Where on earth do you start with what happened on Sunday? Chelsea and Manchester United meet each other at Stamford Bridge for the second time in three days on Wednesday and for all the focus that should be on a Capital One Cup fourth-round tie, the fall-out from the weekend’s clash is escalating into yet another situation that can only shame the already sullied name of football.
Like everybody else other than Mark Clattenburg, John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata, I have no idea what was or wasn’t said during the 90 minutes or if there was ‘inappropriate language’ used by the referee as Chelsea allege, but two things are for certain. One, whoever is in the wrong, particularly if it is the official from Durham, will feel some grave consequences and secondly, this whole affair is sure to drag football through the mud once again.
For another race issue to rear its head so soon after the conclusion of the John Terry issue is quite remarkable and a brilliant match that showcased all the excitement for which the Premier League is famed is now just a sideshow. Until we know more, it is probably best to leave it there.
Of course, United won that football match and even when talking about the action, we have to mention Clattenburg, who sent off two Chelsea players as Sir Alex Ferguson got his first league win at Stamford Bridge since 2002.
A dramatic 3-2 victory would have courted controversy in any event thanks to Clattenburg’s (correct) decision to send off Branislav Ivanovic, his (incorrect) decision to show Fernando Torres a second yellow card for diving and the linesman’s poor call to allow Javier Hernandez’s winner to stand after the Mexican striker benefited from being in an offside position.
It was all pulsating, high-octane stuff, but what to expect from the re-match in the League Cup? Well, don’t expect the same players on the pitch, for a start: both Ferguson and Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo have promised to ring the changes as they have done in previous rounds and a match of the same quality is unlikely.
Chelsea are the 11/10 favourites to win the match in 90 minutes, with the draw at 13/5 and United at 21/10, and at the prices, Ferguson’s side have to be the call. Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on the Red Devils to triumph inside the 90 minutes would return £61 if successful.
Looking down the squad lists, United have far more strength in depth and I think that is going to be the telling factor. In the last round against Newcastle, Ferguson was able to bring in Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck and Hernandez among others (Wayne Rooney started as he returned from injury) and although youngsters such as Michael Keane and Scott Wootton look set to start, I think United can field the stronger team.
And with that in mind, Chelsea look too short. Both managers have bigger fish to fry, but with the Blues far from certain to qualify for the knock-out stages for the Champions League and with a huge match against Shakhtar Donetsk next week, Di Matteo would happily sacrifice this match to aid his European cause.
United have a strong record in the competition in recent years, too, making two of the last four finals, and Ferguson would like to strike another psychological blow. At 21/10, take the punt on two United wins at Stamford Bridge coming at once, just like London buses.