With all the talk mainly focused around the (apparently permanently) misfiring Fernando Torres and the speculation in Ancelotti’s faith in him, United were quietly preparing for the game in hand, coming off the back of a pedestrian victory against Fulham.
In the opening exchanges, Chelsea threatened to bring the game back into contention, generally controlling the play. However, once the nerves had settled United began to bring the game back into balance, gaining meaningful possession, encouraged by Hernandez’s disallowed goal they began to push on.
And so it was United’s night, a goal from Hernandez in the 43rd minute with Park’s superb finish immediately after Drogba’s equaliser, meant Sir Alex Ferguson’s men advanced through to the semi finals, likely to face Schalke. As such, here are five things that may be taken away from the game.
1) Manchester United are starting to get credit for their qualities
Before making this point relevant to the game, I point you in the direction of one Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail. An article published on the 12th of April that can be found on their website, he wrote a piece entitled “Dismiss United at Your Peril”. In this he suggests that far from the criticism United had been receiving throughout the year, in fact what had actually happened was Ferguson had quietly, and still is rebuilding what may be his next truly great squad.
This season earlier on, the current squad were considered a bit weak, flattered by the fact those around them were also worse off. If anything, United were top of the table by default. Now, with the returns from injury and players hitting form when they are needed most – notably Carrick and Rooney – and suddenly Ferguson’s team looks stronger than it ever did earlier on. Although it could be argued it is still not quite there yet as a unit, it is indisputable that this team now know how to win, adopting a cavalier spirit that has seen a surge in confidence that has surpassed the gritty results that were being ground out in the opening months of the campaign.
On Tuesday night, this was even more evident. Although nervy in the opening stages, United took hold of the game, with accurate passes and a constant attacking threat that was emphasised by how well Rooney and Hernandez complimented each other, Ferguson’s tactical selection and chosen team was clearly justified. To summarise, not one United player was a let down on the night. Extremely positive all round.
2) Wayne Rooney is playing with a smile
After the controversy at Upton Park, Wayne Rooney seems to have regained some swagger about his play. Suddenly, the angry young man we have become accustomed to is looking to enjoy his football, relishing every moment on the pitch and looking to get involved in every play that it would allow. Frankly, when Rooney adopts the attitude he has done of late, then the whole team picks up with him and the standard is taken up another level. He may not have found the scoresheet, but what truly impressed was his contribution throughout the attack.
For example, we saw during the game many cross-field pin point passes. Each time finding their target just as he intended to do, allowing play to continue smoothly with little trouble. His ambition and creativity was admirable, the epitome of which was displayed when in the closing stages of the match when, with the game beyond Chelsea, outrageous attempt to catch Cech off his line was made. Cech caught it comfortably, but the sheer audacity of such a thing showed the transformation that has taken place. He may not have lost some of his aggression, that would be to his detriment, but a happy Rooney is, as one would expect, a better Rooney.
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