Chelsea 1 – United 0. The fact that the media had built it up all week as a “big” game probably speaks volumes about how far United have come since the turn of the year, more so since they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal six weeks ago. Yes United were on a winning league run of six straight games but it’s the actual manner in which they’ve changed since that defeat, with convincing performances against Spurs, Liverpool, Villa and City last weekend. Chelsea will now go onto win the league but no one would believe that back in January United would, or even could, go into this game with a chance of beating them and challenging for the title. That chance has now gone.
United going to Stamford Bridge though has never been easy, even under Sir Alex in all their title winning seasons in the premier league era, they’ve only won 5 times in 21 attempts, and only one of those has came since Abramovich took control of the club in the summer of 2003. Take into account the fact Chelsea haven’t lost at home and United have only won away five times in the league all season, and it certainly made for an interesting contest with both managers very capable of getting results against each other.
The Chelsea goal came on 38 minutes and completely against the run of play, as United had been so dominant in all areas up until that point, except for not actually testing Courtois in goal. United were opened up down their right hand side after a few attempts previously in the game had come to no nothing. This time though Chelsea were clinical, an excellent back heel from Oscar who’d spotted Hazard’s bursting through run, three touches from him and the ball was in between De Gea’s legs and in the back of the net.
The second half opened up with the away team chasing the game but they still had an overwhelming amount of possession. Both teams went close with a few half chances but neither goalkeeper had to pull off any sort of wonder save like they’d both done at times throughout the season.
Not comparing the teams, the players or for that matter how the season went itself, but a fourth Chelsea 1-0 victory towards the end of the season does remind me of United’s finish to the 1995-96 season when they finished the second half of the season with seven 1-0 victories, five of those with Cantona getting the winner to see them over the line. Can Hazard do a similar thing for Chelsea? He’s got two of the winners himself in those games so far, and with six games to go it could be a possibility, just like winning the Football Writers Footballer of the Year, the same as Cantona.
Another tough away game for United next week against an Everton team which has finally found some form. I’m sure they’ll be happy to come away with just a point if they can, but Champions League qualification might not come right up until the end of the season. Chelsea however should wrap up winning the league with a few games to spare and deservedly so as the most consistent team over the season.