Even if you promise real hard, it’s hard to motivate yourself and your players to give a true effort when there’s nothing on the line. Robin van Persie only has his own goals to play for, while Wayne Rooney hardly got a whiff of a chance. Alex Ferguson sent his team out only to prevent a loss, but could hardly see and get any good football from them all match long, eventually brought to life thanks to his own players getting sent off.
That’s what Ferguson had to talk about when the match ended, because there was nothing football-worthy about it for United, who used Anderson, Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley in the midfield, pretty much signaling to all those interested that he’s not really planning on winning this match, at least not in the first 70 minutes. Chelsea found it hard to break through the solidified defensive lines, but eventually their superior quality made things right.
So Rafael got a little hand in the face from David Luiz, and decided he’ll be bringing down the big centre back no matter what. Cornering Luiz towards the corner flag, Rafael first tried to punch Luiz in the back, and eventually went for the low kick to the ankle. Luiz was well ready for that and fell before he got hit. There’s a good chance Howard Webb wasn’t going to send off the Brazilian right back who has found himself ejected from matches more than once (according to Ferguson, never at his fault…), but Ryan Giggs running like a disaster was going to happen heated up the event, and Webb let it all go to his head, delivering the deserved sending off.
But there’s not much you can ask from Manchester United at this stage of the season, least of all fight for Tottenham and Arsenal. They didn’t put up the most courageous of matches in trying to ruin Chelsea’s efforts to reach the Champions League, but Robin van Persie had his chances, while Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones found themselves in promising crossing positions more than once, but often delivered a woeful pass that went nowhere.
Like for other managers across the league, but with a little bit more comfort, Alex Ferguson has a few more chances to establish a team for next season, excluding the big purchases he’s planning – a striker, and probably at least one more centre back and central midfielder or winger, with Valencia looking more and more like a man on his way out, and that’s before we even mentioned Nani. And yet Ferguson chose a lineup that has no resemblance to anything he’ll be playing next season – just something to help him avoid a defeat, and after making attacking substitutions his team looked even worse.
One of the most unimpressive champions (despite the points) in recent years ends the season just as unimpressive making a lot of us wonder how different this season could have looked if Mark Clattenburg would have made the right choices six months ago when the two teams played each other for the first time.