Despite all attempts to distance his demeanour from a certain Portuguese predecessor, AVB would be forgiven for recycling the famous quote of, ‘the best team lost’.
After a strong showing in Sunderland, Nicholas Anelka was the only casualty in a side that looked to be becoming more fluent in AVB’s footballing language. In recalling Torres and aiding him with the invention and pace of Sturridge and Mata and playing on a pitch where he had tormented United’s centre backs in previous seasons, thoughts of Torres finding prolific form seemed more realistic than ever.
A Chelsea side that looked fresh and decisive in attack started well. We didn’t stall on the ball and moved quickly and sharply with Sturridge adapting particularly well to be fielded on the right of a front 3. 4 minutes in and a promising move ended with Ramires sliding onto the end of a Cole cross and forcing De Gea to make a smart save with his trailing leg, already you could Chelsea had come to play an open game.
However 7 minutes in and in true Old Trafford style, United were ahead after Chris Smalling was allowed by the linesman to stand a yard ahead of the Chelsea defence and header home from 6 yards. Although, Smalling and 3 others were left free to roam the Chelsea box and if you defend laxly, you have to except the consequences.
Seemingly unfazed, Chelsea responded by having the better share of the next half hour and Torres showed glimpses of his former self after being gifted the ball by Anderson. Dribbling between the United centre halves a more convincing connection would have seen the ball the right side of De Gea’s left hand post. After another flowing move the impressive Sturridge had a smart volley saved at the near post and would have certainly scored 10 minutes later if Ramires hadn’t beaten him to a squared ball by Torres after neat play from Mata. Again a flailing De Gea was the difference.
Shortly after, all hard work was once again undone by the combined effort of the officials and our defending. After receiving the ball in an offside position, Nani was allowed a clear run through the midfield and in exquisite style, smashed the ball past a helpless Cech from 25 yards. 7 minutes later a comanding run from Jones ended with a scramble, Terry’s eventual clearance cannoned off Nani and found the feet of Wayne Rooney 6 yards from goal. He wasn’t going to miss.
The second half continued in the same vain but with a more clinical Chelsea side emerging. Anelka was brought on for an ineffective Lampard and immediately played an intricate ball through to Torres who’s chipped finish was superb, for the next 10 minutes Chelsea completely dominated.
Committing bodies in search of goals found us on the back feet fighting a dangerous counter lead by Nani. The passage was reminiscent of his first half run but ended with him rocking the crossbar, following the rebound and then falling softly from a Boswinga challenge. Rooney stepped up but slipped and missed in a style hauntingly close to Terry in the CL final. Salvaging the game was still on the cards.
However it wasn’t to be. Torres showed everything but a consistent end product. More great build up play and another darting run ended with him firing his own rebound over on 70 minutes and in the 85th, rounded De Gea but fired wide from 5 yards with an open goal. Painful wasn’t the word.
3-1 was massively undeserved. On another day we could have walked away comfortable winners and if we turn that performance out consistently, we will be a force. AVB summed the 90 minutes up perfectly with ‘it just didn’t fall to us’. Rest assured, the days it does fall to us, the best team will win.