Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a Man United fan. Some may call me a glory supporter, but that’s just because they support Sheffield United. Who are rubbish. In truth, my Dad supported United since they were in the old Second Division, and his devotion left me with no choice in the mater – I was born a United fan.
So when I sat down on Tuesday night, I was quite worried. It was moments before the second leg of the Champions’ League Quarter Finals, and Man U had lost the away leg 2-1 at Roma, requiring them to get a 1-0 win or better to get through to the next round. At the weekend they had lost to Portsmouth (Oh the shame!) and hence allowed Chelsea to move up to only three points behind them in the Premier League. Worst case scenarios were rushing through my head, and they went something like this:
We lose to or draw with Roma and go out of the Champion’s League. This destroys our confidence and we get knocked out of the FA Cup (God forbid by Watford), and furthermore lose or draw a couple of games in the Premiership and lose that – allowing Chelsea to possibly collect the treble while we skulk home, trophyless, and cry ourselves to sleep to REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’.
This is Manchester United though, so that obviously didn’t happen. Twelve minutes of nail biting into the game, Michael Carrick curled an absolute beauty past Roma keeper Doni (who simply appeared stranded, like Tim Henman at the net as Federer slams a great topspin shot past him) to put United 1-0 up. A good start, I thought – perhaps this could indeed go our way.
The next goal was the most fantastic I have seen all season. A series of dazzling one touch passes put Alan Smith through one-on-one with Doni, and Smith finished it with yet another single touch. And here it is in all its glory:
Two minutes later Rooney realised this was going to be a goal frenzy, and slotted home the third after only 19 minutes. The goal was classic United – on the break from a Roma attack, they caught the opposition defence on the back foot and an inch-perfect cross from Giggs left Rooney with very little to do indeed. Ronaldo, who was incredible, looked like scoring from the start, and did so to make it 4-0 just before half time. Needless to say, I was grinning like Carol Smilie all the way to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
We all expected to see a laid back defensive performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the second half – instead Ronaldo made it 5-0 after four minutes of play, from another sublime Giggs cross. Machester United have never scored more than five goals in any Champions’ League Match, but Carrick broke that record with a powerful strike – 6-0 United.
In Roma’s defence, they kept fighting, and did eventually get one back, through De Rossi making a stunning finish, leaving Edwin Van Der Saar and the whole of Old Trafford stunned. However, substitute Evra made it 7-1 with a beautiful bottom corner finish more reminiscent of Eric Cantona than a defender. Carrick, however, stood out more than any other in this fantastic display. Alongside Fletcher, the pair provided the work and power from the center that we have missed so much since Roy Keane’s departure, and the flair and creativity that could have been missed in Scholes’ abscence.
This confidence led United to an easy 4-1 win at Watford this weekend, putting them through to the final. Chelsea scraped a last minute winner (déjà vu for Chelsea fans after their club’s spate of fortunate last minute goals this season) against Blackburn yesterday to gain the other place, meaning we could see the potential situation of Chelsea playing Man U in the FA Cup final, the Champions League Final, and for the Premier League at Stamford Bridge in May.
My concerns, however, have not entirely gone. Whilst for one night last week United were undoubtedly the best side in Europe, putting an unprecedented seven goals past the best defence in Italy (without Paul Scholes might I add), Van Der Saar appeared weak on the rare occasions he was challenged. This was also the case against Portsmouth the weekend before where had we had Chelsea’s keeper Peter Cech, Portsmouth would have found the game much harder, and at Watford this weekend where Van Der Saar slapped or punched numerous shots away straight to Watford players. Rio Ferdinand went down injured on Saturday’s game, leaving us with a weakened defence, just as Chelsea’s injury worries all return to form (although the latest scans on Ferdinand are promising).
With the gap at the top of the Premiership now just three points, there is now all to play for in all competitions.