When I walked away from Anfield a couple of weeks ago I must admit I felt disconsolate. United simply hadn’t turned up and were well beaten. But yesterday, on the way back from Stamford Bridge, I felt really positive about United’s performance despite a third defeat of the season.
Before the match, the Chelsea fans I spoke to were super confident. And yet, United produced a dominant display. The tactics were spot on. Chelsea’s much vaunted midfield was totally outshone by the outstanding Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Anderson.
I’m beginning to think Fletcher is the unluckiest player in Europe. On Tuesday he gets outrageously booked for diving and then yesterday he wins the ball from Ashley Cole but is penalised by referee Martin Atkinson and Chelsea score from the resulting free kick. Cole’s reaction to the challenge did Fletcher no favours.
The boss told me after the game that he’s losing faith in referees. The Chelsea goal tells you he has a point. Firstly, it was never a free kick. Secondly, Wes Brown is fouled by Didier Drogba, and thirdly, Drogba is clearly offside and interfering with play when the ball goes in. Apart from that, the goal was perfectly legitimate.
Three supposedly top officials thought there was nothing wrong with it. That says it all.
If you look deeper, all of the key decisions went against us: Antonio Valencia should have had a penalty after getting hauled down by John Terry, and Wayne Rooney was wrongly flagged for offside when clean through on goal.
The only good thing Mr Atkinson did was book Drogba for getting kicked in the chest by Jonny Evans. Essentially Drogba was booked just for being Drogba. And I have to say I’m all in favour of that!
But United’s performance was excellent and merited more from the game. I think we saw the real United yesterday; resolute at the back, tigerish in midfield and always dangerous with the magnificent Rooney in attack. And remember, this was a United team with key players missing.
In the tunnel after the game the United squad were fuming. Disappointment and injustice was etched across their faces. I think this will now galvanise everyone and we could see the start of one of the team’s famous winning runs.
After 12 games last season, we were eight points behind