Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United

By Mark Wiltshire

It had to happen some time. And it did so in emphatic style. Manchester Uniteds proud record of having gone unbeaten in the Premiership since December 19, 1998 was brought to an abrupt end as a rampant Chelsea hit the treble holders for five.

It was the first time United have tasted defeat away from home since November 21 when they lost 3-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. The test now for Sir Alex Fergusons men is how they respond to this setback in both the Premiership and in Europe.

There were certainly shades of St James Park in October 1996 when Kevin Keegans side beat United 5-0 but guess who eventually won the league that season yes the team from Old Trafford.

The first half sending off of Nicky Butt was a contributory factor but that is to take nothing away from a fine Chelsea performance and you could say that a result like this was coming for Gianluca Viallis men after the recent frustrations theyve experienced in front of goal.

The nightmare began for the Reds after just 28 seconds as United paid for yet another individual defensive mistake. Massimo Taibi made the poor decision to come for a dangerous cross from Dan Petrescu.

He made it to the edge of his area and could only collide with Denis Irwin as Gustavo Poyet gambled and bravely headed the ball, getting in between the two United players.

Taibi has looked nervous the match and didnt spread confidence throughout the team like Peter Schmeichel regularly did. This was his fourth Premiership start and already conceded his 10 goals.

After five minutes, Gianfranco Zola found himself in acres of space and managed to pull the ball back for Chris Sutton but it was slightly behind the Englishman who was unable to get a decisive touch on it.

Despite going one down, United showed no real positive response and their task was made even harder in the 16th minute when Chelsea doubled their lead and again Sir Alex Ferguson will be displeased with his defence.

Another cross from the right, this time from Denis Wise, by-passed Jaap Stam and found Sutton who, after ghosting in-between Irwin and Neville, had to arch his neck and produce the necessary power to divert the ball into the far corner. He did so with great aplomb and in the process notched his first Premiership goal for nearly a year after suffering many injury problems.

If going 2-0 down wasnt bad enough, the sending off of Nicky Butt for displaying a moment of petulance didnt help the cause. Inevitably Denis Wise was involved as Butt took exception to his high-footed challenge for which Wise received a yellow card. However, Butt lost his cool, kicked out and paid the price.

Ironically, despite the numerical disadvantage, United produced their first and only first half effort at goal a minute later. Paul Scholes arrived to meet a Dwight Yorke pass but his side-footed effort was too near Ed de Goey who parried the ball to safety.

Chelsea, who didnt need to push the game, nearly made it three when Albert Ferrer delivered a right-wing cross for Sutton to meet but, after getting above Berg, he couldnt find the target.

Not surprisingly, United looked much the brighter team at the beginning of the second half as Sir Alex no doubt had a few choice words to say during the interval.

But any thoughts of producing yet another spectacular comeback were well and truly thwarted in the 55th minute.

From a free kick, Chelsea worked the ball across the penalty area as United were caught short and Celestine Babayaro received the ball with no defender in sight. He laid it off to Frank Leboeuf who fired in a shot that Taibi couldnt gather and Poyet was the first to react and tap in and grab his second of the game.

Four minutes later, the word rout was the only word to describe the events as Chelsea continued to embarrass the treble holders adding a fourth thanks to an own goal.

And it was a result of yet more sloppy defending as Mickael Silvestre was guilty of giving the ball away on the left side. Zola picked the ball up and provided an intelligent cross in the so-called corridor of uncertainty that defenders so despise. Berg, fully aware that Sutton was sliding in behind him, got the final touch as Taibi was left once again helpless.

Berg can take refuge in the fact that on 15 previous occasions this season, Premiership players have had the misfortune to put through their own net.

The icing on the cake was complete with ten minutes remaining when three of Chelseas substitutes were all involved down the left flank. Le Saux and Flo exchanged passes before the Englishman found Jody Morris unmarked and he drilled the ball through Taibis legs.

It was United's joint worst defeat in the Premiership whilst Chelsea can be proud that they recorded their biggest ever win over United.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Hogh, Leboeuf, Babayaro, Petrescu (Le Saux 77), Wise (Morris 65), Deschamps, Poyet, Sutton, Zola (Flo 69).
Subs Not Used: Lambourde, Cudicini.
Booked: Wise, Deschamps.
Goals: Poyet 1, Sutton 16, Poyet 54, Berg 59 og, Morris 81.

Man Utd: Taibi, Irwin, Berg, Stam, Silvestre, Beckham (Solskjaer 65), Butt, Scholes (Sheringham 65), Neville, Yorke, Cole (Wilson 65).
Subs Not Used: Clegg, Van Der Gouw.
Sent Off: Butt (23).
Booked: Scholes.

Att: 34,909

Ref: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Match Facts

          Chelsea    Manchester Utd  
Attempts    11            3
On Target    6            1
Corners      4            1
Fouls       14           15 
Offside      3            4 
Booked       2            1
Sent Off     0            1