Chelsea underline new order
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: 10/05/05 9:18pm
Chelsea underlined the changing tides in English football as they picked up a 3-1 victory over Manchester United in front of a disgruntled Old Trafford crowd.
Sir Alex Ferguson had talked of the need to show that Chelsea could be pegged back next season, but after giving the newly crowned Premiership champions a guard of honour the hosts were made to look like a disconnected collection of talented individuals by Mourinho's confident side.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy had given United an early lead, but Tiago's wonderful strike embarrassed Roy Carroll soon after - and a convincing passage of play in the second half culminated in an humiliatingly easy Chelsea goal from Eidur Gudjohnsen.
To compound United's misery, Joe Cole was the beneficiary of an erroneous offside decision as he slotted home Frank Lampard's cut back to put a gloss on the scoreline.
A curiously paced first half had exploded into life early on when Cristiano Ronaldo served up a reminder of his talent - picking up the ball well outside the box and firing a shot that had Carlo Cudicini scrambling across his goal to ensure it was drifting wide.
Minutes later the hosts did open the scoring when Paul Scholes' wayward shot was clumsily dealt with by Robert Huth allowing Wayne Rooney to fire a shot in from the left flank.
Although his effort whistled past Cudicini it looked to be going wide until van Nistelrooy calmly steered it into the back of the net, with an effortless flick of his foot
Chelsea looked to be suffering something of a post-title party hangover, but were spurred into action by conceding and clawed their way back level when Tiago's speculative but superbly judged shot from range caught Carroll on the hop and cannoned into the back of the net after scraping the inside of post and bar.
Ricardo Carvalho is awaiting surgery on a niggling injury but there was no sign of a problem when his last ditch tackle denied van Nistelrooy a clear passage on goal.
A lightning break saw Cole curl a shot agonisingly wide of the goal, the England international benefiting from Gudjohnsen's tenacity but watching his effort whistle past the post.
Rooney, as ever a livewire in the United attack, smashed a shot into Tiago after Mikael Silvestre's clever footwork allowed him space down the left but the two sides went in at the break level.
Carroll, surely fearing for his FA Cup final place in eleven days time, had to be alert as Chelsea came out of the blocks strongly at the start of the second half.
The Northern Ireland international was out smartly to deny Cole, but was fortunate soon after when Glen Johnson found himself put clean through but panicked and failed to get a shot away before he was closed down.
Carroll was on hand again to deny Cole as Chelsea turned the screw, whilst Rooney could not get a free-kick on target from a free-kick on the edge of the Blues penalty area.
Both teams, it was apparent, had a point to prove - Chelsea producing the strut of newly crowned champion and old hands United acutely aware that their baying support expected an illustration that the balance of power has not swung completely away from Old Trafford.
An unlikely hero, the much improved Darren Fletcher, nearly emerged - but the midfielder's measured drive smashed the woodwork with the crowd rising to its feet as the game continued to thrill and enthral in equal measures.
It seemed appropriate that United's failings of this season contributed to hand their visitors the lead. Ronaldo went to ground far too easily when he collided with Gallas as he cantered onto a long-ball and with his team-mates seemingly occupied with querying the decision not to award a foul, Chelsea took firm advantage of their distracted state.
Tiago, enjoying his finest performance in a Chelsea shirt picked out a fine pass to put Gudjohnsen through, and the Icelandic star almost nonchalantly flicked the ball over the onrushing Carroll and into the back of the net, with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown trailing in his wake.
The Red Devils' fragile confidence was increasingly apparent and Brown's panicked clearance was almost being turned in first time by a sharp William Gallas for a quick-fire third.
On an all too rare foray forward for the hosts Ronaldo blazed wide when he should have perhaps played in substitute Louis Saha - but it was to get worse for United fans as they conceded a third.
In fairness Cole was in an offside position when he side-footed home from the cut-back, but the ease in which Lampard had strolled into a threatening position on the left is more likely to be the focus of Ferguson's post-game analysis.
It is difficult to know if the new Chelsea dominance is a result of the rapid improvement under Mourinho, or a decline from a side that dominated in the recent past - but with old sparring partners Arsenal ahead of them, Manchester United will be desperately hoping it is the former as they look to rescue a dismal season in the FA Cup final.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||5|
|6||Shots off Target||2|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||9||16|
|12||West Bromwich Albion||9||10|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||8||4|