Who would have possibly imagined seeing an Manchester United side so enfeebled? Looking suddenly so fragile and emotional spent? At home, no less!
Chelsea fully earned an FA Cup replay in the coming days at Stamford Bridge, utterly standing on Manchester United in the second half of Sunday’s highly entertaining contest at Old Trafford. In fact, while Chelsea will feel OK in the big picture about the 2-2 draw that brings the clash of EPL giants back to London, the cast from Stamford Bridge will rightly feel they should have finished this one.
The Red Devils could still rally, shuffle past Chelsea in FA Cup redemption and go on to a 2013 double, writing yet another chapter in the storied Alex Ferguson opus. Yes, it could happen.
Still, there is no escaping the dark-and-storminess that has been Manchester United’s week. First came the Champions League crash-out to Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho may have proclaimed that the best team lost. Fair enough. But lose the Red Devils did.
But to have a 2-0 lead at home into the second half … and now face a replay against Chelsea just days later? That is the stuff of nightmares, Manchester United’s version of pychos and chainsaws.
They looked so shaky, particularly in the back, as John Obi Mikel made the difference in midfield, and as Juan Mata and Eden Hazard rode in on waves of late attacking menace.
If not for David de Gea, the goalkeeper who has surely answered questions about his ability and worthiness to guard the fabled Old Trafford goal, this would be worse yet. (As Juan Mata cut inside with the silkiest, most skill touch late in this one, winding up to shoot from point-blank range, who among us watching weren’t saying “goal” as if it were sure as water running downhill?)
And this is without mentioning the sideshow, the ridiculously premature obituary-writing of Wayne Rooney’s career.
Presumably, Ferguson’s men can hang onto their league lead. They’ll bounce back enough for that. Past that, however … it’s fair to wonder about just how much this gut-punch of a week will take out of Ferguson’s men.