Stunning comeback masks opportunity lost



For Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas Sunday’s draw with Manchester United must feel like a crushing defeat. The hosts, three goals to the good 10 minutes into the second half, were cruising to victory only for United’s stunning comeback to be completed by Javier Hernández with seven minutes to go. The high in visitors’ dressing room, by contrast to Chelsea’s, will take some time to die down. Yet, come the first training session at Carrington this week, Sir Alex Ferguson will have cause to rue an opportunity lost. Make no mistake, Chelsea was ripe for the taking at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. In the common vernacular: this was two points dropped.

Indeed, with key Chelsea defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole absent, together with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young returning for the visitors, Ferguson’s side must surely have felt confident, despite a 10-year streak without beating the Londoners at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. As it turned out, Ferguson’s outfit was, perhaps, too confident.

True to Ferguson’s preferred script United controlled much of the first half, repeating the impressive possession game displayed both at Anfield last weekend, and against Stoke City on Tuesday night. Yet, with Villas-Boas’ side struggling to find any rhythm United was unable to translate territorial advantage into goals. Not unlike the previous two fixtures, United wielded a cutting edge that was decidedly blunt.

The visitors were to pay a heavy price for profligacy, after first Jonny Evans scored an unfortunate own goal, 10 minutes before half-time, then Chelsea struck twice more five minutes after the break. But no Ferguson side has ever been prone to throwing in the towel, even from a position seemingly beyond the bounds of possibility.

Even so, even by comparison to some great United comebacks, this was a resurgence rarely superseded in Ferguson’s 25 years at Old Trafford. It may have taken two disputed penalties to fire the Reds’ back into the game, but the verve with which Ferguson’s side attacked at 3-0 down compares to anything United has produced this season.

Yet, Ferguson is rarely one to celebrate a point gained, especially with a gap to Manchester City having now developed a lead at the head of the Premier League.

“The two penalties in the second half were justified. I think we could have had four in the game,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“They should’ve had a man sent off. Danny Welbeck’s clear through, brought down, but nothing, no decision. The linesman has given two penalties against as at Old Trafford in the last two years, one against Arsenal and one against Liverpool. 45 yards away and he gave them. I don’t blame Howard Webb, I blame the assistant. There was a pull on Ashley Young, inside the box, in front of the linesman and he doesn’t give it. Yet he gives them at Old Trafford.

“It’s two points dropped. We played so well, apart from the 10 minutes straight after halftime where we got off to a terrible start and lost two goals in five minutes. But, it’s not easy to come back from two goals down. That is a massive effort from our players. I thought we were the far better team. Once we got over those 10 minutes I thought we played very well. It was a massive effort from the team, and a great game. For a neutral watching that game it was fantastic.”

Ever the gambler, Ferguson threw on Mexican striker Hernández for Young with 35 minutes to go, pushing Danny Welbeck wide in the process. By the time Paul Scholes replaced Rafael da Silva just past the hour, United was attacking with six players. It was the same caution-to-the-wind attitude that had brought a thumping at home to Old Trafford earlier this season.

“We had to gamble. To be honest with you I perhaps should have played Chicharito from the start as when he came on he had the Chelsea defence under pressure with his movement and positional play,” added Ferguson. “Danny [Welbeck] was terrific and is going to be a top player but when Chicharito came on in the second half, it was a different game.”

Yet, the Scot was seen gesticulating from the sidelines as the Reds played out the final seven minutes plus injury time having seemingly retreated into a shell. Fergie had not rolled the dice only to see snake eyes comes up.

It could have been worse though, with Chelsea creating the better chances with five minutes to go. Indeed, the visitors were grateful to the much-maligned goalkeeper David de Gea for two outstanding saves late in the game.

“The save [by De Gea] from Mata’s free-kick was unbelievable. There were two or three other saves as well,” added Sir Alex.

“He’s played his part and I’m pleased as we can see the talent in the boy. In three or four years’ time we are going to see all of that but at the moment he’s made one or two mistakes but the introduction has been difficult for him. It’s not what he was used to in Spain. Today he showed that he is ready to get amongst it. He’s done a great job today.”

Ultimately though it was left to Rooney to sum up a match in which all could have been lost, yet, by its conclusion there was so much more to gain. The returning United striker’s movement, together with two well-struck penalties, were far too much for Chelsea’s makeshift back-four on a day in which United could have run up a cricket score.

“It’s two points lost,” Rooney told Sky Sports.

“We understand that, but after being 3-0 down – the City players at home must have liked that – we enjoyed the way we fought back. A lot of teams might have put their heads down and accepted defeat, but we never put our heads down, we carried on, worked hard and, thankfully, got something out of the game. We knew if we got one goal back there was enough time to gain something out of the game, so we dug in.”

Rooney called it a point that could “win United the title.” Yet, United face Liverpool at Old Trafford next Saturday, with away matches at Norwich City and then Tottenham Hotspur to follow a double-header with Ajax. It is a pivotal series of games, with City, by contrast, facing four winnable Premier League matches before hosting Chelsea on 19 March.

There’s no question, this was an outstanding fight-back, but come Monday morning Ferguson will understand that the Reds can afford to drop few points now. As the old cliché goes, it was a point gained; double the total lost.

Share Button
  • dozer

    Our midfield is looking good now, Carrick, Giggs and Scholes had excellent games in a 2 man midfield. With Cleverley back we may just make it.
    But our defence I’m afraid, will lose us the title. Smalling and Rafael/Fabio are the only defenders who can actually defend.
    Evra and Jones are attacking players, both are poor defenders and get skinned rather too easily, especially Jones. Evans is an average talent, a useful squad player like Brown perhaps.
    De Gea’s shite, he’ll become world class in a couple of seasons but this is the price we’ll pay for bringing youth in so quickly. United can expect a season or two with no trophies before the club comes good again – our 5 year honeymoon period is up.

    Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.

    • DeadRevel

      Did you even watch the game? De Gea was class throughout. What a moronic comment to make after that performance.

      As for the article, needlessly negative. Yes we should have won, but lady luck was hardly with us. Three or four flukey sucked punches as well as an unstoppable Mata goal and we’re 3 nil down. You can’t plan for that.

  • Lucas

    One more away tough away fixture out of the way and a point gained miraculously – that’s how I would see it. Rafael has been terrific in defence and attack lately, but Evans/Rio still do not inspire confidence. Just hoping Smalling does not fall prey to some mystery illness.

    Btw, looks like Valencia cannot perform when he’s under tremendous pressure to perform, with fans and teammates looking at him to deliver the goods. He did play well but I definitely expected more from him, especially playing against Bosingwa.

    • DeadRevel

      First you say Valencia can’t perform in big games, which is wrong, then you say actually he did play well anyway. What was your point exactly? Apart from Barca 2011 I don’t remember a game that supports this theory. And almost everyone was shite that day.

      He made a crucial contribution to the 3rd goal, and generally played well. Not stunning, but solid. Young on the other hand was poor on the left. Hopefully that’s just a lack of match sharpness.

      AV certainly played better than Rooney… fuck knows how he got MotM. His current form is closer to his ‘October revolution’ level than what he produced at the beginning of the season. Correlation between hair length seems to hold water… it gets shorter and he gets shitter.

      Scouse Samson needs a hair top up.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    I’m happy enough… I think it’s true on reflection that we should have beaten them… so 2 points dropped…

    However, I think that fightback will have done us even more good in the bigger picture.

    de Gea had one of his better games and the team will feel very proud of itself.

    The Bitters will drop more points yet, and they have some tough games to come.

    • http://damiangarside.com Damian Garside

      Yes, but not just two points dropped. If we had won 4-3 scoring 4 goals at the Bridge and coming from behind — I think that would have done incredible damage to City’s morale (the City players would start to believe that we are fated to win the league, that we are indestructable, and that whatever they do — we will emulate them or do better). It was, I think, the chance to turn the title race definitively in our favour. We could still win it, but it’s going to be a battle that will go to the wire.

  • Violent Banana

    Happy enough with four points from the Emirates and Stamford Bridge – that’s four more than last year. Do the business against Liverpool on Saturday and we’re in with a great shout.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    This match reminded me of that West Ham game last season where I was scratching my head wondering how we were 2-0 down. That Chelsea 3rd goal was what got THEM the point. Had it been two nil we would have won it.

    Same thing like at Newcastle. At 2 nil down their keeper makes a great save and later Danny Simpson makes a spectacular off the line clearance. If we had scored one then, we would have gone on to win.

    It was a game AT Chelsea. It was only an “opportunity” because of the players they had out. However, when you factor that Terry and Lampard are actually finished while Valencia always burns Cole anyway, then you will know that the match might never have panned out any differently. Evra is really not good enough for one more season. Evans was good. Rio is actually a joke these days. Rafael if he stays clear of injuries is a fantastic defender who is incredibly tenacious for one so good on the ball. One touch that plucked the ball out of the air was frankly ridiculous for a defender!!

  • Leif Sward

    Please stop sending the team out early after going in losing at half time. It’s happened against Blackburn, at Newcastle and yesterday – on each occasion we have conceded within a minute! Whatever the message is, it obviously aint working!

  • shauno

    4 points from 6 against Chelsea I’ll take that. If we take 4 points from the Liverpool and Spurs game I’ll take that as well. Then thats all the top teams played until the city game. City with pressure mounting will have Aresnal away, Chelsea home, us and some tough away fixtures. I can see Villa giving them a game. If after the spurs game the gap is less than 5 points I’ll be happy.

  • Waxfoot

    De Gea made some outstanding saves and I hope he gets the credit for those. He only lacks confidence and assurance. This is a chance for him to build those up.

    This is one of the worst Chelsea teams in years, we should’ve beaten them easily. I hope the players build momentum now after what was a great comeback, but if we’d focused in the first place we’d have had the match sewn up. Can’t keep happening.

    I agree with those hinting at the repacement of Evra in a year or two, he’s slowly been in decline. Fabio? Injuries aside, he is the obvious candidate.

    • DeadRevel

      I get the feeling SAF is reluctant to field Rafael and Fabio together. Partly due to the high injury risk, and partly because of the high fuck-up risk. But let’s be honest, Rafael and Fabio could both spend 90 minutes in the opposition penalty area, and they’d still contribute to less defensive disasters than Evra at the moment.

      I’m concerned he’s only playing out of accumulated goodwill and perhaps the Suarez saga. Losing face or losing games…?

      I’m dreading the Liverpool game on the weekend. Hopefully Pat can put that sly cunt in his place.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    I won’t be surprised if Suarez doesn’t play.
    Evra got abuse from a pissy minded 40,000, intent on making his day miserable.
    Suarez will get slaughtered by a righteous 75,000, bent on reducing him to a puddle of goo.

    “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.”

  • sidney

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I won’t be surprised if Suarez doesn’t play.

    Evra got abuse from a pissy minded 40,000, intent on making his day miserable.

    Suarez will get slaughtered by a righteous 75,000, bent on reducing him to a puddle of goo.

    Dalglish could have calmed this down by not speaking and drawing a line under it

    But he was talking shit again tonight in the post match

    He’s fuelling the fire

  • Dinkinflicker

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I won’t be surprised if Suarez doesn’t play.

    Evra got abuse from a pissy minded 40,000, intent on making his day miserable.

    Suarez will get slaughtered by a righteous 75,000, bent on reducing him to a puddle of goo.

    I agree. Such a shame that we don’t have a Keane or Robson on the pitch to give him some treatment.

    I’ve got a horrible feeling that he’ll get on the scoresheet though.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    I think Kenny Dalglish is the lowest form of human life. I really do. I can not believe that man is still coming out on air and insisting that he should not have been banned in the first place. Goodness me!!

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    home advantage and bottling refs mean we could probably get away with going through the back of him a few times, no refs gonna want any part of suarez related incidents, rooney might be able to elbow him in the face

  • sheesh

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I won’t be surprised if Suarez doesn’t play.

    Evra got abuse from a pissy minded 40,000, intent on making his day miserable.

    Suarez will get slaughtered by a righteous 75,000, bent on reducing him to a puddle of goo.

    The racists can’t afford to rest him.

    Tonight’s draw was a bit of a setback for them. As Gary Neville said on Sky, they would ideally have been looking to take at least 4 points from their games against Spurs and ourselves.

    They need to come to United and win. Even a draw at Old Trafford is not a good result. They won’t win without Suarez and, yeah, I know I say this after they just beat us in the Cup but we won’t be so toothless offensively and I expect us to defend better, the Chelsea game being a timely reminder for us.

    At home, I fancy us to dick them.

  • sheesh

    sidney said:
    Dalglish could have calmed this down by not speaking and drawing a line under it

    But he was talking shit again tonight in the post match

    He’s fuelling the fire

    Good point. That is about as brainless as you can get. Our players don’t need any more firing up…

  • Herbie Simms

    We really need to beat Liverpool. We should not focus too much on the Europa League if we are to overhaul Man.City. This could be a distraction and we could end up much further points behind Man.City.

  • han

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    home advantage and bottling refs mean we could probably get away with going through the back of him a few times, no refs gonna want any part of suarez related incidents, rooney might be able to elbow him in the face

    not often i agree with any of your posts but on this occasion i would concur completely

  • han

    kenny dalglish is such a cocksucker
    that brief clip on him on breakfast time tv really pissed me off
    SAF needs to play that in the dressing room today and every day until saturday to show the lads what a cunt he is as well as LFC if they didnt already know

  • Dinkinflicker

    Dalglish is an Uber Cunt. This is a level of cuntishness reserved only for the most vile and repugnant of gods creatures. And Scousers.
    Saturday’s going to be lively.

  • Brown man

    3-0 up at home – Chelsea will be the sicker with that but, where they won’t win the title but should be OK for the top 4, we needed the points more.
    Great to see Chico back.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    home advantage and bottling refs mean we could probably get away with going through the back of him a few times, no refs gonna want any part of suarez related incidents, rooney might be able to elbow him in the face

    This game is going to get special attention from the FA… might get away with it in game, but afterwards there would be heavy punishment.

    Don’t need it…

    Would have been a suitable job for Gibson though.

  • DeadRevel

    We’re all agreed then. Kenny is a cunt.

  • Brown man

    Any chance of building a time machine in the meantime & bringing back the Roy Keane of 2002 ?

  • sheesh

    Patrick Barclay, sports journalist, has caused a storm after using the Heysel disaster as a retort to a Liverpool fan who asked, “Do you get any lower than taking Murdoch’s cash?”
    Barclay replied, “See your point. But yes you can. For example, you can be in a crowd that crushes 39 people to death”.
    The Scousers will love that.

  • Dinkinflicker

    sheesh said:
    Patrick Barclay, sports journalist, has caused a storm after using the Heysel disaster as a retort to a Liverpool fan who asked, “Do you get any lower than taking Murdoch’s cash?”

    Barclay replied, “See your point. But yes you can. For example, you can be in a crowd that crushes 39 people to death”.

    The Scousers will love that.

    They’re spitting feathers on RAWK, unsurprisingly. I think he’s absolutely fucking bang on though.

  • sidney

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    home advantage and bottling refs mean we could probably get away with going through the back of him a few times, no refs gonna want any part of suarez related incidents, rooney might be able to elbow him in the face

    My thinking exactly
    The opportunity will arise to go through the back of him too, because he’ll be involved in something, or he’ll start something, because he’s that shade of cunt