After beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league, before being knocked out of the FA Cup by them, United will be keen to win on Sunday. That said, our season finished on April 22nd when we won the league whilst Chelsea are still scrapping to finish in the top four, meaning the performance this weekend is difficult to predict.
Scott: If you finish in the top 4 and win the Europa League, could this be considered a successful season for Chelsea?
Ramon: It’s a bit of the old, yes and no. We were outplayed in the Champions League so the Europa League was the only realistic European competition we could win and whoever managed the side, I reckon the best they could have done was a top 4 finish. The problem for me and the reason I’d consider this season a failure is how difficult we have made it for ourselves. We didn’t have a large enough squad to challenge for the league but we should have been between you and City, not scrapping it out for fourth place on what is likely a battle that will go to the last day of the season. Carrying on our success in the FA Cup would’ve been nice too, it seems that record at the new Wembley belongs to a certain Didier Drogba as opposed to Chelsea Football Club. One of the bigger and perhaps more trivial disappointments was our failure to win the Club World Cup, who knows the next time we might get to participate in that tournament. I suppose what I’m trying to get it is that I’ll be happy given the circumstances with a Europa League and top 4 finish but it is hardly the most successful of campaigns.
S: With 5 goals in his last 5 games in the Europa League, surely Fernando Torres will have to take a lot of the credit if you win it. He has scored over 20 goals this season but most of these in cup competitions. Why do you think he can’t do the business in the league?
R: He’s a lost cause. I know many (they grow fewer by the day) try to defend his case but even when he scores he’s rarely playing well. I’m pretty sure any striker in the world would be around the 20 goal mark if they had the service Fernando Torres has at Chelsea. Who knows why he can’t manage a single goal in the league this calendar year. I’d say part of it comes down to luck, he gets the breaks in Europe that seem to allude him in the league but there’s only so much you can put down to luck, the rest is a lack of confidence/ability. He proves that the saying “Form is temporary, class is permanent” is complete and utter [Insert Profanity]
S: Chelsea were 4 points off the top when Benitez got the job and they are now 20 points behind. Do you believe your fans have been justified in protesting against the Benitez appointment now?
R: I think the fans were always justified in protesting the appointment. Do we have to agree with every decision the board makes? Of course not. Are we ungrateful because we protest? No. We felt that the board had completely ignored the fans’ perspective when they appointed Benitez and the only way to get that across is by protesting. The fact we are now so far off the lead from a United side, who, when we have faced them in the past this season have not been superior to us, is incredibly frustrating. That lies at the feet of Benitez, he was the one failing to pick our three creative talents in the same side, he wasn’t playing the best team available and that cost us. Recently he’s learnt his lesson and the results have improved but that won’t stop us from partying when he leaves.
S: We’ve bossed the league this season. Do you think Chelsea will be able to compete next season?
R: The squad is incredibly talented but it clearly lacked depth. The return of loanees should go some way to providing much needed strength in that department, the likes of Essien who’s loan still bemuses me today and the impressive Kevin De Bruyne/Romelu Lukaku who, if given the chance to stay at the club, have a lot to offer. The rumours that link us to Falcao should probably terrify everyone else in the league. He’s probably the most lethal finisher in world football and will have his fair of chances with our midfield. I think another central midfielder and a centre back to partner David Luiz will mean that come the end of the season next year, we will be challenging for the league title. Oh, there’s also the fact Rafael Benitez won’t be mismanaging the team with his rotation policy for a season. If it happens to be Mourinho that takes over, all the more likely a fourth Premier League title under Abramovich’s reign will be witnessed.
United’s dominance this season hasn’t been particularly their most impressive, you’ve managed a remarkable consistency and whilst you can only beat what is in front of you, the standard of the league (Chelsea included) has been relatively below par.
S: Speaking of below par, what do you make of the rumours that John Terry wants to play for England again? Bit odd when he can’t even get in the starting XI of a team competing for 4th spot, isn’t it?
R: I personally wouldn’t have made that decision if I was him. That being said, John Terry has rarely given much thought to how his actions might be perceived. He, along with Rio, is still one of the two best centre backs that England have, so in terms of “footballing reasons” he has every right to want to come back to the national team. David Bernstein was one of the factors that forced him out of the England set up and with him gone he feels comfortable to once again be up for selection but it will inevitably turn into a media storm whether he is or isn’t selected when it comes to Roy’s next team call ups and I think Chelsea fans are tired of the constant non-football issues that surround the club.
S: I would argue racially abusing someone is what “forced” him out of England, not Bernstein, but moving on… Terry would have been your most important player once upon a time. Who is it now?
R: “Most important” is tricky. Mata has been the best, Cech is perhaps always going to be the most important in the fact that he is one of the very best keepers in the world and back to his best. Without Cech in the team we are left with the unreliable Turnbull or Hilario, neither really inspire confidence. But, I will go for David Luiz. I love everything about him and this season he’s perhaps been the first name on the team sheet. Fantastic in defence, dominant in midfield and what a finisher. He has it all. Reliability issues have been sorted over the past twelve months and without him, the team are near enough guaranteed to concede. His performances this season have got most fans thinking “Future Captain” he has been the only leader on the pitch when Terry and Lampard have been absent and gets my vote for the most important player this season.
S: Mata was one of two Chelsea players shortlisted for PFA Player of the Year, but it was Gareth Bale who won all the individual player awards this season. Is he your player of the season?
R: No. He’s been incredible, there is no denying that but he was relatively quiet for the majority of the start of the season. The criteria for Young Player of the Year needs to be reconsidered too. Robin Van Persie would have been my vote, this isn’t merely because he will finish top scorer but he performed when the club needed him, on the big occasions and was the biggest reason United have won the league with a month to spare. He cooled off for a couple of months but the damage was already done. Mata and Bale are close runners up but Van Persie has been the difference, regularly.
S: If you could have any United player at Chelsea, it would be Van Persie then?
R: This is a bit of a tough one, even if it is only between two players. I think I’m going to side with Michael Carrick because I think we will definitely get a striker in the summer. He keeps everything ticking over, he’s become one of those few players who appear to have time on the ball even if he’s being pressed. He also offers great protection for the back four and can break up play really well. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen surrounding Mata/Hazard/Oscar is that the ball doesn’t get to them quick enough, Michael Carrick could solve that problem quite easily. I’d have picked Kagawa on terms of ability but we don’t need another attacking midfielder quite frankly.
S: Yes, don’t be greedy! Finally, predictions for Sunday?
R: News that Welbeck is injured for the game is tragic news for us. I’m not criticising Danny, it just increases the likelihood of two out of the three strikers that always score against us starting. Ferguson might even try to start all three! The fact we still have something to play for, gives me hope that we will be the team with the greater intensity and past experience of United being unable to control Mata bodes well for Chelsea fans. I think we win a fairly high scoring game. 3-2.
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Beset to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total.