Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea: It’s just these two, and there’s a long way to go

Scrappy, always threatening to explode but just avoiding it, end to end and at the end of the day, cruelly exposed the deficiencies of both sides while making sure it brought out the best in them as well.

Like it or not, Manchester United and Chelsea have made this year’s title challenge a two-horse race, and on today’s evidence it will the Premiership race will be long, tough and pretty entertaining.

Sir Alex Ferguson praised his team’s spirit and gave the boilerplate statements of the title race being a long and hard prospect, but you could see from his face that he has extremely angry at the fact that United had lost out on 3 points.

I haven’t seen Mourinho’s post-match interview but I can tell you he’d be pissed off as well. Carrick was named man of the match and he was by far the most improved player on the pitch (he’s learned to tackle!), although you could say that Vidic and Ashley Cole deserved it as well. Vidic was simply amazing in defence and the amount of knocks he took at the hands of Ballack and Drogba (and Sheva, once or twice) was unbelievable.

Ashley Cole also had a pretty amazing game, making sure that Ronaldo wasn’t given too much space. Ronaldo beat his man once or twice but overall Cole had him covered, which is a pretty big achievement considering the red-hot form Ronaldo was in today.

It was a toe-to-toe, even matchup. You can’t predict where such matches go, and credit to both Manchester United and Chelsea for making it a good fight. Chelsea’s physical strength and ability to muscle through the midfield vs United’s ability to take the ball out to the flanks and create countless attacking opportunities.

Talking Points

Ballack – What was he doing today? Apart from body-checking Vidic, Scholes and Carrick, the German captain had little to do.

Ronaldo vs Ashley Cole – Great contest, finished even – Ronaldo got his chances in but Cole had his number. It was unfortunate the way it ended, Ronaldo going out injured and Cole being unfairly booked and then booed.

The Subs – Chelsea brought on Cole and Robben, Manchester United brought on O’Shea and Fletcher. Do I need to say more?

Howard Webb – No red cards, which is as much a compliment to Webb’s officiating as it is an indication of how this match never exploded despite simmering close. Got a couple of decisions wrong, but generally kept things flowing and did pretty good.

Vidic & Carrick vs Drogba and Lampard – United’s players shaded this contest, with Vidic copping a few blows to his head and Carrick showing that he can tackle as well. Lamps had quite a lot of space in the second half but couldn’t make it count and was reduced to shooting blanks.

You can catch the minute-by-minute coverage here.

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