Analysis and Observations: United lack cutting edge in feisty affair

Martin Atkinson

Homesickness claims many and brings about misery on one another. Stamford Bridge has, for years, seemed a place too distant from Old Trafford for Manchester United. Not since 2002 have the Red Devils won over there. While history isn’t quite on United’s side, the visitors arrived favourites – indeed, Chelsea had only picked up 20 points from their last 16 games beforehand.

Chelsea’s second attempt of domination of English football post-Mourinho has hardly materialised this season having just won the Double last season, and United had done well to put them on the back foot in the first half. Comfortable in possession, United’s 4-4-2 was simply too difficult for the Blues break down and Wayne Rooney’s excellent goal had made certain their dominance. The second half? Not quite as enjoyable, unfortunately.

Atkinson in spot of bother. Referee’s hardly have it easy these days. A demanding, sometimes degrading and demeaning, job is hardly helped by the fact that millions can be the judge on how effectively you carry out your work. To say he won Chelsea the game is absurd and perhaps narrow-minded, but his decision making did have some impact on the game. The big call was the penalty awarded to the home side with the score at 1-1. At first viewing, it looked harsh to punish Chris Smalling for fouling Yuri Zhirkov, but it was one of those 50/50 decisions that could go either way. It was soft, but the Russian certainly didn’t dive so Martin Atkinson would be satisfied he made the right call.

One thing for sure, Atkinson probably wouldn’t have to endure a game like this for the remainder of the season. Chelsea’s David Luiz, the Sideshow Bob-lookalike with aggression to match, could and should have been sent off. Having been booked already, the defender had a number of instances which might have earned him another card. Ancelotti wisely replaced him late in the second half. Nemanja Vidic’s red card at the end was conceived out of pure frustration. One thing is for certain; Atkinson was not to blame for United’s shortcomings. United should only point fingers at each other.

The positives? There are some. Fletcher’s deployment down the right flank looked to have worked, especially in the first half. While many will point out that his performances have regressed in this campaign, there’s no doubt that he’s sown some sort of improvement in a position which he played a lot more in his younger days. He was everywhere, not literally, but close. John O’Shea looked assured and confident – so just another day at the office for the Irishman. And then there was Wayne Rooney’s goal, a tidy low finish that had Petr Cech beaten. It was his first league goal from outside the area since 2008, on that occasion he had scored a cracker against Newcastle United.

It was a shame that United couldn’t replicate their first half performance in the second. Michael Carrick was immense for large parts of the game, while Paul Scholes put in a decent shift alongside him. But it all then faded away. After the interval, United looked jaded, a bit alien, and so the hosts took the initiative. In truth, United weren’t that bad. But then you could argue that they weren’t exactly good either. It was a result that would disappoint a few – but the title still remains in the hands of the team that would go on to push on for their 19th title in English football.

The report card. Controversial, as always, but the teacher has made his mind up: Edwin van der Sar C, Patrice Evra C, Chris Smalling C, Nemanja Vidic C, John O’Shea B-; Nani C, Paul Scholes B-, Michael Carrick B, Darren Fletcher B; Wayne Rooney B, Javier Hernandez F


6 responses to “Analysis and Observations: United lack cutting edge in feisty affair”

  1. jonssonmufc says :

    This is what I love about your blog, you don’t put the ref’s mistake(s) in focus, instead you focus on the performance. And you’re not nearly as hard as the majority of the United fans when you do write about Clattenburg.

    Deluded? Give me a break. 🙂

  2. IVOR IRWIN says :

    The season’s chickens came home to roost at Stamford Bridge. Blaming the ref is beside the point. United DESPERATELY need a central midfielder who can go out there and protect players like Chicharito and Nani who don’t own the mental toughness to take care of themselves. An intelligent thug like David Luiz fouls judiciously. Ferguson doesn’t have one player he can rely on to combat the kind of ruthless hardness Chelsea went to in the second half. Essentially, Essien stepped it up a couple of notches and our midfield caved in completely. The Gaffer has been papering over the cracks for four seasons now, and, even though Anderson is only a band-aid for thesituation, we miss him tremendously. Not buying someone like M’Vila, Sissoko or DeRossi is killing us at Squeaky Bum Time. Robbo and Roy Keane used to do what Essien and Luiz did for them yesterday and the refs turned plenty of blind eyes. What goes around does indeed come around.!

  3. David says :

    The difference between the two sides: When United was on top in the first half they failed to take their chances, although for one reason or another, Chelsea managed to squeeze theirs in.


  4. Edward Godwin says :

    Martin Atkinson should be blamed for everything. He denied utd a penalty in the first half when Terry intensionally stop Nani’s shot with his had in the box,David Liuz deserved to be send off after his challenge on Rooney even ANCELOTI can testified that,the penalty decision is too harsh on utd. In fact,am just fade up with all these injustice!

  5. ryan says :

    Hernandez deserves probably a D in my opinion. F is too harsh to a young lad like him. True, terry and luiz marked him out of the game but he worked his socks off on the rare occasions that the ball broke to him much to learn for the promising youngster!

  6. luckystriker says :

    That one hurt.

    I mostly agree with your analysis, Gaffer. However, I do think Fletcher is wasted on the right and I found myself missing Park as the game wore on. Hernandez was lively and had some good runs I thought and no way deserved an F.

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