“Our performances at Chelsea in the last two or three years have been really good. We have played some good football but in the end, we didn’t get good results. Now I am thinking we should play badly and win.”
United go into the game still on course for a repeat of their famous 1999 treble. The league looks the safest bet at the moment although tough games are still to come against Chelsea and Arsenal. They are in the FA Cup semi-final, but tough opponents await in the shape of local rivals Manchester City. That game could be made even harder by the absence of Wayne Rooney thanks to the FA’s unnecessary meddling.
Perhaps the hardest task they face is in the Champions League quarter-final, the first leg of which takes place at Stamford Bridge this evening. The scale of the task is made clear when you realise that Manchester United have not won at Chelsea for a remarkable nine years. Nemanja Vidic says that this gives Chelsea a clear edge.
“They have an edge because they had good results against us. But this is the Champions League. The name of the game on Wednesday is to get an away goal.”
At the other end of the pitch, Vidic is likely to have his hands full whoever Carlo Ancelotti decides to put in his team. If I was the Chelsea manager the first name on my team sheet would be that of Fernando Torres. He may look a shadow of his former self and he may have failed to find the net so far for Chelsea, but he is a player about whom Nemanja Vidic must have recurring nightmares. In a series of games against United when he was a Liverpool player, Torres gave Vidic an absolutely torrid time, scored goals and more often than not saw the Serbian defender sent off.
Vidic was also sent off in the league game at Chelsea a few weeks ago and was given a very hard time by Westr Ham’s Demba Ba on Saturday and should have seen red once again. Whilst he is a top class defender, he is prone to have nightmarish games against certain players and Torres will fancy another go.
Didier Drogba and Torres have found goals hard to come by, but Vidic knows that whichever of them play, or both of them, he will be in for a tough night.
“It doesn’t give us any confidence (the fact that they aren’t scoring goals). Chelsea have good strikers, and we have a lot of respect for them. Just because they haven’t been scoring goals, they will still be doing their best. And in a cup tie, what matters is who wins, not who gets the goals.”
Most of United’s success has been built upon a very strong defence. With Vidic and Ferdinand at their best in front of the brilliant van der Sar, United look completely solid. The absence of Ferdinand, however impressive Chris Smalling has been, has been a massive loss. It almost seems as though Vidic feels that he has to do a lot more to compensate for the loss of his partner and struggles to do so. He needs to concentrate on his own game and trust Smalling to do his job.
It will be a fascinating encounter tonight and I am encouraged, as a neutral, to hear Vidic say that the name of the game is to get an away goal. I had a fear that United would ‘shut up shop’ and settle for taking a 0-0 back to Old Trafford. It seems that isn’t going to happen which means that we should be in for a treat.
I’m sure Vidic is right though. Everyone at United won’t care at all how good the performance is if they get the result they want.
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Play badly and win? okay. . . .