Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1
Hernandez 43, Drogba 76, Park 77
Champions League QF, second leg
This was a big confidence booster for Man United.
Goalmaker Ryan Giggs, 37, produced three assists in a 4-1 aggregate victory against last season\’s Double winners.
As I had hoped, it was a pulsating game.
Anelka had a snapshot, Rio Ferdinand was limping, Smalling was warming up, Lampard missed a chance, Rio was still limping, limping, limping. But he didn’t go off.
A Beckhamish cross by Wayne Rooney, whipped to the near post, was headed in from four yards by Hernandez, Flag, replay, six inches offside, fair call
Eventually, just before half-time, right back O’Shea released Giggs on the right and his meticulously measured cross evaded Rooney\’s run but the Mexican stabbed in from under the crossbar to make it 2-0 on aggregate.
After six days off, Wayne Rooney was magnetic, magisterial, dynamic, oozing confidence, taking shots from 30 and 50 yards.
Almost the Rooney of Portugal 2004.
Fernando Torres started !
Does Carlo not read ANR?
Does Roman pick the team?
Drogba replaced Torres for the second 45, Chelsea had a go, Drogba turned and fired a shot five feet wide, Rooney broke on the right and crossed beautifully but Giggs mistimed his header, Ramires clattered rashly into the back of Nani for a second yellow, and then the big Blue African lion reproduced one of inimitable gladiator moves.
When Essien’s chip came, Drogba jumped, took the ball on his chest, floated down with perfect balance, and smashed his shot in on the second bounce.
Van der Sar and Vidic were on their arses and the ball was in the back of the net and the TV commentator was shouting, “Game on!”
It was a big goal by a big player at a big moment in a massive game.
Immediately, Rooney to Giggs, killer pass into the box again, Ji-Sung Park chested perfectly and fired a deadly left-foot past Cech.
What a finish by Asia\’s greatest footballer ! Two goals in 21 seconds.
Game on! said the commentator. Game over! said six million viewers.
When United were 3-1 up on aggregate near the end, the Mexican scooted sharply beyond the blue line and threw his arms up in frustration when the pass didn’t come from Rooney.
That showed how goal-greedy he is.
But Wayne was Zinedine by then, slowing the game down, strolling wide with the ball, still respecting Chelsea enough to play keep-ball and run down the clock.
One of the nicest things about a football team is the periods when something is happening, something is clicking.
In this Manchester United team, a Mexican and a scouser are enjoying each other. The darting sprints of a goal-hungry striker, and the threat of those darting sprints, creates spaces for his mate to work in.
So Chicarito is turning Wayne Rooney into Bobby Charlton, an old-fashioned playmaker who roams around, holds the ball, plays it short and long, swings it wide, splits defences, slams in shots from 25 yards, gets the crowd buzzing by providing possibilities, expectations, exciting moments.
Like Charlton in his pomp, Rooney is in charge. He decides where the ball should go.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have more talent than Manchester United right now, but not more desire.
We\’ll see how far desire can take these Red Devils.
Do Man United really need Wesley Sneijder to replace Paul Scholes? I’ll watch Schalke v Inter tonight and let you know.
When you\’re opinionated, and make a lot of predictions, you sometimes get it right.
I will always remember seeing Ryan Giggs in the flesh for the first time at White Hart Lane. As The Scotsman’s London football reporter, I was there a lot.
Giggs scored a goal that was electric, incisive, very unusual, slicing through the Spurs defence in a way that nobody ever did and I spoke to my sports editor George Barton the following day.
“This kid is the best seventeen year old footballer I’ve ever seen. “
“D’you really think he’s that good?”
“He\’s amazing. And you could play him as a striker as well. And ten years from now you could play him in the Bryan Robson position. He can tackle !â€
That was 20 years ago. Ryan Giggs did it at 17 and he’s still doing it at 37.He’s not a winger, he’s a footballer.