1. Our current squad has been criticised for not being as talented as ones of years gone by. That is true, to a certain extent, although I don’t recall many United teams that would be able to play such a big game with talent like Berbatov, Valencia and Scholes to bring off the bench. Still, whatever we lack in ability we more than make up for in hard work and winning mentality, and tonight, without being a classic game of football, showed just how far ahead we are of English clubs in terms of the state of mind Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled in our players. To go to Stamford Bridge, a ground we haven’t won at in years, and come away with a clean sheet and away goal was incredible. To then dictate the game at Old Trafford, working harder than Chelsea all over the park despite playing a side who desperately needed a goal, was just as good. Of course we still gave the ball away and made them look good at times, but in terms of our determination to get a result, we’re as strong as any United side. To concede that away goal we had been trying so hard to avoid, then score a goal of our own 21 seconds later, demonstrates that as well as anything. It would have been great to watch someone like Park Ji-Sung or Wayne Rooney on player cam today because they didn’t stop moving. Win the ball, pass it, run in to space, receive the ball, pass it, run in to space. It was non-stop.
2. Ryan Giggs put in a quality performance and in his post-match interview claimed he preferred playing in the centre of the park. Let’s have him there more often then eh? It was great to watch. The class of the man United fans call a legend was seen at it’s best when the player Chelsea fans call a legend was clearly up for a fight after decking Valencia and kicking out at him. Giggs was on the scene and offered CLL his hand. I’m sure if Terry had any self-awareness he would have been embarrassed by that. But he doesn’t. So he won’t. Giggs, one of the few players who deserves the title of legend, was tipped by some as Man of the Match, which speaks volumes when you consider he is 37-years-old and playing in a European Cup quarter-final against one of the better sides in Europe.
3. It was such a relief to see Fernando Torres in the starting line-up, given how much more of a threat Didier Drogba had been in the first leg, but I suppose we’re always waiting for him to put in that performance. He ripped us apart in that horrible 4-1 defeat a couple of years ago and it’s hard to believe he’s the same player. He looked disinterested for most of the game and when the odd chance came to him he would screw it up in brilliant fashion. £50m? When you compare him with the striker we paid £6m for, it becomes all the more humiliating.
4. In all three of the recent games against Chelsea, I don’t think Chicharito has been very effective. Whilst he is definitely becoming more able to deal with this physical league, he is still pushed off the ball easily, and his lightning pace didn’t expose Chelsea’s old legs in defence. But when you’re in the right place at the right time, like Chicharito so often is, it’s probably worth the gamble. Credit to him for putting us 1-0 up, not long after his first attempt had been ruled out. He’s scored in every competition this season and has got a total of 18 goals, which is so impressive for a young lad in his first season in England. Well done Chicharito.
5. Park Ji-Sung, our big game player, came up with the goods yet again. How many times did he win the ball for United today? He was all over the place and I was made up it was him that grabbed the winner today. He ensured he remained on side and kept composure for the finish. He’s been out for so much of the season but has still managed to fit in some very important goals.
6. Chris Smalling has done a great job filling in but when Rio Ferdinand started hobbling around early in to the game it was a massive worry. We’ve got big games ahead and the way he was moving it looked like there was no way he was going to be able to carry on. Credit to him for playing through it though. We’re going to need his experience over the next few so it’s a big relief to know he’s fit, for now.
7. The crowd were much more up for it than they had been at the weekend, unsurprisingly, and took great pleasure in goading Terry and Ashley Cole. What must go through JT’s mind every time we sing that song. When the draw had been made I was already imagining Old Trafford rocking, singing that song, and hoped that we would be in a position to do so without it being out of the bitterness of losing. To know we were going to deny them their obsession one more time was a great feeling. As for the Chelsea support, I can’t believe that thousands of fans would make the journey from London to sit there so quietly. They knew their team needed a goal but the encouragement the players got was next to nothing. The fans had been awful at the Bridge so I was expecting something better for the second leg. Awful support.
8. So that’s it, our 4th European Cup semi-final in 5 years. It’s all becoming a bit of a routine now. It’s hard not to think ahead to the final but we do have a couple of games to play before we get there. Schalke are obviously favourites to go through and being just 9th in the Bundesliga means we couldn’t have picked a better side to play when you look at the other teams left in it. However, they have nothing to play for in the league so like Milan back in 2007, will be resting their players and putting everything in to the game against us. The first leg falls three or four days after playing Everton at home and four or five days before our trip to the Emirates. The second leg is three days after the Arsenal game and three or four days before taking on Chelsea at Old Trafford again. Fortunately, it’s only the fans who get carried away by talk of the final. Our players are professionals who won’t count their chickens and I would love to see us in yet another European Cup final. Come on reds!