Chelsea v Man United: Who Really Deserves It?

I still can’t quite work out how we’ve managed to have any bearing on where the title goes this season but somehow we’ve kept ourselves tight enough on Utd’s heels to give the press a ‘title race’ to write about and tomorrow lunchtime sees what could be the deciding game.  Ok, if we lost tomorrow statistically we could still wrestle the title away from them, but both Wigan and West Ham annihilating Utd while we stand on Newcastle and Bolton’s goal lines for 90 minutes solid, banging in goals, doesn’t seem the most realistic scenario somehow.  So, although Utd can’t actually win the title at Stamford Bridge, a win will see them clearing a space in their already overstocked trophy cabinet.

 

Looking at the stats: In the 32 Premier League meetings we’ve had 9 wins each and 13 draws, we haven’t been beaten in 80 games at home and Utd haven’t won at Stamford Bridge for 6 years, but then Utd are unbeaten away from home this season; we’ve both had 20 clean sheets and since the turn of the year, our records, if not results, have pretty much cancelled each other out; in our two previous meetings this season, Utd have enjoyed the success – winning on penalties in the Community Shield and then 2-0 at Old Trafford; Utd are the league’s most prolific scorers this season although have failed to score a single goal against us at Stamford Bridge during Abramovich’s era; in 11 games against Chelsea, Ronaldo is yet to score, while Rooney, has failed to score in 15 matches against us for Everton and Utd.

 

Ok, so now the stats are out of the way, let’s get real. While we’ve managed to keep up with Utd in terms of results, there’s an absolute gulf between us in terms of the quality of football played. Whilst their season might not have been their biggest runaway success, there’s still been enough quality football played to leave people wide-eyed in amazement. In contrast, our supporters would need to be afflicted with permanent squints to truly appreciate some of our performances this season. Whereas their goal difference is sufficiently superior to give them effectively an extra point, we seemingly couldn’t score even if given free passes to the local den of iniquity. Obviously their Portugese goal machine has played a big part in this advantage, as even the most ardent Ronaldo haters have been forced to admire the way he’s turned himself around this season – not only by keeping his balance in check, but also because the way he finds the back of the net these days is nothing short of phenomenal. With Drogba, on the other hand, we’ve seen a return of his old foe seemingly taking pot-shots from the crowd and there’s definitely more life in a tramps vest than there is in his game this season. United, who added some quality players in the summer have reaped the benefits, with Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson and Tevez giving them back their cutting edge. Sadly our summer signings are so blunt they can’t even make the bench.

 

Of course, we’ve both got one eye on the Champions League and whilst Fergie will undoubtedly be wanting and aiming for both, Grant’s ambition is less clear. We know his boss has always coveted the prize that eluded Mourinho, so will Grant make similar choices as those going into the Wigan game? We can only hope not. And what about formation? The 4-4-2 certainly worked against Arsenal and saw us playing a more attacking game, but Grant’s elected to stick to the tediously defensive 4-3-3 ever since so I can’t see him making any changes there. With Vidic looking ever more likely to be playing though, a disinterested Drogba is unlikely to cause the Utd defence any real problems.  They may well have had one day less to rest than us this week, but I’m sure the thought of securing back to back titles will be sufficient motivation to see them try to put an end to our unbeaten record. And we know that’s something they’re more than capable of doing – wasn’t it them that put a spanner in ‘the invicibles’ works? Not to mention the prolific Darren Fletcher putting an end to a previous 40-game unbeaten run of ours two-and a half years ago.

 

But records aside, I still can’t help feeling we’re pretty lucky to be in a position where we can have a say in the title, might only be an incoherent whisper now, but with 3 games to go it’s much better than I’d anticipated. But I’m hardly pinching myself with excitement because on merit, we don’t actually deserve the position we’re in. Whilst I appreciate the business of football is concerned with results and certainly Arsenal’s pretty football doesn’t seem to win much, not only would us winning this game, nevermind the title, stun the football world but for me at least, it’d feel pretty hollow. I’m a great believer in ‘you get what you deserve’ and overall this season, we really haven’t.

 

 

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