Alan Green: D-Day for Ancelotti and he must leave Torres on the bench
Those who argue that the 90 minutes tonight will determine Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Chelsea manager are, substantially, wrong.
Winning or losing affects only the manner of his departure.
I was convinced some while ago that Ancelotti will go to Roma in the summer.
But he will want to leave having guided Chelsea to Roman Abramovich’s Holy Grail: the Champions League trophy? And Chelsea are not out of this, no matter Manchester United’s wholly deserved victory at Stamford Bridge. They need merely repeat the win they achieved at Old Trafford just over a year ago. Of course, I say ‘merely’...
Ancelotti has big decisions to make, the most obvious of which is whether or not to play Fernando Torres. Rather like the signing of the excellent David Luiz, signing the Spaniard was a no-brainer. Which coach of sound mind would have said... no, I don’t want him, I don’t need him?
But, unquestionably, in the short term, the arrival of Torres has been harmful. It’s unsettled the status quo and it’s enforced a change of system, a move away from the 4-3-3 that has been Chelsea’s bed-rock since the days of Mourinho.
That allowed Wayne Rooney to brilliantly exploit the midfield advantage handed to United last Wednesday night. But ‘can’ Ancelotti drop Torres?
I’m still scratching my head trying to understand why he took off Drogba rather than Torres in that first leg. Is Ancelotti bowing to pressure, sub-conscious or otherwise, from the Russian owner? ‘It’s my money... you’d better remember that.’
There’s a contrast here to the approach taken by Sir Alex Ferguson. The United boss spent (can there be the slightest doubt who is in charge of buying and selling at Old Trafford?) nearly £31 million on Dimitar Berbatov yet he never baulks at leaving the Bulgarian out of the most important games. No ‘Glazer’ would not dare tap Fergie on the shoulder... United surprised me with their attacking approach last week though, in retrospect, Sir Alex’s emphasis on the need for an away goal pointed to it beforehand. It could well be they’ll be more defensively minded this evening, even at home, and can do so knowing that they’ve conceded only two Champions League goals this season. And knowing they have Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic back together again.
I think Ancelotti should revert to the past, personnel as well as system, and leave Torres on the bench.
Yes, the Spaniard is the future and it’s likely that summer rebuilding at Stamford Bridge will see substantial changes with perhaps Jose Bosingwa, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and John Obi Mikel as well as Drogba heading out the door: any new Chelsea team, with whatever manager, will be built around Torres.
But, given that Ancelotti will almost certainly be leaving too, he must concentrate tonight on the ‘present’. If he does, United may still have cause for concern.