Last summer, Sir Alex Ferguson made comments about Chelsea which caused a lot of fuss in the press. Our manager asked how much improvement there could be from a team whose most effective players were in their 30s, which was a comment the press turned in to meaning ‘Chelsea are too old to win the title’, which upset the Chelsea camp.
July 22nd 2008: Alex Ferguson on Chelsea
“I’m not concerned about Chelsea. It would have to go beyond Mourinho’s performance to worry us. But it’s hard to see where there’s going to be a big improvement with a team that’s really very experienced. How can they accelerate beyond what they’ve done? I don’t see outstanding progress in a team that is in their 30s.”
July 23rd 2008: Essien on Chelsea
“We’ve got the best players in the world at Chelsea and by next May will be the only team in contention. Chelsea will win the title this year,” Essien said. “Players like Ballack, Lampard and Deco are world class. It is to our advantage that we have so many players who have achieved so much. As you can see in training or during the games, they can always change the games. They have a winning mentality so it’s going to be good for us. Hopefully this year we will win more trophies. Last year was unlucky for us, these things happen in football but you just have to forget about it.”
July 24th 2008: Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris on Chelsea and Ferguson
“I think he was talking out of his backside to be truthful,” Harris said. “Did he say that when Chelsea beat them 2-1 in the league and came within a coat of paint of winning the Champions League? Some of the United players are getting on, like Scholes, Giggsy and the goalkeeper. Sides that win things normally have experienced players. Chelsea have players around 30 like Ballack, Drogba and Lampard but not many are well into the 30s, and my old manager Tommy Docherty told me you didn’t reach your peak until you are 30 years of age. Those players are at the top level and I’m sure they will do that for the next few years to come.”
July 26th 2008: Ballack on Chelsea and Ferguson
“It’s not about old or young players. It’s about good or bad players. Of course this team can still improve,” said Ballack. “If you’re 13 or you’re 31, you’re not old. Look at Claude Makelele last season, he was 34 or 35, yet he still played a very good season. That’s no age for a footballer. I don’t think Alex Ferguson was talking about me or any other specific player. It’s just what happens in the summer break, you tickle each other a little bit. What he said can not be taken seriously.”
August 5th 2008: Terry on Chelsea and United
“Manchester United had had two good years,” he said. “You have to stand back and take your hat off to them but we know we were good last year and we have another level to go to. I think we saw the very best of Man United last year, we have got improvements to make, but I think Man United are at their peak.”
Chelsea finished third this season after finishing second last season. They have finished the season with fewer points. United finished first again with more points than last season.
So after all their huffing and puffing last year, Ferguson was right. It is ridiculous to expect a team made up of old players to improve much and Chelsea have proven that this season. Well done.