Reds’ slice of luck Bridges a decade of ill fortune



It has been a decade since Manchester United last won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League – a 3-0 win in April 2002, with Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring the goals. During the intervening years Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, and many others, ran foul of officialdom in west London. The Stamford Bridge crowd may be as plastic as it comes, but Roman Abramovich has rarely had cause to complain about a referee’s performance when United comes to town.

Amusing then that such a storm should brew after Ferguson’s men benefited from marginal calls at the Bridge to secure three vital points in a dramatic fixture on Sunday afternoon. United won 3-2 following Javier Hernández’ late winner, but the scoreline tells just part of the story in which the Reds very nearly threw away a two goal lead.

But the game, as is now customary in the Premier League, almost becomes a secondary consideration amid the “narratives related to it, a screen on which to project neuroses and prejudice,” as one writer put it.

Fernando Torres’ yellow card for ‘diving’ under Jonny Evans’ challenge, and Hernandez’ marginally offside winner could have gone either way. But Chelsea’s manager Roberto Di Matteo can have no complaints about Branislav Ivanovic’s red for taking out Ashley Young, nor the fortune that saw Torres’ get away with a wildly dangerous chest-high challenge on Tom Cleverley just after half-time.

“Surely, when he’s going to watch the images he’s going to realise that he made big mistakes,” said Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo of referee Mark Clattenburg’s performance.

“It is a shame a game like this had to be decided in that manner by officials. It always seems to be in favour of the opposition.”

The final comment, one presumes, was appended without hint of irony from the 42-year-old Italian. But west London complaints aside, United’s third win of the week brings a substantial boost to those at Old Trafford. Yet another defeat at Stamford Bridge would have left the Reds seven behind Chelsea, and three behind Manchester City, with a quarter of the season complete.

As it stands there is now but a point between the country’s three leading teams, with United hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford in the Premier League next weekend. None of the three is faultless though, leading to the conclusion that there will be more than one twist in the months to come.

Still, United will pay little attention to Chelsea’s cries of foul; not with a title to claw back from Eastlands.

“We don’t care. We win, we have the three points,” added Hernández of the ‘controversial’ win.

“That was the only thing we had on our mind. Probably for some people it was very controversial, for other people not. For us, we won the three points and it is very difficult to come here to Stamford Bridge and take the three points, and we’re very lucky and happy with that.”

But Ferguson will once again be concerned with United’s defending at the Bridge, especially given the extent to which his men crumbled under Chelsea’s pressure either side of half-time. So open was the Reds’ central midfield all afternoon that at one point Ferguson ended the pretense altogether and paired Carrick with Wayne Rooney.

No combination it seems offers Ferguson’s back-four any protection, with United having conceded twice for the third time in seven days. Indeed, the Reds have shipped 13 in nine Premier League matches do date. Liverpool, in 12th, has conceded 14.

It is tempting to suggest that United’s fortune, such as it was at Stamford Bridge, will not hold indefinitely, while Ferguson’s side will certainly persist in conceding goals unless something changes. Whether the Reds’ adaptation is tactical, technical, or in personnel – whatever the solution to United’s faults it is a truism that the most successful sides rarely concede at will.

Ferguson suffered a similar dilemma last season after City ran riot at Old Trafford. United tightened up and went on a run of narrow victories that set the stage for a more closely run title race that many believed possible. This season, United’s open play has brought far more entertainment, but the genuine question on offer is whether Ferguson believes the attack-at-all-costs policy is one that can bring the title back to Old Trafford next May.

For now, the Scot will enjoy a rare victory in Abramovich’s lair. After all, it comes for too infrequently for comfort. In 26 visits to the Bridge, Ferguson’s side has emerged victorious on just seven occasions, including Sunday.

The victory also reward for Ferguson’s bold team selection and attacking philosophy – one which has not always been prevalent in United’s biggest matches over the past two years.

“It’s 10 years since we won here [in the Premier League],” Sir Alex told Sky Sports in the aftermath.

“I said before the game that we’ve had some shocking decisions down here. It’s very difficult to come here and get all the decisions as it’s a very difficult place. The sending off of the right-back was the turning point for us. I think we would have won it from that point. I put Chicharito on and he got the winning goal as I think the momentum was with us then.”

Five victories on the spin since Tottenham Hotspur won at Old Trafford in September, no matter the defensive record,  is another kind of momentum too. With qualification from the Champions League almost ensured, Ferguson’s men have little distraction this side of Christmas, and a series of eminently winnable games before the derby with City on 9 December.

That match will, of course, be another genuine test, and United supporters will be grateful for another modicum of good fortune in just over five week’s time.

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Comments

  1. Coach Herbie says:

    I’m not sure if Fergie is that concerned about our defending. I don’t hear him talking about buying any defenders in the up coming transfer window. I do believe though that he is more interested in a midfielder. He should consider both. If we are to make an impact in the Champions league, defence and midfield needs quality players. Bring out the cash Fergie!

  2. Wins at Anfield, St James and Stamford Bridge are massively impressive

    It bodes well

  3. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    I can understand shipping goals, when you’re bodging a defense with Carrick… but Rio and Evans should be doing better.

    Anyway, this team may be conceding too many goals, but it ain’t half fun to watch again… “you score 2, and we’ll score 3″… we’re getting away with it for now, and I’m fairly sure the defense will come good sooner or later… it better, cause we won’t score 3/4 goals every game against the top teams.

  4. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    conceding goals isnt fun

  5. Thought the back 4 actually had a good game. Two goals not their fault – Rooney gave away free kick and Cleverley beaten in the air. In the former, Hazard was about to run into our CBs and the latter, the defenders were occupied and it was Cleverley’s responsibility to win his battle with Ramires (not much more Cleverley could’ve done though).

    The biggest problem with the midfield wasn’t the missing ball winner but the poor passing. Cleverley and Carrick just couldn’t keep the ball when they had it. Cleverley’s passing completion was 76% (only RVP and DDG had worse) and Carrick had completed only 20 before Ivanovic was sent off around the hour mark (only 11 between our 2nd and their first red). It seems we’ve forgotten how to play with the lead. There was no ‘resting on the ball’, every time we got the ball we tried to attack. When that tactic clearly wasn’t working, we didn’t try to change anything. Even after their reds, keeping the ball was’t a priority. Really can’t understand why Scholes wasn’t brought on at that point. Would’ve made the final half hour much more comfortable.

    It’s not like naivety can be used as an excuse – Rio, Carrick, Evra, RVP, Rooney and Valencia all have plenty of experience – it’s even worse on the bench. What is the point of having Phelan and Rene as assistants if neither of them can give good advice. Maybe they’re cancelling each other out – if he really trusted either of them he wouldn’t need two.

  6. The first goal annoyed me really. Rooney should never have dived in…just keep chasing him as the defence held a proper line. Then the free-kick went into the corner that DDG was supposed to be covering.

    Let us just leave this Phelan matter. He is so obviously a dud it is unreal!!

  7. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    i think its clear that phelan is taggarts carer

  8. Denton Davey says:

    I love this:

    “We don’t care. We win, we have the three points,” added Hernández of the ‘controversial’ win.
    “That was the only thing we had on our mind. Probably for some people it was very controversial, for other people not. For us, we won the three points and it is very difficult to come here to Stamford Bridge and take the three points, and we’re very lucky and happy with that.”

    To paraphrase – schadenfreude is a dish best-eaten cold. AND today it’s just delicious, thank you very much.

  9. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    conceding goals isnt fun

    All my favourite United games had us concede goals… but still win.

  10. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    I love this:

    “We don’t care. We win, we have the three points,” added Hernández of the ‘controversial’ win.
    “That was the only thing we had on our mind. Probably for some people it was very controversial, for other people not. For us, we won the three points and it is very difficult to come here to Stamford Bridge and take the three points, and we’re very lucky and happy with that.”

    To paraphrase – schadenfreude is a dish best-eaten cold. AND today it’s just delicious, thank you very much.

    It’s revenge, not schadenfreude.

  11. Denton Davey says:

    Alfonso Bedoya @ 2:13: “It’s revenge, not schadenfreude.”

    I know that – and I can provide the reference to Machiavelli (in Italian) to prove it. But, pedantry aside, I’ll stick with the paraphrase.

  12. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Calvino said:
    The first goal annoyed me really. Rooney should never have dived in…just keep chasing him as the defence held a proper line. Then the free-kick went into the corner that DDG was supposed to be covering.

    Let us just leave this Phelan matter. He is so obviously a dud it is unreal!!

    I can’t blame Rooney… it was a silly foul, for sure… but he’d just been done by Hazard and he was determined to get the ball back… silly, rash, maybe… but Rooney chasing a lost cause, and getting stuck in isn’t the worst problem we’ve got.

  13. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    Alfonso Bedoya @ 2:13: “It’s revenge, not schadenfreude.”
    I know that – and I can provide the reference to Machiavelli (in Italian) to prove it. But, pedantry aside, I’ll stick with the paraphrase.

    Fuck sake man… pop out for air once in a while.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  14. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    All my favourite United games had us concede goals… but still win.

    i dont want us to concede goals ever

    1-0 scholes late winner at eastlands over 4-3 owen late winner any day

    or preferably a 5-0 kanchelskis hattrick complete battering

  15. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    If you say so…

  16. This has got to be the flukiest run of games United have had to be just one point of the top of the league. If you look at the team’s defensive strength, United isn’t worse off in midfield when compared to last season but look poorer in ball retention. Our central defenders seem to be faring poorly in comparison too.
    It’s time for Smalling to step up and be our first choice defender but him and Jones will probably stay crocked this season as well.

    United finishing second this season will be an overachievement – for once.

  17. Phelan is a dud. If we had been 2-0 up under Queerarse we would have shut up shop and bored Chelsea into submission.Better that than stumbling from one win to another.With the team as it is at the moment I would much prefer boring 1 nils.

  18. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    dozer said:
    This has got to be the flukiest run of games United have had to be just one point of the top of the league. If you look at the team’s defensive strength, United isn’t worse off in midfield when compared to last season but look poorer in ball retention. Our central defenders seem to be faring poorly in comparison too.
    It’s time for Smalling to step up and be our first choice defender but him and Jones will probably stay crocked this season as well.

    United finishing second this season will be an overachievement – for once.

    Jones has a proper injury, doesn’t he??? knee, I think… but Smalling???… what the hell… a toe???… I’ve had a crushed foot that heeled quicker

  19. Commenter said:
    Phelan is a dud. If we had been 2-0 up under Queerarse we would have shut up shop and bored Chelsea into submission.Better that than stumbling from one win to another.With the team as it is at the moment I would much prefer boring 1 nils.

    None of us know what Phelan does though. From what I’ve seen all he does is put out the cones in a morning and clap and make sure everyone is laughing during training. His voice regarding tactics is one of many.
    Fuck this sentimental Quieroz shite n all. We all fucking hated him at the time – properly hated him. Now he’s become a tactical genius.

    • Spot on, I remember everyone moaning about Quieroz at the time – everyone hated him! can’t really remember why now, but I suppose that’s the point! Fans have short memories!

      Phealan OUT – G.Nev IN

  20. The real point is that everyone hated Quieroz BECAUSE of his obvious influence on tactics. He was only a tactical genius in comparison to “yes” man Phelan. You can imagine the tactical meeting-
    SAF “We’ll play 2 at the back,5 man midfield diamond and 3 up front,plus rush goalie.Good idea Mike?”
    MP “Yes,boss”

    SAF “We’ll play 2 at the back……etc Good idea,Carlos?”
    CQ “4-4-2″
    SAF “OK Carlos”.

  21. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    sidney said:
    Fuck this sentimental Quieroz shite n all. We all fucking hated him at the time – properly hated him. Now he’s become a tactical genius.

    Aye… and he’s had two chances at United and jumped for greener grass both times… that’s his lot.

  22. Try as I might I cannot remember the phrase “revenge is a dish eaten cold” being attributed to Machiavelli. It is certainly “Machiavellian” in intent but having read the works of the philosopher (The Prince,Discourses on Livy etc)it would seem a little “weak” for him. I believe it dates post Machiavelli but I am,of course,open to correction. His most famous “quote” would be “the end justifies the means”.

  23. Commenter said:
    The real point is that everyone hated Quieroz BECAUSE of his obvious influence on tactics. He was only a tactical genius in comparison to “yes” man Phelan. You can imagine the tactical meeting-
    SAF “We’ll play 2 at the back,5 man midfield diamond and 3 up front,plus rush goalie.Good idea Mike?”
    MP “Yes,boss”
    SAF “We’ll play 2 at the back……etc Good idea,Carlos?”
    CQ “4-4-2″
    SAF “OK Carlos”.

    You can’t imagine how the tactical meetings go because you don’t know who is involved, how much advice Fergie takes etc. The only thing I know for certain is that he regularly consults Giggs and Scholes regarding this stuff. It’s definitely not just Fergie and Phelan – or just the coaches for that matter.
    Phelan is just an easy target because he’s boring, bald, ugly, bit of a twat, sticks to the party line religiously etc… so he cops the blame for our frustrations. When we do well it’s because of Fergie, when we’re shit it’s because of Phelan.
    Let’s not forget the tactical genius of Quieroz almost got him and Fergie the boot during the dark days of 2005. It came down to one game. It was 1-1. Another flat bullshit boring 451 tactical shite performance. We ended up winning 2-1, and Fergie & Queiroz remained in a job. They celebrated like they’d won the league. The season after we reverted back to 442 with Saha, and won the league.

  24. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    what game was that

  25. Denton Davey says:

    steggo @ 7:31 – you’re right; it wasn’t Machiavelli, as I thought.

    “According to Wikipedia, the “earliest identified appearance [of this proverb] in European literature is in the 1841 French novel Mathilde by Marie Joseph Eugène Sue: <> — there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying — published in English translation in 1846 as revenge is very good eaten cold.

    However, like many proverbs, its origins probably go way back, surely before its first appearance in a European book. Therefore, we probably have some flexibility in how we use it. Either “served” or “eaten” will be understood.”

  26. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

  27. Coach Herbie says:

    I can confirm that Fergie is looking to bring in a defensive midfielder in January but I don’t know who because they are looking at so many players at the moment and the price has to be right. But whether this happens remains to be seen. Fergie said this himself in a interview with a sports reporter talking on the Chelsea/United game. Fergie also said that the ref was right to send Torres off. But Fergie does make a lot of strange team selections and most times they cost us games. I hope from now on he can be more consistent and get it right. I don’t know how serious he is in winning the Carling Cup and what team he will pick this time around.

    • Mongoletsi says:

      // I can confirm that Fergie is looking to bring in a defensive midfielder in January //

      How can you confirm this?

      // but I don’t know who because they are looking at so many players at the moment and the price has to be right. //

      You obviously have inside info, give us some names.

      Actually, is this the real Herbie? Seems too lucid…

      • Damian Garside says:

        Now Herbie’s not just a coach (THE coach), he is also an investigative reporter, rooting through the dustbins outside OT for his information. All a bit too Mittyish for me.

  28. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    herbie is the best wum ever on rant

    better than bri or me or czuk

  29. Phew… Herbie can confirm we’re looking at a defensive midfielder. I can sleep well at night now.

    For fecks sake…

  30. Having such an insightful,knowledgeable contributor as Coach Herbie is a great asset to this site. To have a mole so deep in the fabric of the team provides us all with information that is both fresh and revealing. A defensive midfielder? Who would have guessed that bombshell.Leave him/her alone to get on with their outstanding contributions.

  31. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    5 cocks took the bait

    high class wumming from herbie

  32. I think you meant Coach Herbie introduced a topic of meaningful debate.

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