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Manchester United defeat Chelsea to close in on record 19th title

match report

Manchester United 2 – 1 Chelsea

For a season that has been so unpredictable, and so full of ups and downs for all of the teams involved in the title race, the “finale”(as it had been branded), was settled astonishingly fast. The English Premier League season extends over 38 match days, but at Old Trafford it took Manchester United less than 38 seconds to deal a massive blow to Chelsea’s title hopes. The visitors never completely recovered from United’s impressive start, and could not do enough to deny the hosts the three points.

For this grand occasion, Sir Alex Ferguson fielded his strongest available side, making eight changes to the side that defeated Schalke in the CL semifinal 4-1 in midweek. The only notable absence from the lineup was Patrice Evra, who had not recovered from a knock he took on Wednesday, and as such John O’Shea filled in the place at left back.


The red devils kicked off the match in remarkable fashion and were already ahead on the scoreboard after merely 36 seconds. Ryan Giggs started the move with a sublime pass to Ji Sung Park, who in turn split Chelsea’s defence apart with his pass to Javier Hernandez. Chicharito then latched onto the ball and defeated Petr Cech, with a cool and composed finish to send Old Trafford into ecstasy.


Not satisfied with their one goal lead, Manchester United continued to press forward, barely giving the Chelsea players time to breathe. The Blues had lined up with a five-man midfield, compared United’s four, but still Chelsea only scarcely touched the ball. Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs were at their very best, while Park Ji Sung cut inside and Wayne Rooney dropped back to help dictate matters in the centre of the pitch. Valencia was so good, that Ashley Cole couldn't cope with him.


Man United’s dominance on the pitch was clear for all to see as the red devils multiplied their attempts on goals. Wayne Rooney came close to doubling United’s lead with two long-range strikes, while Javier Hernandez should have connected with Park Ji Sung’s far-post cross to send the ball into the back of the net. The South Korean, who produced an outstanding display in the opening 45 minutes, tested Petr Cech with an excellent strike from outside the box in the 22nd minute and the Chelsea goalkeeper had to make an excellent save.


From the corner that followed, Manchester United scored their second goal. Giggs played the corner short with Park, who passed the ball back to him. The No. 11 then swept a cross into the heart of the Chelsea defence, where Vidic strode past a static Ivanovic to power the ball into the net from close range.


Chelsea did create a few opportunities for themselves towards the end of the first half. Van der Sar made an excellent save to deny Salomon Kalou while Didier Drogba went close on a couple of occasions. Ivanovic was also lucky to not be sent off as he deserved a second yellow card for a second tackle on Wayne Rooney, but Howard Webb was lenient on this occasion.


Ancellotti made a couple of substitutions at half time with David Luiz and John Obi Mikel making way for Alex and Ramires. Fernando Torres was soon thrown into the battle too, in the place of Salomon Kalou, and Chelsea started creating a few more opportunities. The blues did manage to reduce their deficit in the 68th minute when Lampard volleyed past Van der Sar from close range, after Ivanovic had headed the ball into his path.


Man United should have restored their lead in the following minute, after Javier Hernandez dispossessed Ramires and went on a counter-attack before cutting the ball back to Rooney. Rooney’s effort would have resulted into a goal, had Alex not made a decisive block by slidding across the goal to clear the ball.


Rooney then had three more chances, but still couldn’t find the back of the net, while Hernandez missed a great opportunity when he couldn’t connect with Valencia’s sublime cross in the final minutes. It didn’t matter though as Chelsea failed to seriously test Man United’s defence and Man United headed toward a crucial victory.


Sir Bobby Charlton even joined into the crowd’s celebrations when the fans spurred their team on in the final seconds. As the final whistle was finally blown, the players embraced and celebrated a vital win, while the crowd was in elation. The fans then roared in delight when Sir Alex Ferguson bowed, twice, to Old Trafford. When he arrived at Old Trafford a quarter of a century ago, Sir Alex Ferguson had famously remarked that his avowed intention was to “knock Liverpool off their perch” as England’s most successful club. His beloved club now only needs one point from two games to make his dream come true.

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