Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revved-Up Blues Prove There's Plenty of Fuel Left in the Tank; Although the Title Appears beyond Them, Chelsea Show They Still Have a Lot to Look Forward to after Rediscovering Their Power in Win against United. James Olley Reports

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revved-Up Blues Prove There's Plenty of Fuel Left in the Tank; Although the Title Appears beyond Them, Chelsea Show They Still Have a Lot to Look Forward to after Rediscovering Their Power in Win against United. James Olley Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

CHELSEA 2 MAN UTD 1

AFTER a week in which Chelsea's unity was questioned like never before in a season littered with doubts over their enduring ability to triumph in the biggest matches, the Blues roused themselves to see off Manchester United in a manner that suggests they can rediscover the winning habit.

Their confidence has taken a battering after a turbulent campaign in which they have looked a pale imitation of the side that won the Double but finally they rediscovered success with all the hallmarks of champions.

Finding a way to win has been Chelsea's trademark in the Roman Abramovich era and United sit top of the table because they have assumed those dogged traits this season.

But last night, Chelsea proved masters of the art, hauling themselves, if not quite back into the title race, then at least into the top four looking reenergised enough to suggest better is to come. The composition of this match was similar to the 2008 Champions League Final United fans spent the majority of the game reminding John Terry about, except this time with a different outcome.

As in Moscow, United had the better of the first period but Chelsea recovered strongly after the break as the power in their midfield at first wrestled control and then drove the visitors back to turn the tide in the most emphatic fashion.

Frank Lampard scored that night, too, when there were penalties -- but last night at Stamford Bridge, the midfielder scored the only one on offer to complete a comeback that their second-half play merited.

They rode their luck, not least with David Luiz inexplicably escaping a second yellow card for fouling Wayne Rooney with the ball in a different postcode, while referee Martin Atkinson's spot-kick award for Chris Smalling's tackle on Yuri Zhirkov was soft although ultimately correct.

Amid all the talk of formations and the integration of Fernando Torres into Chelsea's pool of strikers, the team's midfield has been somewhat overlooked but it is partly because of the shift from 4-3-3 to a flat 4-4-2 that the engine room has looked so low on fuel.

The Blues were traditionally an irresistible force in central areas before this season but Michael Essien, Ramires and Lampard rediscovered their power and poise to unsettle United.

Sir Alex Ferguson presumably sensed a weakness and an opportunity to attack as he abandoned his customary 4-5-1 system for big matches away from Old Trafford and chose to mirror the 4-4-2 set-up of the home side, confident that his players were better versed in its intricacies.

For a while that appeared the case as Rooney's splendid 29th-minute strike gave them a deserved lead but this is a United side who do not go for the jugular with the same gusto. Instead, they are intent on establishing control of a match and although willing to commit players forward, Ferguson is happy to rely on his side's composure and defensive resilience to see the game out. …

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