1. Finally! FINALLY! A win at Stamford Bridge. We’ve waited for that result for years so what a time for it to come. We’ve put ourselves in an excellent position for the second leg now. Just getting an away goal would have been good enough, even if it was a draw or a 2-1 defeat. To take a clean sheet to Old Trafford as well is a truly fantastic result for United. We still have work to do there and it would be foolish to think we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals, as anything can happen yet, but we’re definitely the favourites now and it’s hard not to get carried away with thinking about that.
2. After dominating the press for all the wrong reasons, how nice it was to see Wayne Rooney stick the ball in the back of the net to put United 1-0 up. It could only be him I suppose, particularly with his extra motivation of the threat of missing our next big game, the FA Cup semi against City. Let’s hope the FA do the right thing and reduce his ban to one game but we shouldn’t hold our breath, given their fear of the press reaction. Still, today he could to revel in the glory and I’m pleased for him.
3. If United are going to get a result against Chelsea, we need to win the midfield battle. That’s exactly what Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs did today. When Chelsea were at their strongest, it was their attacks down the wings that posed a threat. In the centre of the park, Carrick and Giggs were bossing it. It is pleasing then that it was the great work from them which lead to our goal. Carrick played a delightful long range ball forward to Giggs, who’s first touch took it past the defender perfectly before cutting back across the box. Rooney placed his shot and Petr Cech had no chance.
4. Our squad is starting to look surprisingly good again. What a difference a couple of returning players make. At the start of the season, who would have thought we could have afforded to leave Berba, Scholes and Nani on the bench for a trip to Stamford Bridge and still win? Let’s not forget that Darren Fletcher and Ando are still set to return too. What a great time in the season to have the options of Valencia and Park again. Park didn’t cover himself in glory but he worked hard and did a job. He was surely picked over Nani for his defensive capabilities, even though Nani does do his fair share of tracking back. We still need to add a special player to the centre of the park this summer but our improving squad certainly puts us in good stead for the big games ahead.
5. A game against Chelsea isn’t complete without controversial decisions. In the first half, both Michael Essien and Ramires made late and bad challenges on Wayne Rooney. With an hour played, Ramires was booked, which should have been his second of the game. With 25 minutes remaining, Essien was booked, which should have been his second yellow of the game. Then came the penalty shout on the player who should have been sent off half an hour before. In normal time, it looked like a nailed on penalty. With the benefit of slow motion replay, it was clear the contact started outside the area, therefore a freekick. Then Fernando Torres was finally shown a yellow card for his second blatant dive of the game. He got a talking to from the referee after the first one, but that easily could have been a yellow card too. I imagine not much will be made of the fact Chelsea should have gone down to eight men though…
6. Great to see Rio back in the squad. Chris Smalling has a done a very good job filling in, even when you don’t take in to consideration his age and lack of experience. Having Rio alongside Vida is like having a brick wall in our box and it undoubtedly helps Rafael playing alongside the older and wiser Rio than Smalling.
7. The difference David Luiz makes to Chelsea’s defence is very apparent. We were allowed a lot more time and space on the ball in their half and around their box and his absence at Old Trafford will certainly help us.
8. I’m not sure if the plan, for a second game running at Stamford Bridge, to use Chicharito’s pace really paid off. He didn’t get many touches tonight and it was the same in the league game. You would love to think we’d be able to play through great balls for him to race behind Chelsea’s backline on to, but it hasn’t happened in two games now. He certainly worked hard though and I loved it when he raced back to get the ball back off Drogba. I wonder if Fergie will try something different for the second leg.
9. The only low point was probably Patrice Evra’s performance. Not that it was all bad. Kept us in the game when he cleared Lampard’s shot off the line. But too often he was getting skinned, by Drogba, Bosingwa or anyone else who tried. Careless passes riddled his game, ironically, after stating in a pre-match interview that “concentration” was the most important thing for a player to have for these games. He’s been a shadow of the player he was which is a shame because I like him a lot.
10. All in all though, I’m absolutely delighted. This was the kind of performance on the road we’ve been craving all season and I’m so glad we’re starting to pull them out at this stage of the season. I’m proud of them, if that’s a position I’m entitled to have, and just hope for more of the same.