Wednesday, 21 May 2008
The Final Countdown, Part 2
So, I'm left with the unenviable task of previewing United in tonight's match. It is unenviable because it really tough to predict what sort of team Ferguson will send out.
In the Premier League, we all know what Fergie thinks is his best XI, but in Europe it is a different matter, as Fergie likes to be more tactical and vary his selection to 'bamboozle' the opposition. As we all know by now, this hasn't worked with any regularity. Some odd ones are Keane in defense, Smith & O'Shea in midfield, Rooney on right or left, Evra on left wing and many, many more.
So, I think Fergie may naturally go contrary to all accepted wisdom in pursuit of the trophy tonight. Goalkeeper and defense pick themselves, but it is midfield and forward that are interesting.
There are 3 scenarios:
1. What will happen: Carrick, Scholes, Hargreaves. Up front Park, Rooney & Ronaldo - Tevez and Nani to come from bench
2. What could happen: Carrick, Scholes, Park. Up front Rooney, Ronaldo & Tevez
3. What should happen: Carrick, Scholes, Nani/Anderson, Ronaldo. Up front Rooney & Tevez
However, sitting on the bench is the Chelsea slayer (looped header in 2005), fully fit, Scottish dynamo Darren Fletcher, and I reckon Fergie could throw him in.
Away from the lineups, tactically, I think both teams will keep it tight in midfield, leaving little space for any consistent passing, which will initially suit Chelsea. However, I can't see them sustaining this over the 90 mins, with old man Makelele, Ballack & Lampard.
Carrick & Scholes will eventually get a grip with good passing. Ronaldo will be man-marked out of the game (oh, and also because he's a bottler) by Cole (or Bridge) so expect some furious reshuffling during the match to try to release Ronaldo from his shackles.
This will include a heroic Kuyt-like performance from Rooney - all energy and no threat up front. Barring comedy mistakes or set-pieces, the only way I can see United scoring is if the game opens up in the second half and United really go for it.
Similarly for Chelsea, providing Vidic contains Drogba, and Carrick tracks Lamps & Ballack, Chelsea's best bet would be to let the game open up. Mourinho would never let that happen, but I feel Grant could have a few tactical tricks up his sleeve.
So, my money is on United, 1-0 in normal time in a game better than last season's FA Cup final - but only just so.
And now, to drink...