[Adopt Barry Davies-esque tone] Look at those teams … just look at those teams! Manchester United have conceded fewer goals than any of the teams remaining in the tournament but Chelsea know they are defensively dodgy nonetheless and may go for the jugular tonight: Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba start together and attempting to contain them will be Nemanja Vidic - who has frequently seemed overwhelmed in recent weeks, including when he was sent off on his last visit to Stamford Bridge – and Rio Ferdinand, who may or may not be fit but, either way, is a safer option than Jonny Evans; whether Chris Smalling would have been a better inclusion, on the other hand, remains to be seen – then again, given Torres's tendency to float like a butterfly and sting like a former frontman of The Police (every little thing he does is pap), perhaps United are confident they can survive whatever the hosts can hurl at them and perhaps plunder a goal on the counter, especially with Chelsea shorn of the magnificently-coiffed David Luiz?
Mandatory deployment of the one sentence that can be uttered before every single football match at any level without the slighest fear of contradiction: Midfield is going to be a key battleground here. The TV folks are predicting that Park will be stationed on the left but he will surely spent a lot of his time in-field, otherwise Carrick and Giggs, haradly a dynami duo, will certainly be overrun by Essien, Lampard and Ramires (who continually cuts in from the right).
Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard, Essien, Zhirkov; Drogba, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Mikel, Malouda, Ferreira, Kalou, Anelka
United: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Park; Hernandez, Rooney
Subs: Kuszczak, Berbatov, Smalling, Nani, Scholes, Evans, Gibson
Referee: Alberto Mallenco (Spain … in fact, he's from Pamplona, so, in the event of him making a bad decision, feel free to accuse him of being full of bull)
7:35pm: "Tough one this," spurts Grame Neill. "Who do I want to lose more? Chelsea, with the preening tedious macho humbug of England's Brave John Terry and his one man mission to personify testosterone? Or United, starring the preening tedious macho humbug of self appointed Big Man Wayne Rooney and his big box of sweary tricks?"
7:38pm: The teams are in the tunnel. All of them silent and stony-faced.
7:42pm: "I'm sure I am one among many United fans who are pleased to see Nani on the bench tonight after his recent comments on lack of freedom," squelches Michael Hardiman. "I've seen all united's games and he has plenty of freedom. Fergie is making sure his flat track bullies, Nani and Berbatov, are going to be up for it v. Fulham on Saturday, arguably a more important game given the fact that 19 league tites puts us at the top of the heap. He really is a master."
1 min: United kick-oof and immediately launch it towards Valencia on the right. Cole wins the aerial duel.
1 min: Vidic perpetrates his first foul on Torres after 37 seconds. More will surely follow. How many will the bull-runner tolerate?
2 min: Bosingwa skins Park down the right and flips a fine cross towards the near post. Torres is poised to meet it but Ferdinand intervenes with a superb tackle to divert it away. United then tip down the other hand but their progress is halted by a late tackle from Essien on Rooney.
4 min: Giggs lumps it long towards Hernandez. Terry heads it easily clear. United are going to have to come up with something better than that if they're to grab an away goal.
5 min: Drogba unleashes what may very well be the worst shot of his career. The ball lands among the United fans, who don't bother to try to contain their laughter.
7 min: Evra dozily gives the ball away to Torres, who sprints down the left but decides against taking on the covering Carrick, and instead sends a tame shot into Van der Sar's arms from 20 yards.
9 min: Bosingwa's speed and attacking intent is causing United plenty of bother down the right, but most of the Portuguese's crosses have been wayward so far, which has reprieved United.
11 min: It's high-energy stuff so far but mostly predictable and imprecise. A good avert for not letting English teams play each other in Europe ...
13 min: Decent play by Carrick to track back and dispossess Drogba. So far the midfielder has belied those pre-match fears about his softness.
15 min: After a bright spell of possession by United, Evra wins a corner. Giggs delivers an out-swinger, Drogba wafts to the edge of the box, where Park seizes upon it and drives for goal. It deflects off Bosingwa and out for another corner.
17 min: Torres and Cole get in a dither on the left, allowing United to nick the ball and hurtle forward. The visitors are starting to look the more coherent side ...
18 min: Like a skunk in the throes of child-birth, Torres is having a stinker.
19 min: A decent move by Chelsea! It culiminated in Ramires feeding Drogba, who had peeled away to the right-hand side of the box before blasting a ferocious shot at goal. Van der Sar tips over acrobatically.
21 min: Like Torres virtually every time he has got the ball so far, Rooney has just squandered a potential chance with a goofy first-touch. Far too many elementary errors in this dull fare so far.
GOAL! Chelsea 0-1 United (Rooney 24') That's a marvellous goal! Carrick picked out Giggs with a raking pass out to the left and the Welshman eliminated Bosingwa with a wonderful first touch before pulling the ball smartly back for Rooney, whose low sidefooter from 10 yards bounced in off the butt of the post. You have to say that's magnificent.
26 min: It's all too frantic from Chelsea. They lack cohesion and creativity. United look comfortable.
28 min: Many feared United would be overpowered in midfield (er, I may even have indicated such myself) but the opposite has been true: Chelsea have looked jaded from the start ...
30 min: Nice play by Torres! Folowed by rubbish play by Torres! First he tricked his way cannily past Rafael and offloaded to Zhirkov, then he took the Russian's return pass on his chest 10 yards from goal ... and volleyed the ball backwards to safety.
32 min: Bosingwa flashes the ball across the face of goal but no Chelsea player is there to tap it in. Why not? Rafael doesn't care about the answer to that question and instead whacks the ball behind for a corner, which comes to nought. "Is it that Premier League players play at such a daft tempo that basics like a decent first touch become secondary," mulls Liam Rooney. "Wayne Rooney has just scored a nice goal, but Giggs seems to be the only player who is bringing the ball under control. It is almost a different sport than the one Real and Schalke were playing last night."
35 min: Can you hear the jeers, Fernando? The striker cantered into the box but let the ball run away from him and, with Vidic closing him down, tumbled to the ground. United players think he was diving and maybe he was. Either way he looked silly.
37 min: Essien barges his way down the left but his cross is cleared by Ferdinand. "In the spirit of all things Barry Davies, if the Dutch looked like a huge jar of marmalade, do Chelsea look like blueberry jam spread thin?" wonders Jamie Woods.
40 min: Ivanovic is awarded a freekick for running into Giggs, which seems harsh on the United player. It's about 28 yards out, wide on the right. Drogba clips it towards the penalty spot, where Ferdinand clears.
41 min: United counter and nearly score! Rooney aimed a well-flighted cross to the back post and it eludes Hernandez by millimeters.
45 min: What a miss! Drogba found space on the left and quickly supplied Torres, who tried to flick it into the net from close range but failed to get a proper connection. The ball bounced out of the post and, with Van der Sar helpless on the ground, Lampard prodded it towards the net from four yards ... but Evra managed to scramble it clear!
Half-time: United certainly deserve their lead as they have been the better team, albeit in a relatively low quality match (though their goal was a budgie). That was the case, mind you, when the teams met in the Premier League a few weeks back and Chelsea managed to turn things around in the second half; Ancelotti needs to make changes here to achieve a simialr effect. Malouda for Zhirkov would be a good start, and perhaps Kalou for the ineffective Ramires. Oh, and Anelka, or even Turnbull, for Torres.
He's going to score on of these days, but until then some folks are jsut going to keep piling on the pressure, isn't that right, Alex Smith? "Perhaps Chelsea should switch Torres to defense as the ball seems incapable of going in the net whenever he's in the box."
Adrian Chiles on ITV says to analyst Harry Redknapp. "I suppose that in a way Sir Alex has the harder team talk. I mean, what does he say other than 'keep up the good work'?" Redknapp: "Yes, that's all you can say really." So not that hard after all, then. "If they leave here with 1-0 it's definitely advantage to them," chips in gareth Southgate helpfully.
46 min: No changes to either line-up for the resumption.
47 min: Rafael is down on the ground baying for treaatment after fouling Drogba. On come the physios and they're examining his knee. "A bit of a dead leg, I think, Clive," diagnoses ace anatomist Andy Townsend.
49 min: Drogba, who has been Chelsea's most dangerous player, again wriggles free on the left and curls a decent cross into the box. Ramires arrives to meet it but nods wide. "Ah! to be a junior associate in a law firm," gushes Adesegun Agbebeyi. "Looking forward all week to watching Chelsea outclass Manu on telly and I get stuck at work waiting on a "Partner" Thank Goodness for the Guardian commentaries, feel like am at the Bridge ... Anyways, After a double winning season, looks like we get nothing this season. We still have Torres though! Oh wait..."
51 min: United change: Rafael hobbles off to be replaced by Nani, meaning Valencia shifts to right-back.
53 min: Nani's first contribution is to receive the ball on the left, drift inside and send a bobbler from 30 yards into Cech's hands.
54 min: What happened just now encapsulates the disjointednesss of Chelsea: they had a freekick in a promising position ... Drogba took it quickly to Ramires ... who wasn't expecting it ... and United clear.
56 min: Corner to Chelsea after Vidic strains his neck to head a Zhirkov cross behind, preventing Drogba from finishing a decent move. Lampard wastes the corner.
58 min: Bosingwa, the only real source of speed in Chelsea's team, has been much quieter in the second half. hard to know whether that's because he has tried, Park has gradually stifled him or Chelsea simply can't summon the inspiration to play him in ...
60 min: Ramires booked for chugging late into Evra. "Come on, didn't Andy Townsend just refer to the 'belly of the thigh'?" blurts Ryan Dunne. "That's the kind of anatomical knowledge that you don't learn in med school but that's available to those who've Played the Game at the Highest Level."
63 min: With a simple shimmy Drogba outfoxes Evra and manoeuvres into prime crossing territory ... but then botches his delivery, and throws his hands up in despair.
65 min: United are working vigilantly and keeping their shape, challenging Chelsea to produce something special to breach them. Chelsea aren't up to it.
66 min: Essien booked for a frustrated late tackle on Carrick.
67 min: Nani gallops down the right and swings in a delicious ball. Cech gets just enough on it to deflect it out of Hernandez's path.
69 min: Chelsea are stagnating. Ancelotti has to do something. Torres, Ramires and Zhirkov all could come off, as indeed could Lampard.
70 min: Cole plays the ball into the left-hand channel, where Zhirkov collects and lofts in a cross. Drogba nods it backwards and Essien blems a volley inches wide from 20 yards.
71 min: Chelsea changes: Zhikov off, Malouda on. Drogba off, Anelka on. Unless Drogba is injured or tired (and he didn't look it) that seems perverse: the Ivorian was Chelsea's most dangerous player and there were surely better candidates for replacement. I'm looking at you, Senor Torres.
73 min: Vidic gets his inevitable booking, for hauling down an opponent in midfield. "It shows how poor Chelsea are in midfield that Carrick is winning tackles," drawls Mark Judd.
74 min: Fine header by Torres, repelled by a wonderful save from Van der Sar! The Spaniard did nothing wrong there, meeting Bosingwa's cross well and directing his header towards the far corner, but the 78-year-old keeper showed stunning agility to plunge across the goal and tip it away with one hand.
76 min: Chelsea have been on top territorially over the last while but most of their play is in front of United. Aside from that Torres header a moment ago, they have created little.
78 min: United substitution: Hernandez off, Berbatov on. Chelsea change: Bosingwa off, Mikel on. And that's another baffling change from Ancelotti ...
79 min: Van der Sar booked for time-wasting as he delayed a goal kick.
80 min: Ferdinand raises his leg high enough to boot Malouda in the face and then has the temerity to protest about the award of a freekick. It's 23.78yards out, I reckon, and Lampard fancies his chances ...
81 min: Low and hard goes the freekick, but straight at Van der Sar.
82 min: Chelsea are domianting possession now but it's all very slow and laboured.
84 min: Ivanovic strides forward from the back and shrugs off Evra before firing a weak effort at Van der Sar from 20 yards.
86 min: Stodgy from Chelsea. "What has Nani done so far?" hollers Trang Nguyen. Not much going forward, but his diligence in defending, along with that of Valencia, has been the reason that Cole has been irrelevant and Malouda has made no impact since replacing the equally redundant Zhirkov.
88 min: Malouda, riled by the previous entry, wanders forward and curls an inviting cross towards Anelka. But the attention of Evra is enough to prevent the striker from making clean contact. The two Frenchmen can talk about that in the changing rooms afterwards, possibly before igniting a nationwide industrial dispute.
90 min: Trademark weak, low shot from Anelka. Routine save for Van der Sar.
90 min: There will be four more minutes. And then another 90 at Old Trafford before, on this evidence, Chelsea's elimination - and their need to revamp their squad in the summer - is confirmed.
90+2 min: Controversey! Evra clearly brought down Ramires in the box but the ref refuses to award a penalty! Evra would have been sent off and Chelsea might have equalised but instead their tormet goes on. Sir Alex has got the sort of "strong" ref that he likes.
90+3 min: Chelsea bay for another penalty... but this time the ref is correct to dismiss their appeals and, for good measure, books Torres for diving.
Full-time: United deserved the victory. Chelsea were disjointed and laboured and, even though they should have been given the chance to equalise from the penalty spot in time added on, they were the inferior team.