Manchester United vs Chelsea - United go gung-ho marching onManchester United 3
Smalling ‘8
Nani ‘37
Rooney ‘45
Chelsea 1
Torres ‘46

Manchester has once been described in the past as “a city that thinks a table is for dancing on” and, if that were to be translated in football terms, it is difficult to see anyone else gate crashing this house party. Sir Alex Ferguson said before this match was that it would be silly to dismiss Chelsea as title contenders, but there was little evidence to suggest André Villas?Boas’s team can sustain a genuine challenge to both the Manchester clubs. Chelsea looked bright in parts and moved the ball well – getting behind United’s defence but at the same time, risking the idea of going down to the heaviest defeat of the Abramovich era. The season is still only in its nappies and nobody from Manchester would be willing to make a sweeping statement saying that The Blues are written-off but, for a team that beat Arsenal 8-2 in their last home match, this could have easily been another score more reminiscent of a 1950s match – The chances at both ends would have made you think that both sides were playing a 1-2-7 formation.
The Old Trafford faithful must be confused at this doppelganger on the wing – Nani did not even make it on to the shortlist for last season’s player-of-the-year awards – and the confusion is fully justified. Nani has not always been the crowd’s favorite but since he’s decided to get his head down and actually play football, it is difficult to think of too many wide players around the football planet that possess a greater penetrative edge. Nani has complained that whenever he is interviewed he is always asked about whether he feels he is still living in the shadow of Ronaldo, well, how’s this for a stat: When you put Nani against Ronaldo, goals and assists over their first 100 league matches for United – it comes out 52:31 in Nani’s favour. The brutal truth is that Nani has become a formidable threat in his own right.
Talking about formidable players, there is the strange case of Fernando Torres. You see, the thing about Torres is that everyone thinks it is only a matter of time before the old player comes back – the devastating striker who gave the impression he could score from any angle and gave Nemanja Vidic nightmares, subjecting him to one of the worst ordeals he has suffered in a United shirt. Torres, to give him his due, reminded us that he can tell the difference between the frame of a goal and the door of a barn and when he clipped his shot over David de Gea early in the second half in a manner totally out of keeping with someone who had scored just once in his previous 23 matches for Chelsea. But then in true pantomime fashion, he became the villain again when he fluffed a chance in an open-goal later in the second half. His performances lately have been a wild graph of what is good and bad and, sadly for him, that horrible late howler in front of the Stretford End will probably be remembered more than the delicate finish.
At half time it was clear that Chelsea needed to change something and the decision from Villas-Boas was certainly a statement. Frank Lampard was clearly struggling through the first half, looking like a boxer after one too many fights. He is 33 now, the years are catching up and there are increasing signs of a player on the turn. Perhaps Lampard needs to re-invent himself – he is still a footballer with many, many qualities but in terms of energy and drive, Ramires had a more of an impact. Don’t be surprised if Lampard starts to be groomed as a holding player, taking a similar path to that of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes in their latter years. The most worrying thing is that his form is beginning to feel like the norm – The cold, harsh reality is that nobody could particularly argue with the decision of the Chelsea boss.
One player from United squad that has been under the spotlight since arriving is De Gea. Apart from the three points – there is another reason Old Trafford will smile tonight – they seem to have finally chosen a young ‘keeper who can stand the test of time. Yes there were a couple of loose moments – He flapped at a cross and, at one point, Chelsea’s supporters could be heard comparing him unfavorably with Heurelho Gomes, now warming the Reserves bench at Spurs. However, De Gea’s self-belief is growing and likewise, the crowd are getting more confidence in him. He also enjoyed a bit of luck because, while the point-blank save from Ramires earned him a congratulatory hug from Anderson, the Chelsea man will wince when he sees the replays of how he and his teammate Daniel Sturridge got in each other’s way. De Gea has endured an erratic start but, slowly but surely, he is coming through the beady eye of the media and fans. After all, Peter Schmeichel didn’t have the best start when he first signed in 1991…

By Ross Fisher