With half an hour left on the clock on Saturday, I just knew we weren’t going to score another. This was in contrast to the games against Blackburn, Fulham and Watford this season, when either we’d gone behind or were level pegging with the scoreline, and you just knew that we had more in us. We looked tired and uncreative, and when Rooney misses a handful of opportunities to score great lead-taking goals, that sinking feeling creeps in. We’ve blown it. As the final whistle went and the players applauded the fans before walking off, there were rounds of “We’ll Never Die” and “We love United we do”, but the panic could be seen in every fan’s eyes as we left the ground.
Texts got sent back and forth between my mates and me, full of frustration, annoyance and disappointment. “United can’t afford to play like that, and look like they don’t want it anymore, because Chelsea will be certain to show us how much they want it tomorrow against Newcastle.” It was depressing to read, but I thought it was spot on. I fully expected Chelsea to slot a few past the Geordies, just as they’d done at Upton Park on the back of an away trip with tired legs. I could already hear Jose’s post match comments, smug as ever, and all in all, this lead to one of the most miserable Saturday nights I’ve had in a while.
There seemed something inevitable about the Chelsea match, but regardless, I listened to it on the radio. A dull 45 minutes went by, with neither team forcing a save from the keeper, but that didn’t fill me with much hope. Another dreary half was played out, and with a few minutes to go, Chelsea still hadn’t produced a single shot on target, but this didn’t provide me with much comfort, as I was just waiting for Lampard to perfectly execute a shot in to the shin of Taylor, which would then find itself in the back of the net. The final whistle blew on a match that saw Chelsea have just six attempts at goal, none of them hitting the target, leaving the gap between us just as it was before the start of the weekend. The post match comments of Jose which I had dreaded became a source of entertainment, listening to this “breath of fresh air” manager harping on about how the rules are different for United and Chelsea. How United are always treated favourably when it comes to penalties, and Chelsea are always hard done by. Of course, he didn’t want to mention that United have had twice as many penalties go against us this season as Chelsea. There before us stood a man who for some reason bore a striking resemblance to our old friend Kevin Keegan.
Whilst on Saturday this weekend felt like the end of the World, with hindsight we can now see how much needed it was. God only knows what Ferguson said to them after the draw with Boro, but I imagine the United players went home that day feeling they’d blown their chance at a trophy they’ve had one hand on all season. Unlike Chelsea, we can look at these remaining games with a new lease of life. We’ve been given a get out of jail free card, and the motivation we need to beat any opposition is there in the feeling of that dressing room on Saturday evening. Chelsea on the other hand will be down in the dumps, aware of the opportunity they have just blown. Their result isn’t what surprises me, as we know first hand the kind of fight Newcastle can put up at home, but the way in which they got it. What greater inspiration do they need to go out and get a result than seeing us drop points to a team at home? If any team bottled it this weekend, it was Chelsea.
United’s injury list currently reads Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Saha, Park, Silvestre and Richardson, with Solskjaer unable to train yesterday. It’s hard to believe, as when Chelsea were without a couple of their players, including their captain, it was deemed acceptable for them to not be running away with the league. How were they expected to do such a thing? Afterall, they’d only spend a few hundred million on players to prepare for this situation. For Chelsea even to be in contention of winning the league was an incredible achievement. Look at how far they’ve come with all their injuries. Look, they even beat Arsenal’s second team to win a trophy!
Four games to go, and whilst Chelsea have by far the more difficult opponents, they have the advantage of home games. United never seem to be able to do things the easy way, and this season is no exception. It’s now time to get a firm grip of our trophy, and bring it back home!
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.