article by Teo Teng Kiat @ball-lust.blogspot.com
In a praying ritual which by now should be familiar to most United supporters, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez sunk to his knees in the middle of the centre circle, head upturned and fingers pointed towards the sky, as he prepared to start against Chelsea, a massive match where top spot in the Premier League was at stake.
It took all of 36 seconds for his prayers to be answered. Ryan Giggs picked up the ball from a Vidic headed clearance, spun around, and released Park Ji-Sung down the middle of the pitch with an incisive forward pass. The Korean jinked right of Ivanovic and played a through-ball for Hernandez, who accelerated away from the shoulder of the slipping David Luiz before finishing coolly into the bottom corner. Old Trafford erupted, and Sir Alex jumped off his seat. Even Dimitar Berbatov broke into a wide grin.
What followed in the next 25 minutes was a complete eviscerating of Chelsea by the men in red. Like men possessed, United showed their hunger, swarming all over the pitch, never giving Chelsea time to settle. Rooney forced a good save out of Cech with a rasping drive, Hernandez came close to a second, and Park saw his shot tipped over. From that corner, Giggs played a one-two with Park before neatly side-stepping Kalou and delivering a sumptuous cross that Vidic could only head into the back of the net. Cue pandemonium in the United stands.
Ivanovic should have been sent off for two-yellow card offences, and as it was, his header down to Lampard led to the latter pulling one back for Chelsea in the second half, but it was too late. Lampard’s handball and Terry’s trip on Valencia, both in the penalty area, as well as United’s profligacy in front of goal in the second half, where both strikers could have had hat-tricks, didn’t matter in the end. As the final whistle went, Sir Alex Ferguson jumped for joy, before giving Carlo Ancelotti a consolation hug and pat on the back of the head. Sir Bobby Charlton, watching on from the stands, clapped in approval, as The Theatre of Dreams roared, and the players celebrated on the pitch.
This was as good a performance as anything United have produced this season. The entire team flew right out of the traps, harassing and hassling Chelsea, who didn’t know what hit them in the first half. Park was absolutely magnificent; he was everywhere, popping up to win the ball so many times, fully epitomising United’s resilience and determination. On the opposite flank, Valencia tore Ashley Cole to shreds; the left-back was last seen in the Ecuadorian winger’s pocket. Giggs again defied the years in central midfield, and Carrick put in another superb shift against Chelsea’s midfield trio. The entire back-five held firm once again, never looking overly troubled.
What a terrific performance for one of the biggest games of the season. Just one more point from our last two games will seal title number 19, and see us overhaul the 18 won by Liverpool. It was 18-7, when Sir Alex arrived at Old Trafford in 1986. The gaffer paid homage to the Stretford End yesterday by bowing down twice after the game, but when the title count is made 19-18 at the end of this season, it would be United supporters all over the world bowing down to the greatest manager of his time in gratitude and respect.