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A perfect away game!

Sid Thursday, April 7, 2011

Going into the game at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, there was a feeling of nervousness about. It was after all the quarter-finals of the Champions league, against our Arch-rivals Chelsea and we were playing it at a ground where we had failed to win since 2002. So the chances of coming away with anything, let alone a victory seemed very slim.

But 90 minutes later, we were all celebrating hard fought and thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over Chelsea, taking to Old Trafford a vital one goal lead, and also crucially an away goal. It wasn’t as though Chelsea didn’t put up a fight but the fact that out of their 21 shots on goal, only 7 were on target and among them only 2-3 really challenged Edwin Van der Sar, a clear indication of our control over the game.

Chelsea’s attack boasting of probably two of the most famous strikers in the world in Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres were found toothless on the night, as they struggled to cause any notable problems to either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand. While for United, the night saw several players come up with excellent performances, more importantly the entire team put in a great team performance and this is what won us the game in the end.

There were several star performers on the night and the following players stood out for me:

Wayne Rooney came into the game with a 2 match ban hanging over his head, and was sure to get a hostile reception from the Chelsea faithful, but far from being perturbed by the constant abuse coming his way, he seemed to thrive under it! He played the role of the second striker brilliantly, dropping into midfield to pick up the ball and run at Chelsea, and also tracking back and helping out in defense. He was a constant menace to Terry & co. the entire game.

Rio Ferdinand might have been returning to first team action after 2 months on the sidelines but he showed no signs of being unfit as he seamlessly fit into the back-four, and showing why he and Vidic are considered the best defensive pairing in the world. While Vidic seemed to enjoy having Rio alongside him and the Serb was his impervious best.

Antonio Valencia also had an excellent game, after tormenting Chelsea down the right flank with his runs in the first half, he was shifted to right back following Rafael’s injury in the second half, and this didn’t stop him from making forward charges into the Chelsea half, combining brilliantly with Nani. He also showed the defensive side of his game, as he was a more than capable substitute for Rafael.

Giggsy might be 37 but the Welshman was showing no signs of aging as he brought back memories of the Giggs from 90’s as he glided past Bosingwa with ease and picked out Rooney in the midst of several Chelsea players, and gave him the simple task of sliding the ball into the net.  He might have lost a bit of his legendary pace but age seems to only have made his incredible creativity and guile better.

Last but not the least, the true hero of the night, none other than Michael Carrick! Over the past few seasons he has been on the receiving end of a lot of stick from the fans, and I doubt many thought he would put in such a classy performance on such a big occasion. But Carrick played the role of a deep -lying playmaker to perfection, as he kept possession, distributed the ball brilliantly, made several key interceptions and also tracked later runs from Frank Lampard. This was probably his best game in a united jersey since the Champions league disaster in Moscow.

Carrick reminded everyone why Sir Alex brought him to the club in the first place, his pass to pick out Giggsy was  sublime, something we’ve all gotten used to Scholesy doing. The lofted ball out to the left flank was perfect as it evaded Bosingwa and enabled Giggsy to burst clear of the Portuguese defender and setup the goal for Rooney.

United restricted Chelsea’s attack to a minimum, while also ensuring we kept going at them on the counter attack, we also maintained perfect discipline throughout the game, and choked Chelsea’s midfield and attack. This for me was a perfect away performance and probably our best one this season.

As we enter the last legs of the season, United seem to be producing the goods every game and seem to have saved the best for last! If we can continue in this form and level of performance, then I think it would be very difficult for any team to stop us from getting to our second treble under Sir Alex.


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