Manchester United v Chelsea - as it happened

After United raced into an early lead, the introduction of Eden Hazard and John Obi Mikel spurred a brilliant Chelsea comeback

Anyway, that's about us - thanks for all your comments, company and sitcoms. I'm off to lie down, possibly for ever. 

So, a "small" club will definitely play in the final - hopefully a hobnail to the plexus of all those who don't take this competition seriously. I hope it hurts.

....and Manchester United or Chelsea will play Manchester City.

Millwall or Blackburn will play Wigan Athletic...

Here we go then. Mark Pougatch is all glassesed up...

David Wall is writing a sitcom! "Reviving an idea from the 70s, this follows the career trajectory of a centre-forward as he's transferred from Nottingham Forest to Manchester United. I'm thinking of calling it 'Ever Decreasing Birtles'."

Ryan Dunne is writing a sitcom! "How about a show featuring a down on his luck Scouse football manager working in a car dealership? Only Jewell and Porches."

Wasn't it a BMW that Paul er used?


Anyway, stay with me for the draw. Difficult one for the FA this - the only tie that might sell out Wembley is one of these two teams against Man City, but if they play one another, then the final will hardly entice.


That was an absolutely magnificent game of football, and more specifically a magnificent half of football from Chelsea. Yeah, United put their boots on the wrong feet during the break, but even so - the guile, pace, movement and magnificence of Oscar, and in particular, Mata and Hazard, was far more than they were equipped to handle. Ramires was also exceptional, and Mikel used the ball sensibly when he came on - United are lucky that he and Hazard didn't start.

And as for United, again, Fergie failed to react to an opposition substitution. His midfield disintegrated, and that's something you can at least be certain that Anderson will never do. He'll be furious with his players, if he's been paying attention, with himself, and relieved to have a replay. Of course, there's form for this - the two played out a horrific 0-0 at Old Trafford in 1999, before a replay at Stamford Bridge in which United were battered, but somehow won 2-0.


FULL-TIME: Man United 2-2 Chelsea

I'm spent.

90+2 min United manage some possession, but after three-quarters of an hour chugging around like fire engines en route to the wrong forest fire, have no idea what to do. Eventually, Chelsea break, Hazard in the inside-right position, and he squares for Torres to pass-back to De Gea. But after he clears, Chelsea pour forward again, Hazard shmicing a low drive that spits and swerves, and De Gea does well to make the save. And even then, United defecate another clearance, and are lucky to avoid punishment.


90 min There shall be four added minutes.

90 min Oh my days, this is some serious fitba. David Luiz radio-controls a perfect pass over Ferdinand's head for Mata, and he caresses a perfect touch to control with his right foot. He then makes love to another, Ferdinand now thoroughly eliminated from proceedings, and no one between him and goal. Opening up his body, he very deliberately curls a low left-footer that's headed for the far corner - until De Gea somehow extends a telescopic right leg to divert it past the post. He is an outrageous individual - his reactions are more animal than human, and his improvisational instinct is more extreme than that of any keeper I've ever seen.


89 min Ramires picks his way past Rafael along the edge of the box and running from left to right, eventually crowded out - but Rafael's clearance is lame, and comes straight back.

88 min Good of the various goodnesses to schedule this game at the same time as Liverpool and Spurs - which, incidentally ended 3-2. Well done, football!

88 min Juan Mata, eh.

87 min Ferdinand boots Torres from behind, off the ball, before Mata locates him on the right of the United area. He tries a shot, but Ferdinand is quick enough to stretch a leg in its path and deflect it behind for a corner, which comes to nowt.

85 min United, after almost half an hour of defensive fudging, have looked a little more dangerous in the last five minutes, some scampering passes along their left giving Cleverley the chance to set Carrick for a shot. But the pass it short, forcing him to take a touch, after which the opportunity was gone.


84 min Oscar finds Mata, in front of Evans and Ferdinand and behind Carrick and Cleverley. You'd think they'd have happened upon a solution to this, but no - and they're relieved when he can only pull a shot straight at De Gea.


83 min Mata seems to be ok.

81 min United are absolutely hating this. The defence that looked so secure in the first half is now rattling around the box like a cluster of dazed bees in a jar. Evans botches a clearance, and Mata pounces, his dancing feet far too sharp for Evans. But they're also too sharp for him, and he slides over on his ankle, staying down. That's a shame, and the first time United have been sure of his presence, after 35 fruitless minutes spent searching for his reported presence.


79 min Mikel, who's made a quiet but crucial difference, slides a ball through to Mata, who immediately moves it on to Hazard. On the by-line, he diddles Rafael, but overruns the ball slightly and the opportunity goes. United then break, Welbeck lanking through the space which is supposed to contain two midfields, and with Van Persie outside, slides a pass that's just behind him. Forced to check, he can only manage a shot that's blocked.


76 min Kagawa is clattered by Hazard, forty yards out on the left-hand side, and is booked. He's replaced by Welbeck before the free-kick, which is headed away by Luiz. It's falling perfectly for Valencia to volley, but he elects to trap and cross, getting nowhere. But when the ball's returned, the same happens, and this time he goes for it, sending a miserable effort sideways.

Torres comes on for Ba.

75 min I've said it before, but this game crystallises the problem with Tom Cleverley: really good when his team are playing well, really non-existent when they're not.

Meanwhile, Bill Chilton is writing a sitcom:

"Got this one about a cat eating alien that gets the England manager's job and guides them to World Cup glory. It's called A.L.F. Ramsay."

73 min Kagawa crosses towards Van Persie, but it's intercepted - by Luiz,Ii think - and Chelsea break again, but this time United organise themselves accordingly and get the ball away, before indulging in the r&r of some sideways passing along the back four.


71 min There exist no shortage of remaining minutes - United would probably be grateful for a replay, the way it's going. They'd be advised to add a midfielder for the duration, because Chelsea are strolling through them with a sashay, a flourish and a dosado. Meanwhile, Peter Wahlberg is writing a sitcom:

"How about a sitcom about a portly journeyman lower league footballer who can't hold down a job to the frustration of his long-suffering but good-hearted wife (and a totally-fabricated adorable daughter for comic relief). It'll be called Same Shittu, Different Day."


This has been coming. David Luiz intercepted a stray pass on the left-hand side, and set Hazard away, Chelsea suddenly with an overload. He transferred the ball inside and square to Oscar, who drew a challenge before sending it one more, outside him for Ramires. His initial burst took him inside Evans, no longer able to block, and he then curled a gloriously understated left-footer into the far corner. De Gea managed to get fingertips to it, but it was too precise for him to manage any more.


GOAL! Man United 2-2 Chelsea (Ramires, 67)

Another excellent goal.

66 min With Rooney banished to the wing, David Wall thunders an email: "Isn't all of this obituary-writing for Rooney's career a bit of an exaggeration. It's true he's not turned out to be as good a player as people like Messi or Ronaldo, but it's not as though he's gone the way of Francis Jeffers. And he's entering the period of his career when people are typically most consistent and effective, so it's a bit premature too."

No one's saying that he's finished, nor that he isn't good. But he isn't the player he promised to be, and the joy and improvisation that made him a special has pretty much gone. That's a shame, in mine - I used to look forward to watching him, now I don't.

65 min Matthew Bridge is writing a sitcom! "It's about a large footed Liverpool midfielder who in a strange football family. Jordan and the Hendersons".

More passing from Chelsea, more harrying from United, who aren't really sure what to do. They sit, while Chelsea move sideways in search of a hole or an angle.

63 min Kagawa is now behind Van Persie, with Rooney on the left. But it's still Chelsea in the ascendancy, United nervously clearing and serrying men around their box.

62 min Van Persie replaces Hernandez.

60 min Ashley Young was warming up, but he's been told to sit down - Robin van Persie is coming on instead.

Joann's got it
Leonice has got it
Theresa's got it
Tonia's got it
I tell ya Cheryl's got it
Boy I tell you
Betty's got it
Chip has got it
And Ann's got it
Gail's got it
Stephanie's got it
And Sabrina's got it
Rachelle has got it yeah
Gladys got it
Fontina's got it
Little cute Aaliyah's got it (
Ooh Stacy's got it
I tell ya
Tita's got it
I tell ya Rita's got it
Oh Laurel's got it
And Kim's got it, yeah

And so has Eden Hazard. Mata, coming in off the right, arcs a low ball out to Hazard. He approaches Rafael, who shows him inside, as you do - only for his man to unfurl a wondrous curler that billows the inside side-netting of David De Gea's far post. Brilliant, brilliant vibe-possession.


GOAL! Man United 2-1 Chelsea (Hazard, 59)

Oh I say!

58 min Good period from Chelsea - replacing Moses with Hazard has made a difference. Who could have guessed? Ah, the genius of Benitez. Anyway, he exchanges passes with Oscar and just as he's about to shoot, a sliding tackle from Cleverely robs him.

57 min It's funny, though, much as I can't justify the sugar daddy model of football club ownership, imagine it wasn't allowed: United would probably have won every league title since 2006, and that would very much not do.

55 min "We want our Chelsea back," sing the away support, and much as I feel the emotion, it's not Benitez who makes Chelsea not theirs. Meanwhile, Luiz scythes through Rafael from several years away and is booked.


54 min Gary Naylor is back on the English players tip: "Point taken, but one of the reasons why English players play with such freedom in domestic football but tighten up in international football (especially
tournaments) is that they know against the likes of Middlesbrough that if they balloon it over the bar, there's another chance coming in five minutes. That tends not to happen in the last eight of a World Cup. The constant supply of chances is another reason why so few English players go abroad - it's harder over there. England have never produced an Andrea Pirlo, never mind a Xavi or Iniesta and never will."

Again, Paul Scholes. Your point stands, though - only Glenn Hoddle grasped what he had, and used him properly.

53 min Well oil beef oct. A Benitez substitution, not at the earmarked moment. Moses and Lampard leave, Mikel and Hazard arrive.

52 min Ramires, who's had a quiet season, suddenly switches on the afterburners and powers through Rooney and away from Carrick, taking him in off the left and ready for a shot. With Ferdinand in his immediate way, he slices plenty wide.

50 min The teams swap possession with maximum ineptitude, Rooney then Cole getting rid of the ball sillily.

48 min Chelsea have started the second half carelessly, Cole lumping the ball into touch for no discernible reason. Maybe he espied a work experience kid in the crowd.


46 min "Poor Benitez." laments Nicholas. "This is the best Chelsea have played in months and they are two goals down. Also, seems to me he has too much faith in Cahill. Terry is the best passing centreback in the League (yes he is) and would have been a much better bet than Cahill today."

It's hard to deduce why he's left Terry out today - and you have to admire his bronca and love of the ruck for doing so - but yes, it's odd. I also agree that they're playing well today, it's just that they lack the fibre to deal with the important bits: hitting and not getting hit.


46 min The second half is upon us.

I'm writing another sitcom. It's about a football manager who applies for every vacancy, thus upsetting supporters pleased to see the bakc of the previous incumbent. I'm calling it Curbs Your Enthusiasm.

Right, you know what to do.

I'm writing a sitcom. It's about a misfiring centre-forward who owns a hotel, and I'm calling it Fawlty Torres. I expect it to be a particular hit in Northern Ireland.

"What became of Rooney?" asks Gary Naylor, rhetorically. "Like every other English player of my lifetime (except Gazza and maybe the Lineker / Beardsley partnership) he was found out when playing against better teams than Middlesbrough."

I'm not sure this quite nails it. There are others who've done very well against all sorts: Scholes, Ferdinand, Ince, Adams, Gerrard, Lampard. And whacking them in like Rooney did there isn't to do with quality of opposition - a volley is a volley, and not getting stopped when dematerialised with venom of that ilk. I'd say it's more a personality thing, or maybe the spontaneity has been coached out of him.

Half-time advert. This is such a piece of beauty that I'm not going to ruin it with any more prattle. Football meets cricket meets joy.

And when you recall that in the same game, he also managed the below, you do wonder what has quite become of him.

Wayne Rooney's love of chips.

That was an interesting, and curious, half of football match. United started with a flurry, and all the way through, looked dangerous on the attack and tough at the back. Chelsea, on the other hand, have probably had the edge in midfield, where they also have a numerical disadvantage, but their defenders look desperate to make an error and their forwards decidedly unlethal.

HALF-TIME: Man United 2-0 Chelsea

That was pretty ok.

45+2 min Rooney, who's loved chips since he was a nipper, attempts a lob, outswinging one from twenty-five yards, that gives Cech a semi-seizure - but he's able to tip it away easily enough in the end.

45+1 min Nani has tweaked an ego, and departs. He'll be replaced by Antonio Valencia, the finest rugby league player that Wigan never had.

45 min There shall be two additional minutes.

45 min "How about when football pundits and commentators start saying that what such-and-such team needs to do is win football matches," spits David Wall, "as if the context of the discussion didn't disambiguate it from rugby matches, Test matches, or Swan safety matches."

I used to light those off my finger nails, and it's always handy when, trying to impress a member of the opposite sex, the magnesium becomes attached to your fingers and burns a manhole in your skin. You've all done worse, I'm sure.


43 min United construct their first decent attack in a while, intricate passing inside and around the left-hand side of the Chelsea area between Rooney and Kagawa crafting at least thirty-four shooting opportunities, all eschewed in favour of more passes. Cleverley eventually has a dig, but it's blocked and Chelsea clear.

41 min United break, and Rooney, just over halfway, picks a pass to Nani that's never on. In the meantime, Azpilicueta pulls down Evra on the left touchline, for which he is subsequently booked once the initial pass has failed.

39 min Oh, this is lovely from Chelsea. Moses has the ball wide on the right, and instead of crossing, stops and ambles towards Evra. With Mata in front of him, he rolls a pass and accepts a return that's rolled backwards with studs and away from Carrick. Barging after it, there's now a window for a shot, which he uses to slice a hideous effort miles from anywhere.


38 min This is a really good game now - it's perhaps a shame that United took the second goal so early - but, as Andy Townsend helpfully elucidated, "the next goal is vital".

35 min As Ferdinand casts another head at another cross, this time from Cole, Joseph Sampson tweets in to let us know that "Chelsea have got a 'job of work' on their hands now".

As opposed to a job this is a family service. "Travelling" is another one, as in "I like travelling", rather than "I like going on holiday and not going to work, much like every other human being".

32 min More pressure from Chelsea, who've responded well to the deficit. They cunningly move the ball through midfield, taking advantage of a problem United have - Cleverley is an excellent technician with a good brain, but disappears when his side isn't in control - and Moses crosses from the right, only for Ferdinand to fling another head at it. He's having an excellent afternoon in the Vidic role, leaving Evans to do the posh showy bits that are usually his to enjoy.


30 min Oscar finds perhaps his first space of the game, freeing Ba through the middle. He has men either side - in particular, Moses is serenading him for a pass - but he elects to shoot, dribbling a miserable effort that eventually struggles its way through to De Gea. 

Someone needs to write a Demba Ba song to this:

28 min More abhorrent words and phrases with Harry Tuttle: "Please advise" and "please be advised" are particularly gratuitous. Just say "My mind is elsewhere".

Ah yes, the bamboozled lawyer's favourite.

28 min While I was typing that, both Cleverley and Cahill thudded shots from distance, getting nowhere.

25 min United should score again, but don't - partly due to miserable finishing, partly due to superb keeping. Azpilicueta checks out for a moment, and by the time he revives, Evra has paced outside him, and picks out Rooney with a perfect low cross. In front of goal and no one in the road, Rooney opens his body as the ball runs across him and sidefoots firmly, but it's straight at Cech. In the scramble that follows and at a loss for something to do, Luiz heads goalwards, drawing an excellent reflex save from his keeper.

24 min United break, and Nani - so much more effective when allowed to play on the right - arcs a perfect cross for Hernandez, who's got a run on Azpilicueta. He's perhaps too quick for his own good, forced to improvise a finish with his left stick, instead of the swept right-footer that would have given Cech no chance, and it's wide.

22 min Chelsea are still matching United in general possession - missing is the composure at the crucial moment. United give the ball away again, and Mata, floats away from Evra and away from Carrick, moving in off the right. He then rolls a pass square to the onrushing Lampard, who sweeps towards goal with his right foot, but is just off-target.


20 min Turning up on the left, Rafael makes a mess of a pass and cedes possession to Moses. But instead of taking the initiative, he waits for the Red Sea to part, then fires a shot against Evans instead of taking him on. Nachson ben Aminadav would not be impressed.

19 min Chelsea, who have been better these last few minutes, work some space down the left, Luiz finding Cole, but his low cross is no use and Ferdinand banishes it from his presence.

18 min Here's Gary Naylor on Everton: "Mr McMahon is right - but I wouldn't lay all the blame at Moyes' door. Such is the economics of the game these days that if our players were at their very best week-in week-out, they'd probably be playing in this match. Sometimes it goes
that way."

I can semi-wear this - individuals not turning up, fine, but a litany of collective no-shows is odd.

17 min It's the seventeenth minute, so Chelsea supporters sing for Roberto Di Matteo, their former number 16.

14 min Chelsea win a free-kick in a position similar to that from which Rooney scored. Mata attempts the same trick, but Ferdinand launches a head in its direction and sees it away. Oddly, though they're two-up, United haven't paggad Chelsea with passing and movement like they did at Stamford Bridge for 20 minutes, and like Chelsea did to them afterwards. It's a fairly peculiar game, actually.

13 min "I'm not going to get involved in this debate in any way, shape or form. Literally" says Simon McMahon.

Also: 'annual leave', when you mean 'holiday'.

It's a classic of a type, this. Rooney curls in a cross that all the defenders are scared to touch and none of the forwards quite can - and Cech can't commit himself until someone either does or doesn't. By which time it's past him, and in the far corner, Rooney parading himself like he's beaten 17 men and thundered one in from 1000 yards.

GOAL! Man United 2-0 Chelsea (Rooney, 11)

This could be all over already...

9 min Chelsea press forward and open a decent shooting opportunity for Lampard, whose effort from twelve yards is deflected behind. From the corner, Evans does well to stretch and backpeddle, heading clear and Rooney picks the ball up, switching it left to Nani, one of all manner of options. He's brought down, twenty-five yards from goal, on the left-hand side...

8 min I'm not sure exactly what's happened to Michael Carrick, but over the last year and bit, he's entirely cured himself of the passifism that blighted an already very accomplished game. Since a game at Loftus Road in December 2012, he's been absolutely excellent, and consistently so.

So, Cleverley, in possession maybe forty yards from goal, clips a pass infield to Carrick, who had one sharp look before drill-lofting an absurdly inconceivable pass from centrefield to Hernandez on the left-hand side of the box. With Cech unsure whether or not to come - he came - Hernandez arced a looping header over him and Cahill and into the far corner.

GOAL! Man United 1-0 Chelsea (Hernandez, 5)

This is a very fine piece of goal.

4 min "It is what it is," says Michael Wilner, tricking himself into using a phrase that he says must never be used. D'oh! He's right, though - terrible. 'This moment in time" is another.' You mean 'now'.

2 min Rafael bundledashes forward and exchanges fluids passes with Nani. They earn a throw-in, and the ball eventually finds its way to Rooney, who gives it away - probably the aspect of his play that actually cost him a place in the Madrid game.

1 min Ba nudges Ferdinand under a high ball and lashes a left-footer wide, but is penalised for a marginal foul.

1 min United introduce feet to ball, kicking towards the Stretford End.

Javier Hernandez is praying, so it's pretty much time to get going.

Oooooh! Eeeeee! Aaaaaah! Here's Simon McMahon with some bantz. "Gary Naylor wants to watch a game without seeing the players? Was he not watching the cup tie at Goodison yesterday? Seemed like the Everton players were invisible to me."

This is interesting, though - David Moyes has done a great job, but the number of disappearances at crucial times and in crucial games is very peculiar, and doesn't look at all good.

The players are coming out. Let's watch some adverts.

Words and phrases you simply MUST NOT USE: colleague, as below. Soundscape. Leader of men. Guys. Any more for any more?

Before things get going here, might I recommend that you also take a shmy over to the Liverpool-Spurs MBM (it's 1-0 to Liverpool, by the way) - and admire the photoshopping handiwork of my colleague, Gregg Bakowski.


Gary Naylor wants to know whether. It'd be nice to leave it there, but there's more. "Is it possible to watch a match without watching the players? Except for the goalkeepers and Demba Ba, I'm not sure I can bear to watch these players yet again. They seem to be on television every time I switch it on.

Put some 3D glasses on? Or put the radio on and watch cartoons, maybe,

Number of emails so far commenting that Van Persie's presence on the bench means he must be leaving in the summer: 93,041.

As far as Rooney goes, my inexpert, ill-informed evaluation is this: the relationship between him and Fergie has reversed, in that Rooney now needs Fergie a lot more than Fergie needs him. I'd expect that if an acceptable offer came in, he'd be allowed to leave, on the basis that with the money and the wages, it wouldn't be that hard to find a younger player of equal or superior use.

I confess. I have been known to practice an affiliation to one of the teams participating in this little tear-up. This has given me plenty of time and call to nurture plenty of disaffection, so worry not: my dislike of them is as nuanced and profound as you could possibly desire.

Cards on the table time.

Cards on the table time.

Cards on the table time.

Just when you wondered where he was, here's Ryenne Dunne: "Hawrite and shalom to the max, Dazzle Hazzle! And Happy Mothers' Day and mad props to any cute ones in the audience. Surely "Howard" is far too fancy a name for somebody faegovan? Actually, I think a literary mash-up fan like yourself could do worse than to introduce some Glasweiganisms into the MBM lexicon; 'fud' and 'zoomer', for example, would surely be apt for many an occasion!"

If you can translate 'fud' and 'zoomer' for us, we'll forgive you the reflexive pronoun abuse.


First email of the afternoon, from Patrick Cullen. "I saw a quote from Ferguson on Friday where he said he didn't want to talk negative about Benitez because he wouldn't kick a man when he was down. The wit of the man, he's a comic genius, justifying not talking negatively about someone by portraying them in a negative light."

Yes, that was fairly smooth. Whatever you say about Fergie, and there's no shortage of options, it's fairly hard to quibble with the biting way he publicly undermines. They'd do well to take notice in the House of Commons, instead of stealing cliche from popular culture.

Anyway, what does it all mean? The teams, I mean - though feel free to furnish me with existential explanation.

United line up pretty much as expected, such as anything of the sort exists* with Fergie in charge of it. In central defence, it's Evans and Ferdinand, with Vidic dropping out, and in front of them, Carrick and Cleverley. Otherwise, Kagawa returns, Nani keeps his place, and Van Persie takes the breather he's needed for a few weeks. With Welbeck also left out, it's Rooney and Hernandez up-front.

For Chelsea, John Terry doesn't make it, meaning Luiz and Cahill play at the back. I'm fairly surprised that Mikel isn't starting, but he isn't - as against West Brom, Lampard and Ramires protect the defence. Ahead of them, Moses is preferred to Hazard, and Ba replaces Poortorres.

*nothing of the sort exists.

Apparently, people have approached Roy Keane in the street, to disagree with him, just when you think the zenith or worldwide lunacy has been reached. And whaddaya know, he hasn't changed his mind.

Lets have some teams, eh.

Manchester United (4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, ooh the tension): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa; Rooney, Hernandez.

Subs: Amos, Valencia, Anderson, Vidic, Young, Welbeck, Van Persie.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Mata, Oscar, Moses; Ba.

Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Torres, Mikel, Hazard, Terry, Bertrand.

Poor referee: Howard Webb (Trafford, by way of Govan, oooh titter)

As for the actual sport, well - it's fairly hard to have the faintest idea what's likely to happen. It's tricky to say how United might respond to Tuesday's righteous indignation. They didn't exactly handle it at the time, their main man is out of form, and there's a reasonable trail of evidence to show that raising your game after a crescendo of disappointment is tricky. In 2001, some clown learnt this the hard way, gambling non-existent money on the outcome of a derby game that immediately followed a kicking off Bayern Munich, in order to finance a final term at university. The final term at university remained unfinanced.

On the other hand, United might take confidence from the knowledge that they stood toe-to-toe with Real Madrid without giving pause. And even if some of the poor darlings are feeling tired and demoralised, there are sufficient decent alternatives such that it might not matter.

Chelsea, though. What they're going to do will be evident, most likely, from Benitez's team selection. Over the last few months, they appear to have tried everything to extricate themselves from every possible cup competition, a task that has turned out to be beyond them. I blame their supporters, personally. But even so, their range of attacking talent means a tricky afternoon for any opposing back-four, and though the word is that Benitez has been ordered to prioritise the Arsene Wenger Fourth Place Challenge Trophy, given that he's for the off anyway, what could he possibly have to fear?

There exists no reason why this shouldn't be a really good game...

Preamble One of the best things about football is how it legitimises free expression of emotions, traditionally frowned upon in polite British society (apparently). Love and hate, for example - or Etah Evol as beneficiaries of a classical education have come to know them - are things you're supposed to keep to yourself, if you're crass and callous enough to experience them in the first place. But when it comes to football, and despite what we're told by the various the moralisers who often have a vested interest in provoking and maintaining the very same SICK FILTH that they chastise, extremes of emotion are acceptable; it's sport, and it's pretend. But it's real. But it's pretend. But it's real. No, it's pretend. And on n on n on on n on, the beat don't stop until the break of dawn and all of that, but still: it's pretend. 

So, that being the case, let's revel in some revitalising hatred. United fans hate Benitez. Chelsea fans hate Benitez, apart from some who don't, and each of the two factions hates the opinions of the other, at the very least. Chelsea fans hate Fergie. Fergie hates Benitez. Benitez hates Fergie. United hate Chelsea, once they've finished hating all the various teams they hate more. Chelsea hate United, once they've finished hating all the various teams they hate more. And both United and Chelsea hate Liverpool and Leeds, though this shared experience has yet to bring them together.

As Phil Collins taught us, there's not much love to go round in this land of confusion, but hatred? Ooooh yeah. Now there's a natural resource that will never, ever run out.