36 seconds. Ecstasy. As Ryan Giggs threaded a ball through to Park in the middle of the pitch who then played a pass that found it’s way past David Luiz, with Hernandez having beaten the offside trap and finding himself one-on-one, clean on goal, he coolly slotted home giving Manchester United the ultimate start.
This was a sign of things to come in a first half where United played so positively, pushing forward and looking to where the next goal would come from against a shell-shocked Chelsea. Suddenly, the atmosphere went from tense to electric in a matter of seconds, paving the way for United to keep going forward, and being rewarded when on 23 minutes, Giggs provided another cross that was met in the 6-yard area by Nemanja Vidic to send the crowd into overdrive.
With the game settling, and Chelsea changing their plans after half-time, United found themselves under greater pressure from a Ancelotti’s side willing to take chances and were provided with a lifeline when Lampard pulled a goal back on 68 minutes. But it was not enough as United were able to defend comfortably and create yet more chances to score, eventually settling for a 2-1 victory, met by joyous scenes by players, management, staff and fans alike. And on what is considered a pivotal day in the title race, here are 5 things that may be taken from the game.
1) Ryan Giggs emphasised the quality of the midfield
He may not quite have the pace he once had, but Giggs continues to astound with his skill and quality whenever the ball is at his feet. Involved in the set up of both goals, both directly and indirectly assisting them, Giggs barely had a wasteful moment in terrorising Chelsea’s back four, continually looking to create opportunities and find ways to threaten their goal.
His cross for Vidic’s goal and his pass to Park that led to the opener were sublime and rewarded with their end product. Michael Carrick also deserves praise for his calm and self-assured performance that was intelligent in controlling play in the middle whilst Giggs was able to move forward into more attacking positions. Considering United did not have a true defensive midfielder was testament to how well they controlled proceedings and failed to give Chelsea room to breathe in the opening exchanges.
2) Ji-Sung Park does the simple things brilliantly
Park sometimes divides opinion among the United fan base. Some argue that he does not necessarily have the quality to match his work ethic, whereas others believe his ability to be so energetic for large periods of the game has proved effective for United, hence Sir Alex Ferguson’s regular inclusion of him in the big games. He also performs tasks that players like Nani would not otherwise be prepared to do, for example tracking back and defending regularly. Indeed whilst Nani would have provided an attacking edge and perhaps some flare, Park would be expected to run up and down the pitch, fighting for every ball he has a chance to win it and Sunday’s game showcased this, always putting pressure on the opposition, and making use of the ball whenever it was at his feet.
He may not do anything particularly extraordinary on any given occasion, but it would be fair to say that he does the basic things consistently well, and will always do what is required of him, rarely ever proving a let down. His industrious attitude on the left combined well with Giggs, proving effective in maintaining the pressure on Chelsea’s back line.