Thursday, May 01, 2008

How United can beat Chelsea in Champions League final...

Going off recent results between United and Chelsea there's no doubting that the London club hold the upper hand, because they've won many more games - so they should be the bookies favourites to win the final, but they wont be, because as ever, the punters will be lumping on United.

But, going off results between two clubs over the last few seasons, the odds are stacked against the Champions, to suggest otherwise would be ludicrous, which is why this Red would have much preferred it if we'd been tasked with facing Liverpool, who we've had no problem beating. For the record Chelsea have one six out of the last 12 meetings, United have won just two - excluding the Community Shield which the Reds won on penalties.

So if United are going to win the big one, how are we going to achieve that result? That is a question that many Reds will be asking themselves leading up to the final on May 21st (my wife's birthday)...

Ferguson knows how difficult the task ahead of him will be, which is no doubt why he was at the Chelsea vs Liverpool semi-final at Stamford Bridge last night. The Scot was on a mission looking for any signs of weakness in the Chelsea armour, anything that his team might exploit.

The United manager probably knows more about Chelsea than Avram Grant, but it wont make the task any easier as they are always formidable opponents. The Israeli coach has taken a lot of stick, but he's managed to do something that Mourinho did not do, that is get the team that Jose built to the Champions League final - his boss will be very pleased especially with it being played in Moscow.

The "special one" has gone, but this Chelsea current team is still very much of Mourinho's making, it has been built on solid foundations, wherever you look there's power. In midfield they have Essien - the Blues player of the year, then there's Ballack, who is now coming back to his Teutonic best and to compliment them, there is Frank Lampard who makes the Chelsea engine room tick - even the most die-hard United fans will have had some sympathy for the England midfielder last night given the circumstances.

Up front Chelsea have the most destructive centre forward in Europe, Didier Drogba. On Saturday against United, the Ivorian took out Nemanja Vidic with his knee, in doing so knocking out a few teeth - the Serb left the field on a stretcher suffering with concussion - he has yet to recover.

Against Liverpool last night, Drogba dispatched his marker Skrtel into the advertising hoardings early doors, then on 22 minutes Skrtel had to go off following another duel with the Ivorian. Aren't these "accidents" happening too often?

No matter, if United are going to win the Champions League then they will have to overcome everything that Chelsea will throw at them. The management might have changed at Stamford Bridge but the perception of Chelsea remains the same, which is that they are rarely pleasing on the eye, but they were never meant to be, and those who expect them to be are somewhat missing the point. As far as Jose Mourinho, the architect of total pragmatic football is concerned, it is a results business, winning is all that matters .

So how can United beat Chelsea in the final? For starters, it is guaranteed to be another gritty encounter, at one time we had some decent games whenever these two teams met each other, that was before the arrival of the self styled messiah Mourinho, since then it's been a war of attrition. It is the same for every team that faces Chelsea and United are no different.

If United are going to win "the big one" again , then they will have to match Chelsea with as much power and pace as we can muster. Ferguson has stated that Scholes will start in the engine room - this is largely for sentimental, rather than strictly football reasons, as the "Ginger Prince" missed out on the '99 final. On this issue Fergie's heart is clearly ruling his head - which cannot be a good thing with so much at stake.

Though the Scholes goal secured our passage to the final, it was only his second of the season and too often of late he has been a passenger in midfield, this is partly why Barcelona's stars found it so easy to walk through the United midfield in both legs of the semi-final. We had, to coin a phrase, "no legs" added to which we kept on giving the ball away.

Many United fans do not 4-3-3, the majority preference has always been 4-4-2, but against Chelsea, Fergie knows he has to match like-for-like and so it's likely that it will be a 4-3-3 formation.

Part of the key to winning any game lies in the battle for midfield, who controls the centre ground usually goes on to win the game. United have three players who can win the midfield battle; Hargreaves, who was awesome against Roma at Old Trafford when attacking from all over the midfield like Bryan Robson and he can defend too.

Then there's Anderson, who has the legs, skill and power to match anything that Chelsea muster and finally Carrick who can string it together.

Rooney and Ronaldo pick themselves, the question is who else should start? There is an argument for the industry of Park, but like Nani he has the infuriating habit of gifting the ball back to the opposition, time and time again.

Giggs, like Scholes has been going backwards in the latter half of the season, he too has been giving the ball away cheaply when selected.

It would seem then that there's only one other obvious candidate, which is Tevez, who was United's best attacking player against Barcelona this week, his energy was awesome and he could be given license to drift out wide left as he did so successfully while at West Ham.

United cannot go lumping the ball onto the heads of Terry and Carvalho, they need to get the Blues big men turning inside the Chelsea box, to achieve that result Ronaldo will have to skin Cole - which hasn't really happened to date. Then we need bodies flooding into their penalty area - as much as we love him, Scholesy, no longer does this like he used to, which is why I wouldn't select him to start.

At the other end. We cannot allow Drogba to dictate the play as he did at Stamford Bridge when the two sides met on Saturday, we need one in front and one behind whenever the ball is played to him. Stop Drogba and you will stop Chelsea - it's easier said than done, that along with not constantly gifting the ball back to the opposition is key as well as attacking in numbers at the right time.

Russia is noted for its battles in a historical context, and I for one fully expect a full blown conflict on the pitch and I'm hoping that the Reds go on to overcome the Blues in Moscow. United can win the final of that I'm certain, but it will only happen if we go out with the right game plan, team and tactics.


  1. So Scolesy still has doubters - I just don't get it. The utd blogs were saying start Anderson and Carrick prior to the semio-final clash but I expected Fergie to go for experience in Scholes on the big occasion. And why would he not use the players with experience again in the final? Scholes is class, remember his performance in Portsmouth this season when he was just back from injury? Anyone who says scholes should be on the bench is way off the mark!
    Fergie will go for a 4-4-2 in this one off game.
    Brown Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Giggs Scholes Hargreaves Ronaldo
    Tevez Rooney

  2. Man Utd can beat Chelsea anytime as long as they play normally.

  3. IF Scholes starts and goes on to help us win the trophy no one will be happier than me to be proven wrong - but of late he has been dire - he was taken off after 55 mins against Arsenal recently, only then did we look capable on beating the Gunners.

    I am one of Scholes biggest fans, but he no longer has the engery to get around the park like he used to. Part of the key to beating Chelsea is matching and beating them in every department, we cannot do that without bags of energy - not only that but his distribution has let him down too.

  4. Barcalona made us run all night in the Nou Camp (and at home); Scholes was man of the match for utd on that occasion.
    And with Hargreaves back in the center of midfield, scholes will have licence to go forward and make a difference. We need him big time.

  5. Will we be able to go to Russia,Abromviches back yard and not get cheated by the owners "officials". He will do anything to make sure his team wins,as money is no problem and finding crooked linesman and Refs is also not difficult.Lets hope United can get past the 14 man Chelsea squad...because we all know thats how things are gonna go!

  6. Scholes DID NOT play well against Barca, of the forward players on view only Tevez came out of that game with any credit - because of his work-rate.

    We won largely because of Barca's inability around our penalty area. If it had been a boxing match, our corner would have thrown in the towel based on their almost total domination. But our salvation was our back four, who did well and saved us.

    Russia has a reputation for being one of the most corrupt nations on the planet, nothing would surprise me where officials and Abramovich's money is concerned.

  7. Regarding the first leg in Spain, Ronaldo was the only player who looked dangerous. Scholes was ineffective and he was apart of a midfield that allowed the opposition the freedom of the park. That performance was nothing short of embarrassing - but Barca allowed us to get away with it.

  8. Park gives the ball away? What football match were you watching? Just look at the stats from the Barca match, out of 30 odd passes around 20 of which were forward, only 5 were bad. Better defensively than Nani, keeps possession better too. Nani's better at creating chances and swinging in crosses (when he bothers to). But I don't think he'll play against Chelsea, even if he tracks back and defends he's going to be outmuscled by that Chelsea midfield.

  9. James Ryddel, I think your article is superb and I agree with you 100%. If only Fergie would read what you have written and apply those tactics in the Final, I for one would definitely be more confident about Utd winning.

  10. Are you watching the same games as me? I take it you have noticed that Fergie is now playing a 4-3-3 this season which is why Scholes is sitting deeper. He is being played in a different role now and he is just as effective, leaving the goal scoring to the boys!
    Yes he played below par in some games but his contribution this season has not gone unnoticed (present company excepted).
    Some of Scholes performances this season has been excellent:
    Almost everything good about Utd begins with Scholesy from the center of the park. His range of passing is 2nd to none at utd; only he can thread those tru balls like the one he presented Tevez on his first game back coming on as a sub. The next game saw his first start after 3 months, against Portsmoth at home and he was awesome. Not forgetting the goal in the corresponding away fixture earlier in the season. And there was his vital pass against Roma setting up Ronaldo for goal 36. His linkup play with Rooney is fantastic and you can see how Rooney loves to play with him. He help utd to vital wins against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Roma and Barcalona. Now if you don't believe me on how vital Scholes is to Utd's success this season, pick any of the following games to review how he pulls the stringss with his range of passing:
    Wigan, Fulham, Liverpool, Villax2, Bolton, Middlesboro or Blackburn.
    And to say he was poor agaionst Barca is a complete injustice. Look at the game again and look how many vital interceptions he makes and how he breaks up the play. However, and I have saved the best for last; the reason Scholes will start in Moscow is because of his decision making. This is the difference that comes with experience and some of the younger players will learn a lot from Scholesy in this regard over the next 2 seasons.

  11. This game will be another tightly contested 1-0, but a much different game than Barcelona. Defence will be the key. I agree that if you stop Drogba you stop Chelsea. But beware, too much focus on Drogba enabled Ballack to ghost in unmarked for a free header last Saturday. Midfield is their real strength. We have to stop their runners from midfield. We will not be able to give them possession like we did Barcelona. To that end, Anderson may well be a better bet than Scholes for this game. Carrick has to start because his passing to release Ronaldo-Rooney-Tevez will be crucial in my opinion. I'd really like to see Carrick finally step up and boss a game. So for me it has to be:

    Brown Rio Vidic Evra
    Hargreaves Carrick Anderson
    Ronaldo Tevez Rooney

  12. Anon, regarding your stats, what's that saying "Damned Lies and Statistics". If we could somehow transplant Scholes brain into Park's head, then perhaps we'd have a decent player. I love the work-rate of Park, but all too often he gives the ball away, he is the proverbial headless chicken, and my eyes do not deceive me.

    Spindle, I'm sorry but we are not going to agree on Scholes inclusion.

    He didn't play well in either of the Barca ties and he could have been dragged off at half-time in both - as ANY of the United front six could have been.

    I will agree that has had some very good games this season, but I happen to believe that he's been going backwards of late and against Arsenal he was dire.

    He has been playing too deep - this role does not suit him in my opinion and it's a view that is shared by many observers.

    The reason he is playing deep is that he can no longer run up and down the park, as will be required against the Renters in the final and wasn't Hargreaves and Carrick meant to fulfil that role anyway?

    Fergie will play Scholes - I just hope that we don't pay the price - maybe like against Arsenal he will realise his mistake and then we will win the game once he's brought on the new legs and heart of team in Tevez and Anderson.

  13. Ok James, let's agree to disagree. I think Fergie will go for 4-4-2 in the final
    Brown Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Giggs Scholes Hargreaves Ronaldo
    Tevez Rooney

    And I don't expect Scholes to let us down so see you in 3 weeks time back here :-)

  14. Spindle,

    Believe me, I'd love to see Scholes collect man of the match. I will be delighted if that happens. Above all else I want us to win. See you in three weeks...

  15. If Scholes has been going backwards so has Anderson. He's faded away a bit now and also gives the ball away too often. Actually we can't seem to be able to retain the ball that long of late.

    Ideally Hargreaves and Carrick should be in central midfield but that combination has never really worked for us. Anderson is better when he's brought on later in the game. So I think Fergie will go with Scholes, Carrick and Hargreaves in midfield -- assuming Vidic returns.

    Whatever it is, our results against Chelsea is poor because we give them far too much respect. Their defence is not as water tight as it used to be. Pace and attack by numbers will be key against them.

    But I guess we are more likely to see a shitfest like last year's FA Cup final.

  16. The big difference between Scholes and Anderson is that one gets picked on reputation and the other doesn't a fair crack of the whip.

    Against Chelsea, Anderson was played in the wrong position - too far up front when we needed him deeper. We needed him scrapping deeper like he did against the Scouse.

    Scholes form does not warrant him being first choice over Hargreaves and Anderson which has been happening too often of late - that leads to player discontent and potentially an exit.

    Fergie has to been seen to pick the team on merit - which is why his assertion about Scholes final place is totally and utterly wrong.

    Anderson and Hargreaves may well feel with some justification - "why the **** should I bother if he's picking a vetran over myself"?

    Hopefully it isn't like that, but you can see what happens by looking at the Saha situation, there can be surely no doubt that his problems have little to do with 'injuries'.

  17. Just looked at the stats and Scholes has started twice as many games as Anderson in the last 10 games - his form does not warrant that and it backs up my point that Anderson has been overlooked for no apparent reason.

    Yet, bizarrely the perception appears to be that Anderson's form has dipped...

    For the record the last ten games:
    Scholes - played 8
    Anderson - played 4 + 2 as sub.

    Anderson has been overlooked in four of the last ten.

  18. And finally:

    Anderson started against Liverpool, Roma (x2) and Chelsea we went on to win 3 out of 4.

    One of the games that he came on as sub was Arsenal and only then did we look capable of beating them.

    And in two of the games where he was completely overlooked we dropped four points at Blackburn and Boro....

    So how you or anyone can suggest that his form has dipped is a bit baffling really.

  19. Yeah Scholes can start and possibly be brought off earlier on for Anderson.

    Ferguson's started playing Italian style football and recently Gattusso as well has recognised it. And so the midfield battle will be something he would be prepared for. However, the midfield dilemma you put forth is exactly the tactical one Ferguson should focus on.

    Park gets himself into great positions, but its fifty fifty whether he can get the final touch.
    Giggs can have moments of inspiration and his passing is mostly flawless.
    Nani had a terrible outing in the last game, and so he might come on as a sub.

    Chances are this game will go onto extra time, and these players might practice their penalties and be subbed in later on, however the only player I see leaving the field is Scholes.

    All in all, in the midfield Ferguson has the problem of abundance, it is sad to say he does not have it in the final third.

  20. I think Chelsea will win. I think they will use squad rotation to their advantage by "giving up" on the league to focus on winning the Euro Cup.

  21. So Scholes got the nod, though that was never in doubt. I thought the experience of Scholes in midfield did help to settle utd early. He did play a part in the goal with a nice touch to Brown but I'll admit overall he didn't play a massive part, but then, tell me a Utd player that did. I must admit, I thouhght utd were a bit dis-jointed after Scholes went off but then the substitutes changed the game a bit too. Still, Scholes didn't leave us down and for the games where experience is required, he will have a lot to offer next season. Though VDS was the hero, there were too many balls he didn't come for and he wasn't great at peno's. Bring on Foster! Right to bring rooney off when he did. Need another striker - what about Rooney as a replacement for Scholes? And I must admit, a 4-4-2 withouit giggs was a surprise but then we do have experience in Hargreaves. Roll on next season for the treble and double in Europe ;-)


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