not used: Kuszczak, Anderson, Nani, Scholes, Berbatov. Booked: Giggs, Rooney. Scorers: Hernandez 1, Vidic 23.

CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cech 6; Ivanovic 5,Luiz 5 (Alex 46, 6), Terry 6, Cole 6; Essien 6, Lampard 6, Mikel 5 (Ramires 46, 6); Kalou 6 (Torres 61, 5), Drogba 6,Malouda 6. Subs not used: Turnbull,Ferreira, Benayoun, Anelka. Booked:Ivanovic, Essien, Ramires, Drogba.Scorer: Lampard 69.

Man of the match: Park Ji-sung.Referee: Howard Webb 7.Attendance: 75,445.

Players who so impressed in the two legs of the European quarter-final against Chelsea excelled again on this occasion.

While Park Ji-sung and Antonio Valencia were marvellous on the flanks, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were superb in the centre. Carrick was the model of class and composure, so calm and assured in the midfield battle zone.

In Giggs he had the ideal partner a player whose passing was borderingon perfection, as impressive as players like Frank Lampard and Michael Essien were disappointing.

Giggs received Sky Sports' man-of-the-match champagne afterwards and it was far from an injustice but, for this observer, he was actually pippedby Park for such  an accolade.

The South Korean started with the pass that enabled Javier Hernandez to score his 20th goal of the season after just 36 seconds and he was outstanding from the first minute to the last, offensively and defensively.

At the back, United were again so much better than their opponents. Where Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were so formidable Vidic even grabbing what proved to be the decisive second goal David Luiz and John Terry were surprisingly disappointing. Luiz still looks like an excellent January signing but he was very much at fault for the first goal and looked so nervous that Carlo Ancelotti decided to hook him at half-time.

Pure delight: Hernandez's goal was the 20th of his stunning debut campaign

Chelsea never expected to get back in a position where they could win the league this season but the moment they did they choked, their failure to cope with the pressure of the situation something that might well be used in evidence against Ancelotti by his employers.

Ferguson's position is obviously much more secure and as a manager he looks like a genius this week. He took the decision to rest so many players in a European semi-final and the gamble has paid off beautifully. A place alongside Barcelona at Wembley and a team playing with fresh legs here at Old Trafford four days later. 'That has won us the title,' declared Ferguson.

Head boy: Nemanja Vidic added a second before the break from a corner

Ancelotti rather hoped his decision to leave Fernando Torres on the bench would pay off but after little more than half a minute his team were a goal down. It was a spectacular start, Park receiving a pass fromGiggs and then sending Hernandez clear with a super delivery of his ownbefore watching the Mexican guide a terrific finish beyond Petr Cech. Luiz protested to his colleagues, insisting he was not at fault. But he was he should have intercepted Park's pass.

United were so much more alert. Wayne Rooney forced a fine save from Cech with a beautifully hit strike and Hernandez was then inches away from meeting a Park cross with a close-range effort.

Other opportunities would follow before Chelsea eventually responded with a corner that very nearly enabled Didier Drogba, then Salomon Kalou, to strike. But when Giggs followed a short-corner routine with Park in the 23rd minute by beating Kalou and then delivering a perfect cross, Vidic surged ahead of a static Branislav Ivanovic to send a bouncing header beyond Cech for United's second goal.

Mere consolation: Lampard kept the game alive but Chelsea rarely threatened afterwards

Chelsea had their moments and Edwin van der Sar was forced to make a couple of decent saves   to deny Kalou and Drogba.

Ancelotti took off John Mikel Obi as well as Luiz at half-time, sending on Ramires and Alex, but United remained dominant, even if Lampard managed to reduce the deficit in the 68th minute when he pounced on Ivanovic's header from a deflected Ramires cross with a close-range volley.

By then, United had been denied two possible penalties. First when Lampard blocked a Valencia cross with a raised hand, then when Valencia and Terry collided.

But Rooney and Hernandez should have scored after that Rooney seeing one effort cleared off the line by Alex and it would have felt hugely unfair had Chelsea snatched an equaliser during a tense, if still one-sided, final 20 minutes.

Will this be Ferguson's greatest achievement? That is open to debate but he has not enjoyed many moments more than this one.

End of the road: Chelsea will now likely rebuild in the summer

 Watch all the Premier League goals every week on our brilliant video playerWe'll crush Chelsea with our skill, so don't try any rough stuff, says NaniWebb is good news for Ferguson and United, especially at Old TraffordAll the latest Chelsea news, features and opinionAll the latest Manchester United news, features and opinion  Explore more:People: Frank Lampard, Carlo Ancelotti, Alex Ferguson, Petr Cech, Ryan Giggs, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Park Ji-sung, Fernando Torres, Antonio Valencia, Edwin Van Der Sar, John Terry, Michael Essien, Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Nani Places: Barcelona, Liverpool

Source: Daily_Mail