The Manchester United manager could have been forgiven for feeling that a point at a ground where his team had not won since 2002 would have represented a positive result, but he went straight for all three immediately after Chelsea had been reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute, upon Branislav Ivanovic's sending-off. He withdrew the central midfielder Tom Cleverley and sent on the striker Javier Hernández, who plundered the winning goal, albeit from an offside position. Ferguson might have reflected that fortune favoured the brave, although Chelsea, incandescent at the refereeing, begged to differ. Ferguson could be delighted at another predatory performance from Robin van Persie; the positive return of Ashley Young after two months out; Wayne Rooney's display in a withdrawn role and David de Gea's clutch of vital saves. The points, though, meant everything.
Even before Chelsea's allegation that Mark Clattenburg used inappropriate language towards two Chelsea players, the referee ticked every box in the eyes of the home support for what an official must not do in a match with the potential to exert a bearing on the Premier League title. He had already dismissed Ivanovic for a foul on Young, who had been through on goal, when he booked Fernando Torres for diving. The Spain striker became the fourth Chelsea player to be cautioned this season for simulation, following Oscar (against Stoke City), David Luiz (Arsenal) and Ivanovic (Tottenham). The problem for Torres was that he was already carrying a yellow card for his kung-fu challenge on Cleverley. Clattenburg had no hesitation in playing the two-card trick, even though there had been contact from the United defender Jonny Evans. Torres was left dazed and confused. Clattenburg might have to steer clear of west London because United's winning goal from Hernández came from an offside position. The Torres red card was the prompt for an angry clash between the Chelsea and United benches and Clattenburg, among his other cards, also found one for Antonio Valencia for another alleged dive. What a pity that the referee had to become central to a thrilling contest.
All of the talk emanating from the Chelsea dressing room after last Tuesday's Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk concerned focus and the need to start with it. Roberto Di Matteo's team had been caught cold in Ukraine with an early goal that stemmed from a throw-in and the memories were fresh at how they had failed to get out of the blocks at the beginning of the second half at Tottenham Hotspur the previous Saturday. The lessons were not heeded and there was an element of pantomime about the opening goal, as it ricocheted in off the unwitting David Luiz, never mind the manner with which United were able to work the space on Chelsea's left flank. It would not be for the first time. Ashley Cole must have felt like despairing at the lack of cover in front of him, although he too was guilty of positional lapses. When the second goal went in, Chelsea looked to have left themselves with too much to do. Their fightback was magnificent but, when the dust had settled, they could add the lack of early concentration to their list of regrets.
OK, stop sniggering. We are talking about the MUTV-watching Margaret, who called the channel during the week to tell Ferguson to stop using the "stupid diamond", as it was in danger of giving her a heart attack. Ferguson name-checked Margaret at his pre-match press conference, said that he had better listen to her and he did make a tactical change, starting with three central midfielders – Michael Carrick was the deepest – and two wingers. Wayne Rooney was to the right of the central trio and the role was a far cry from that in which he has built his reputation. He played it beautifully in the first half, ever available for the ball, showing a range of passing and mucking in defensively. T he blot was significant: the foul, for which he was booked, on Eden Hazard, that led to Juan Mata's peach of a free-kick. After Ivanovic's red card and Ferguson's attacking substitution, Rooney played alongside Carrick in a central pair. He emerged with honours until his withdrawal.
The United defender, as expected, heard cat-calls and his every touch was booed, as it was here last season, and indeed always tends to be. Ferdinand, however, pumped up after Hernández's goal, struck a defiant celebratory pose that seemed to enrage the crowd, leading to missiles being thrown.