As is usually the case, there were all sorts of preposterous suggestions in the media about how this game would pan out and the players who may prove influential. I actually engaged in some myself, and suggested that Paul Scholes would be the one in the position Michael Carrick played so masterfully today.
The recent outpouring of malice toward Carrick on websites and threads, after Alex Ferguson renewed his contract, from United 'fans', looks twice the empty negative gesture it was now, Carrick took over the game early at Stamford Bridge, and forced Chelsea to accommodate for him, rather than he them, as it has been sometimes for Carrick in recent times, his showing today, will go further to rebuild his confidence after setbacks he has faced with his play in the last few years.
Carrick had slowly eased a stranglehold over proceedings as he broke up attacks and closed Frank Lampard out of the match as the match neared twenty minutes. United were flowing well and Carrick was manipulating the game to his style.In the 24th minute he unleashed an inch perfect pass wide to Ryan Giggs, who was able to bring the ball down and beat the defender in one movement, cutting it back perfectly for the Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney, who remaining calm, simply slotted the ball in off the far post. The Welsh master, Giggs, linking the play of two Englishman for United to again take the lead at Chelsea this year.
Chelsea of course did exert considerable authority on the fixture at times and their persistence should have paid off near the end when Ramire's was brought down by Patrice Evra as the clock strained to the close. In normal time it was a very tough call and the referee could be excused, as certain angles would have made it look as if the ball was in play. Even though it wasn't. Edwin Van Der Sar should also be mentioned for another almost faultless display, the Flying Dutchman pulling off a technically splendid piece of reaction based beautifully executed goalkeeping to deny Fernando Torres his first goal in the Chelsea blue.
In some respects Evra foul on Ramires could become another incident reminiscent of Luis Garcia's ghost goal against Chelsea at Anfield. Which would not be as silly as the first time, when the reality at Anfield in that game was that had the goal not stood, Peter Cech would have been marched and a penalty would have been given, and that the movement of certain players illegally influenced the happening of something in the move, that could have been beneficial to Liverpool. Therefore if certain players had not been illegally impeded, it is logical that a goal would have occurred if situations had been correctly played out.
This time Chelsea have real reason to be aggrieved though, as it is actually totally different, when compared to the above mentioned incident. However, the competition rolls on, as happens in these types of situations, Chelsea now have to go to Old Trafford and attack from the balls first circumference, instead of making excuses for their loss.
This much is obvious now, and Chelsea are a team capable of attacking, after all, the second half of the match in the premier league recently showed that.
It could be that the second half of the Champions League tie could be the moment Chelsea launch their attack. Or not, as United have shown the world again that sometimes, they do play the best football around. Looking at Barcelona's recent efforts it would be easy to say this. Ebb and flow to surge it seems to be again for United, they have shown us that they can sometimes be the team that Ferguson sees in his head.
For in the end, Ferguson's vision is still clear and he can still choose a team that can dominate the best players out there for periods of a match that provide conclusive results.
The return of Park Ji Sung was a major factor in Carrick getting that extra amount of space he needed, the bustle of the Korean providing Chelsea with pressure they did not experience as severely the last time these two teams met. That was one thing I got right in my previous piece, and to see it in action, there was an inevitability about it, as Park reminded everyone just how important he is to United.
It was perhaps technically speaking more Carrick's match than Rooney's, though the striker ran out with the major plaudits. His composed finish and excellent all round performance made possible by Carrick's renaissance. Based on his performance in this match, Carrick is back in the sort of form that made his an integral figure in the United starting eleven during United's purple patch in the Prem and Europe from 2006 to 2009.
United have a team that is nearing full power, they will be difficult to stop in their quest for silverware, though the beauty of football is, anything can happen, and often does.
Just as an aside, Dejan Stankovic's goal against FC Shalke was technically incredible, the execution flawless with a side stance volley from halfway, a truly masterful finish, pity his team forgot how to play after that. Funnily enough, after his penalty award in the EPL match between Chelsea and Manchester United, a certain Martin Atkinson was the man in black, he popped up here again, this time in Italy and issued Christian Chivu with yellow card for a nothing challenge. Seems to be attracting controversy, might be time for a spell in the lower league maybe.