Monday, November 9, 2009

United can look ahead from Chelsea loss

As mostly everyone knows by now, Man United lost 1-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge Sunday after John Terry scored a controversial goal in the 76th minute.

Different articles on different sites will all tell you more or less the same thing: United had several major decisions go against them and probably didn't deserve to lose.

Maybe United deserved a point. But, without Berbatov to link chains in the middle, and with a midfield containing three holding players, with Ryan Giggs unable to create anything against Chelsea's athletic midfield, the Reds weren’t likely to score and didn’t have many chances to.

But now that it's behind United and its fans, it doesn't really seem to matter.

Last season, United played Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool all away in the first half of the campaign en route to their domestic double.

This term, their two toughest fixtures of the season—away to Anfield and at Chelsea—are again already behind them, with the corresponding reverse fixtures coming at home in the second half of the season.

After 12 matches last year, United were eight points adrift of Chelsea. After Sunday's loss, they stand only five points behind.

It’s these data points that save us pseudo-neutrals from having to read any doom-and-gloom declarations by the “anything but United” contingent or sourpuss United fans.

Hell, the Red Devils couldn’t have played much better against Chelsea barring a few finishes being just slightly more calibrated. Of course, they could have made much better measure of themselves against Liverpool three weeks ago when they lacked all composure and lost 2-0 after Vidic was sent off—again.

In hindsight, though, United's loss to Liverpool can be promoted from "embarrassing" to "fluky," as Liverpool plummets down the table—now 12 points behind Chelsea—and are essentially out of Europe.

So, if there was any team to play well against, it was Chelsea. They're the only likely competition for a long title race which, as of Sunday, unofficially began.

And just as interest piques, so too it wanes; two weeks of friendly international matches now interrupt the narcotic transmission of competitive continuity.

But Alex Ferguson's men can hang their hats during their vacation, knowing they'll need to put them firmly back on—Draper-esque—as they embark on a long winning streak all their fans now demand.

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