Last night saw the second time in four days that a high profile game between Manchester United and Chelsea FC took place. With the mass amount of controversy surrounding Sunday’s meeting, the full circumstances still only just coming properly to light, most fans were hoping for a more quiet game, just two great footballing sides clashing once again. But this is England, and we have to fill newspaper columns some how, and unsurprisingly journalists won’t need a lot of help to find means to write again with another instalment in the controversy ridden Blues/Devils rivalry that yet again provided great football, but at a cost.
The Capital One Cup (formerly the Carling) has over the years earned the nickname of the “Mickey Mouse” cup. Teams don’t necessarily pay it a lot of attention, and try much more to prioritise other competitions, particularly since the prize money and TV revenue in the Champions League and Premiership is so much more. We can see this through the teams that are usually played, Arsenal famously use this competition as an oppurtunity to give their youngsters first team experience and last night was no different, well at least for one team.
There was a lot of pressure before the match on Chelsea, they’ve made a remarkable start to a season where they were thought to suffer from continental hangover, especially later in the season as they have to take part in the FIFA World Club Championship and an early exit in the Capital One Cup might be more beneficial, and in the long term especially. But English mentality is that every game is a must-win, particularly with the circumstances of Sunday’s clash, with Chelsea fans everywhere demanding a win. Chelsea succumbed to pressure and fielded a very strong attacking side: Mata, Sturridge, Luiz and Moses all making a start with Hazard and Oscar making later appearances.
The Manchurians played a different tactic, using the reserve strikeforce of Hernandez and Welbeck and fielding an exceptionally under experienced defence of Buttner, Wootton, Keane and Rafael in front of Lindegaard. Chelsea were of course aiming to get revenge for the controversies of Sunday’s match, and Man Utd’s starting line-up suggested they were looking forward to Arsenal on Saturday as a higher priority than a cup competition which they haven’t gotten past the fifth round in the last two years.
Despite their inexperienced defence, there was undeniably a use of the logic “the best form of defence is attack”. Chicarito once again had a great game, his goal this time being perfectly above-board. The real stars of United teams were Welbeck and Rafael. Rafael is finally maturing into a player that is more comfortable taking the ball and keeping hold of it instead of running forward and losing possession and bar a few incidents was the shining light of United’s defence. Welbeck played well, coming back when required and making a few vital crosses that put a hint of danger into Chelsea’s back four. Ryan Giggs also deserved a note of mention. 39 years old and playing a full two hours of football and getting a goal for his effort is truly remarkable, it’s hard to imagine what the team will look like without him.
Chelsea’ Luiz also played well, he still struggles to act as a fully central defender and I can imagine he will be moved into a more defensive role in the future, not unlike a Scott Parker type position of holding the ball and making only occasional runs forward which is a player that Chelsea have missed since Essien was last at his peak.
Man United deserved their lead, and the inexperience of defence showed as two penalties were given away, one in the very last seconds of additional time. Scott Wootton had a game to forget, his mistake resulting in three of Chelsea’s five goals. Lindegaard too failed to capitalise on a first team start, he should be pushing for De Gea’s spot as few second choice goalkeepers get such oppurtunities to make regular first team appearances, but he showed that United still haven’t got over Edwin Van Der Saar’s retirement and a lack of presence in the box makes every United fan push to the edge of their seat at every conceded set piece as we fear the worst.
I for one was strangely excited as the game went to extra time, after all it wasn’t a massively important game and such a back and forth, exciting attacking game is, well used to be, a rarity. United lost steam after such a last second setback, even a strange turn of events where they earned themselves a penalty in the last minute of extra time to mirror Chelsea in the second half of regular time wasn’t enough, and they had to settle for a 5-4 loss.
It seemed that that would be it, the highest controversy being Wootton and Lindegaard’s performance, but its come to light today that the police are investigating a Chelsea fan for “racist gestures”. It really is showing that as much as we don’t like to admit it, people are extremely impressionable, even grown men, and high profile counts of racism such as with the Terry/Ferdinand case are increasing the amount of occurring incidents, or perhaps just the level at which they’re publicised. In any case, such gestures are disgusting and a real drawback to an otherwise exciting game of football.