Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Manchester United finish the job in style with Chelsea win

All over: joy and despair at Old Trafford

Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1: Maybe Manchester United can beat Barcelona after all. Play like they did at Old Trafford yesterday, and they have a chance.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side were superb against Chelsea winning 2-1, as they all but claimed their 19th league title.

Officially United aren't champions, but it's only mathematics now.

With Blackburn and Blackpool to play, and only a point needed for Premier League glory, it would be the blackest fortnight in Ferguson's reign if they lost it now.

They won't.

Last weekend's defeat to Arsenal opened the door for Chelsea to retain the crown they won last season.

It took United just 37 seconds to slam it shut yesterday with signing of the season Javier Hernandez taking advantage of a slip from David Luiz, to finish in the style we've become accustomed to. He is so clinical in front of goal.

Chelsea were rocked by that and with Ryan Giggs — 37 going on 21 — running the show in midfield, Wayne Rooney illustrating what a fine footballer he can be, Antonio Valencia torturing Ashley Cole and Ji-Sung Park everywhere, the Red Devils took control.

They just wouldn't let go. The intensity and energy of their play overwhelmed a Chelsea side, who in the biggest game of the season, cracked under the pressure.

It was no surprise when United doubled their lead with Nemanja Vidic displaying more desire than anyone else in the box to head home an inviting cross from that brilliant 37-year-old Welshman.

Chelsea's hold on the title was over and you have to wonder if the same goes for Carlo Ancelotti's job.

He may not be the only man through the exit door.

The futures of several players will be under threat too.

Too many were anonymous yesterday. Even when Frank Lampard scored in the second half to give the visiting fans hope, Chelsea lacked the urgency, drive, hunger and the passion of their opponents.

United were more fired up by Lampard's goal than Chelsea! In rampant mood they could have had a hatful, with Rooney especially wasteful. Two goals proved enough.

I've said all season that Ferguson's current squad is not a patch on his previous outstanding teams, who swept to titles with exhilarating, exciting play.

Those sides played like the late, great Seve Ballesteros on a golf course, with a cavalier and swashbuckling spirit and a sense of adventure. Great to watch.

The class of 2010-2011 are more Nick Faldo — less natural talent, but able to win major honours.

There's no doubt this title success has been about fight rather than free flowing football. In the end United showed more heart than both Chelsea and Arsenal.

And of course they have a marvellous home record, picking up 52 points from 54 at Old Trafford. Awesome.

They needed that as on the road they've won just five times — same as Blackpool!

All that being the case this title success should perhaps give the great Scot more satisfaction than the other 11, bar perhaps his first one in 1993.

Add in a Champions League triumph later in the month, against a team many feel is the best ever, and arguably it might

even eclipse the treble joy of 1999.

In appreciation of their vociferous support yesterday, especially in the dying moments of the game, 69-year-old Ferguson bowed to the United faithful after the match. It should be the other way round given what he has done for the club, since arriving in 1986. If it was a bad day for Chelsea, it was even worse for Liverpool fans who must now come to terms with finally seeing their long held record of 18 titles overtaken.

The Anfield club are well and

truly off that “perch” now.

To think when Liverpool won their last title in 1990 under Kenny Dalglish in his first spell as boss, United only had seven in their honours list.

United will clinch number 19 on Saturday when they visit Ewood Park.

They'll have it done and dusted before Manchester City play in the FA Cup final against Stoke.

The irony of it all — City could win their first trophy since 1976 and enjoy their finest day in 35 years yet it will be overshadowed by United clinching a record 19th title a few hours before.

Fergie could not have timed it better. Now all the great Scot has to do his inspire his newly crowned champions to beat Barca in the Champions League final at Wembley on May 28 and he'll be savouring his greatest season ever.

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