Momentum is a vital thing in sport and Manchester United certainly have it following the events of Saturday. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have a never-say-die attitude so it came as no surprise that that scorer of countless key goals during his career, Paul Scholes popped up with a header out of the very top drawer to win the Manchester derby.
Scholes threw down the gauntlet and Chelsea failed quite miserably in their bid to take up the challenge. Tottenham deserve plenty of credit for their win, but Chelsea did little to help themselves. They looked pretty ordinary going forward, Didier Drogba looked to be feeling the effects of the hernia problem that is expected to require surgery in the summer and was a virtual passenger in the second half due to Carlo Ancelotti using up his substitutes at the break, but it was the actions of John Terry that had me shaking my head.
Terry got away with one at Bolton in midweek when he handled the ball. After that game he suggested luck evens itself out and maybe the footballing gods were watching as an almost identical situation saw him concede a spot kick which Jermain Defoe rammed home. That was not the incident that caused any alarm, it was just one of the things that can happen when you are defending, rather his rush of blood in the second half.
Terry brought down Roman Pavlyuchenko and was immediately cautioned by referee Phil Dowd. You would have thought a defender of Terry’s calibre would take stock, having escaped a caution in the first half for handball. He was certainly on Dowd’s radar but rather than rein things in, he lunged wildly at Gareth Bale a couple of minutes later and was shown a second yellow card.
"Twice I got the ball," he appeared to gesture to his bench as he trudged down the tunnel. Not sure about that, but whether he did or he didn’t when you are walking the tightrope you have to make dam sure you make the right move.
The one saving grace for Chelsea is that Terry will sit out a home game with Stoke as opposed to a trip to Liverpool, but with Droga part of the walking wounded and John Obi Mikel an injury worry – the red half of Manchester, and Arsenal for that matter, have a spring in their step.
If England fans were in any doubt about the importance of Wayne Rooney to the World Cup cause, they only needed to cast a glance towards Old Trafford on Saturday to clarify this.
A Rooney-less Manchester United were quite simply ripped apart on their own patch in the first half by title rivals Chelsea. Joe Cole’s deft flick handed Chelsea the lead at the break, but it was barely a reflection of their dominance. United improved after the break, it would have been difficult to get any worse, but Didier Drogba climbed off the bench to double the advantage – albeit from an offside position. Federico Macheda set up a grandstand finish with a goal as controversial as Drogba’s, but Chelsea held on.
For the final 30 minutes, United were the better side but they lacked the zip and attacking instincts of a man sat in the stands watching on in frustration. Chelsea were short of their best, too often they gave the ball away and Nicolas Anelka was ineffective, but they did not have to be at their best as United sorely missed their talisman.
Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested United can cope without Rooney, but you get the impression that assertion may need to be reassessed and if Fabio Capello was watching, there will be a Latin nod of agreement.
Rooney is likely to be out for around three weeks, by which time United’s season could be in tatters. Bad for the red half of Manchester, good for England’s World Cup bid. Rooney is a player who thrives on games, he has been sensational all season for United without a break but even a player with the desire for football such as Rooney could feel the effects of a long season.
Rooney is also a player who needs games before coming to the boil and provided he comes back into contention by the end of April he will have three games in which to find his sharpness before linking up with England for their tilt at World Cup glory.
|Alex Livie found his way to ESPN after learning his trade with Sky Sports, Setanta Sports and Eurosport. He is running out of companies with sport in their name so has made it his raison d'être to ensure ESPN.co.uk has the website it deserves.|
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