Perhaps it is time to consign this fallacy to the dustbin of history. Fernando Torres can certainly lay claim to having subjected Nemanja Vidic to one of the more harrowing ordeals of his time as a United player, but that 4-1 defeat at home to Liverpool was over two years ago now. It was only once, and yet the sense has developed that Vidic is almost frightened of the Spaniard. In truth, it is as much a myth as saying that Frank Lampard is fat. Torres has now gone 11 hours and 33 minutes without scoring for Chelsea since joining for £50m and, even though he lasted only the first half, he gave the impression in that time that he would not score in a month of Sundays. It is not just goals that are missing – it is the dangerous sharpness of old, the sureness of touch where it matters in the penalty area. The only thing that was missing was for Vidic to take his opponent's jersey as a souvenir, perhaps to mount on his wall like the head of some felled big game.
Didier Drogba's form has hardly been exhilarating this season, and nobody can say for certain that the outcome would have been different if the Ivorian striker had been chosen instead of Torres. Yet what we can be sure about is that his presence in the second half gave Chelsea a more penetrative edge and immediately posed new questions of the United defence. Carlo Ancelotti got this one badly wrong and, for the Chelsea manager, there could be serious ramifications.
For a while it looked as though Rio Ferdinand would be back in the dressing room before he had barely a scuff of mud on his shorts. He started grimacing after nine minutes and it was clear that he was struggling to continue. In the circumstances, Ferdinand did well to last the 90 minutes. He gritted his teeth, avoided eye contact with the United dugout and put on the pretence that all was OK. Afterwards Sir Alex Ferguson reported that Ferdinand had taken a bang rather than suffering a recurrence of his calf injury but here is the issue for United: can they get him fit for a decent run of games? He is a brilliantly accomplished defender but has played only 29 of their past 79 Premier League games.
He never stops, his attitude is impeccable, he always wants the ball. Yet Frank Lampard looks like a man who is discovering, a couple of months short of his 33rd birthday, that he no longer quite has the legs to be the driving, box‑to-box player of old. This is not to say he played badly. Yet the man Ferguson once described as "a freak" because of the way he never misses games has lost four months of this season to a recurring groin injury and these things can take their toll for a footballer of his years. Lampard, for now at least, has gone from being a player who was routinely marked at eight or nine out of 10 to one who has dropped to the sixes and sevens.
Javier Hernández cost United £6m when he signed from Chivas de Guadalajara. Chicharito has now scored 18 goals in 20 starts with a further 17 substitute appearances and is endearing himself to Old Trafford in a way that means Dimitar Berbatov, the Premier League's leading scorer, is left out of United's European matches as a matter of routine. In terms of value for money, Hernández already looks assured of joining Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer et al as one of the best signings Ferguson has ever made.