The moral victory is the very height of Arsenal, a complete abdication of responsibility from actually doing what is required in sport: beating your opponent on the scoreline, and nothing else. There is a handy guide for working out whether your side deserved to win, lose or draw. Look at the scoreline. If you didn’t score as many goals as your opponent, then you deserved to lose. It is that simple.
The only possible excuse for this is if there was some kind of refereeing aberration, missing an obvious red card or disallowing an obvious goal. For Manchester United against Chelsea there was no such thing. There was a slightly rough challenge from John Terry on Radamel Falcao in the build up to the goal, but even that wasn’t exactly the most egregious refereeing decision made in the match. Had Falcao had the strength and guile he did it in the past, he’d have held up the ball and held off Terry - you have to have the ability to create your own luck in adversity. Similarly, the decision would never have happened had Chris Smalling not fired in such a reckless pass to his forward. As well as this, United could count themselves lucky that David de Gea did not walk for clearly handling the ball on the edge of the box just as a striker was closing in.
Chelsea deserved their victory because they took their chances where United failed. Early on in the first half, when United were already dominating possession, Rooney clipped a shot wide when he should have at least hit the target. In the second half, Radamel Falcao escaped the attentions of Kurt Zouma and sliced a shot against the woodwork. Rooney had another chance, unmarked at a corner, and headed over. There were other chances but United failed to take any. Against the best team in the league, even if they are out of form like Chelsea are, you do actually need to score a goal if you are to win or claim a draw when already behind.
Manchester United deserve a point from this. Unbelievable performance— IAMstan (@lunatic_stan) April 18, 2015
Chelsea, on the other hand, will have no such need for recriminations, because after being without the ball for most of the first half, Smalling’s poor pass and Falcao’s poor control gave them the chance to open up United’s left hand side with two passes, and Hazard is the type of player who will take the most important chance of the match far more often than he will miss it. And so it proved, as he scored the only goal of the game. He almost managed to make it two when he hit the bar in the second half, straining towards Didier Drogba’s deflected shot.
Chelsea deserved the victory, there’s no confusion. By sitting back and marking Fellaini out of the match with Kurt Zouma, they suppressed much of the attacking threat down the left that United had produced in their previous matches against Spurs, Villa, Liverpool and Manchester City. They were not able to batter their way into the opponent’s area with a high ball either, compounded by Michael Carrick’s absence, and by Wayne Rooney’s withdrawal into midfield. They absorbed the pressure they could handle and counterattacked when they could. This wasn’t a difficult win for Chelsea, it was a relatively easy one against a weakened United side. They allowed United possession, there was not some great midfield battle for dominance.
But that does not mean that United need to be disheartened. It was still one of the better performances of the season. The defence held up well considering Luke Shaw was not entirely fit and that Paddy McNair was making a rare start. Ander Herrera and Rooney coped in unfamiliar positions and Ashley Young didn’t embarrass himself. Even Falcao showed more flashes of ability than he has in plenty of matches before. Should they get Daley Blind, Carrick, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo back sooner rather than later, they can build on their recent victories for future games. They just definitely didn’t deserve anything against Chelsea.
Alexander Netherton - external@lxndrnthrtnhttps://twitter.com/lxndrnthrtnNone