By Rasheed Abu Bakar
While I struggled to keep my eyes open at work on Monday morning, I knew staying up the previous night to watch the highly entertaining encounter at Stamford Bridge was really worth it.
Whether United had an unfair numerical advantage in the second half, or whether Javier Hernandez was offside, a win is a win. At the end of the day, points allow you to climb up the table, not silky skills or shots on goal.
I’ll admit, the win was ugly.
United were quick out of the blocks and were two goals to the good in no time. After spending most of last week talking up the diamond formation that worked so well at Newcastle, Sir Alex Ferguson abandoned that shape with the inclusion of wide men Ashley Young and Valencia.
I thought Valencia was always going to be selected based on his track record against Ashley Cole, but Young’s inclusion in the starting 11 surprised many.
Roberto Di Matteo’s team selection was as expected - Fernando Torres alone upfront, supported by three roving midfielders in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar.
With John Obi Mikel and Ramires protecting the back four, that trio were free to drift to either flank and also support Torres upfront. Instead of packing the already busy midfield, Ferguson ditched his diamond for the tried and trusted 4-4-2.
For most of the first half, the pace of Young and Valencia kept the Chelsea attack at bay, coupled with their darting runs into the box. While Mata, Hazard and Oscar concentrated their efforts through the middle, Young and Valancia capitalized on the real estate on the flanks and terrorised Chelsea’s fullbacks.
For United’s second goal, Cole was in two minds as to attack the galloping Valencia or Rafael, who eventually was a decoy. With space and pace, United used the wings as their fulcrum of most of their attack.
Apart from the rather comical antics of referee Mark Clattenburg (I admit, United were extremely lucky with all his calls), I thought David De Gea deserved a worthy mention. He may be shy in stamping his authority in the box but boy is he an excellent shot-stopper.
With cat-like reflexes, he scooped away Torres’ effort in the second half and twice used his legs in a last ditch attempt to prevent Chelsea’s forwards from scoring.
He may look like a pole vaulter with his gangly frame but he is undoubtedly my Number 1 – all he needs is more games and more weights at the gym. United’s defensive players are all skilful individuals but the challenge for them is to deliver them as a team, week in week out.
Ferguson took a gamble and luckily for United, it paid off. The Scot has a knack of mind games and surprises but I’m pretty sure he knows that if his team can defend well, the title is United’s to lose.
Some might argue that Clattenburg probably had Manchester United underpants on, but nothing can take away United’s resolve, discipline and determination at Stamford Bridge.
Whether this game proves to be the turning point of United’s season, one thing’s for sure – United’s attack is only as lethal as their defence.