Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chelsea Victory Won't Matter

First of all, no matter what you think about Alan Wiley and his refereeing yesterday, you have to give credit to Chelsea for their 2-1 triumph over Manchester United. The Blues' victory puts them level on points with the defending champions with two league games to go, although Sir Alex Ferguson's team is on top of the table thanks to a far-superior goal differential.

Here's the bottom line. Manchester United's last two games are relatively straightforward -- home to West Ham, and @ Wigan. Wins in both of those matches and the Premiership trophy will remain in Manchester for the second year in a row, even if Chelsea wins both of their fixtures as well.

West Ham has been the Red Devils' bogey team over the past couple seasons. They've beaten United three straight times over that period. With that said, the Hammers had something to play for on each of those occasions; most notably, their Premiership lives when they won at Old Trafford on the last weekend of the 2006-2007 season.

This year, though, Alan Curbishley and his boys seemed to have packed it in for the season back in January. They've been in 10th place for ages and have hovered around the mid-table area all season long. Their performances in recent weeks have been flat, to say the least, and I don't think they have any chance to go to Old Trafford again and take any points off a hungry Manchester United team.

As I said in a recent post, I think Steve Bruce has done a terrific job since taking over at Wigan. He's under-appreciated by the mainstream media and fans of the Premiership, especially those outside of the North West, and has led Wigan to safety this year. His team is unbeaten in their last seven league games at home and recently picked up a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Aside from Arsenal, a match that ended 0-0, Wigan's other six opponents in this unbeaten streak haven't exactly been top quality: West Ham, Derby, Bolton, Birmingham, Tottenham, and Reading. Four clubs at or near the bottom of the table and two that haven't even played a seriously competitive game since the middle of January. There's something to be said for not losing in seven straight home games and I understand that, but with all due respect to those seven teams, none of them are Manchester United, and certainly none of them are Manchester United possibly looking to clinch the title.

Look, United's last two games won't be easy, but they're going to find a way to win them both. Chelsea will beat Bolton at home on May 11, the last day of the season, but it won't matter if they don't go to Newcastle and win next Monday. Hmm, a Monday night home game for the Tynesiders, the "Kevilution" with the team playing much, much better, a Champions League semifinal second leg this Wednesday against Liverpool, and I smell a draw at St. James' Park.

Again, all United has to do is win their final two games. I think they're going to do just that, with the match at Wigan presenting more of a difficulty. It was a great win for Chelsea yesterday and they'll be full of confidence and momentum, but I just don't think that it will mean much in the end.


Anonymous said...

United won't beat West Ham. A draw, perhaps, but no way a 3 pt victory based on the history between the two teams the last three seasons.

SoccerShoutPhil said...

I could see United dropping points somewhere along the line. It could get interesting.

Crazy to think that if Chelsea had just beaten Wigan 2 weeks ago, they'd be in the driving seat right now.

Saddest part of the weekend: Fergie switched the media attention to the ref/lino performance, rather than that of himself and his team. I don't understand why the media goes along with it.

Fergie screwed up yet he still dictates the headlines the next day.