skip to content

Patrick Collins: Fergie must know United's problems go deeper than one offside goal

05 Apr 2010 01:37:06

Patrick Collins: Fergie must know United's problems go deeper than one offside goal

As the consequences of his dreadful lunchtime in Lancashire started to sink in, Sir Alex Ferguson yielded to temptation. Asked to apportion blame for the defeat which may cost United their title, he promptly attacked a man with a flag. Controversy: Drogba's goal fired Chelsea two points clear Simon Beck is a linesman and, on this evidence, not a terribly good one. After 78 minutes of a largely uninspiring contest, he watched Didier Drogba move on to a pass from Salomon Kalou. Drogba's control was instant, his drive impeccable, his celebration unrestrained. Unfortunately, he was a full yard offside when the pass was played. Mr Beck was perfectly positioned to disallow the goal: he did nothing. Ferguson was unforgiving. 'If he can't get that right, why is he officiating in a game like today?' he asked. 'It's just the quality of the decision, I'd say. It's cost us.' That was his public posture, and it found an echo among the aggrieved United fans as they grumbled their way into the spring sunshine. But we must assume that the private Ferguson was thinking quite different thoughts. Sure, it was a poor decision. Every team gets them. Chelsea had suffered an equally scandalous misfortune when Gary Neville hurled himself into a ludicrous barge on Nicolas Anelka, an assault which richly merited the penalty it never received. Yet they got on with their job, played most of the football,embraced their strategy and eminently deserved their points. It was their composed and diligent performance, not the deficiencies of an assistant referee, which proved so expensive for United. High and dry: Paul Scholes and Deco do battle Carlo Ancelotti obeyed a predictable script: 'Important victory . . . tough match . . . lot of games to play . . . mustn't take it easy.' But, like Ferguson, he clearly sensed that things are not quite right at Old Trafford. The ownership issue remains an irritating distraction. Green and gold protests monopolise Sir Matt Busby Way. The posters ask fans to: 'Wear The Colours Beckham Wore.' The sellers hustle 'Glazers Out' scarves and flags. The antagonism is real and will not go away. Yet United's problems run far deeper. A side which started the day on top of the heap should not have to resort to spent forces like Neville, whose performance yesterday decisively buried any notion that England might use him in South Africa. Likewise Paul Scholes, still capable of the odd, sublime pass, yet still convinced that he is morally entitled to at least one malevolent lunge in every match. Yesterday, his crude attack was launched at Florent Malouda in the 34th minute. It brought him yellow, might have warranted straight red, and clearly limited his effectiveness from there on. Neville was also booked for an irresponsible hack at Malouda nine minutes later. It might have been a perverted tribute to Chelsea's most influential player, more probably it was a confession of United's shortcomings. Arm's length: Chelsea's Florent Malouda holds off Gary Neville Chelsea were by then a goal to the good, the product of Malouda's incisive run and Joe Cole's flick. But even in those early stages there was ample evidence of just how much Wayne Rooney means to United. The young bull would have been in his element yesterday; chasing, stretching, challenging, occasionally clattering defenders. Instead we were given the moody, diffident Dimitar Berbatov at his most infuriating. In fairness, he was by no means adequately supplied, but he still performs like the man most likely to score a sensational fourth goal, rather than hustle out the first. Drogba's goal seemed to end the argument, and the late goal which bounced in off Federico Macheda served only to emphasise United's frustration. Yet that frustration is acute. Having won the title so often and with such a swagger, they know that this is not a vintage Premier League season, that it will not take an outstanding team to win it. Having been spoiled by the glittering excellence of Barcelona the other evening, we know that no English side may be seriously compared with the Catalans. But Chelsea are durable, disciplined, blessed with serious performers in crucial positions and led by a coach whose record tells us how well he knows his business. Their depth was vividly illustrated in the 67th minute when Ancelotti, unhappy with Anelka's contribution, jerked a finger at his bench and summoned the beast that is Drogba. The club cherishes exalted ambitions, while the players still resent their premature ejection from the Champions League. They may never be enchanting in the manner of a Barcelona or, on their better days, a Manchester United, but they have now usurped the driver's seat and they will take an awful lot of dislodging. And so they moved on to the next task. And their fans bellowed their raucous confidence with chants of 'There's only one team in it'. And if anybody is capable of ending their ambitions in either cup or league, then they are keeping the lowest of profiles. Meanwhile, Sir Alex was turning his critical wrath upon a man with a flag. The target was easy, but the real problems lay elsewhere.  Manchester United 1 Chelsea 2: Didier Drogba's controversial winner gives Blues a title tonicMalouda: Chelsea isn't Hollywood - we work hard to win trophies hereDrogba may need surgery on groin injury at the end of the seasonCHELSEA FC


Daily_Mail

Sponsored links

advertisement

Related Chelsea News

advertisement

advertisment