The Fans Who Cried Wolf: Chelsea v. Manchester United

Sunday’s match between Chelsea and Manchester United gave Americans a chance to catch spectacle that confrontations between the two footballing rivals can become. 17 network affiliates decided to show infomercials or Blue Collar Comedy Tour reruns, but the majority of Americans had access to the match. 

What they saw was not only the best non-international match on English-speaking network television ever but the perhaps the one of the best matches in the EPL this season. On display were the directly opposed styles and traditions of two global brands of football.

By the 50th minute in Sunday’s match, Chelsea had an improbably, and seemingly insurmountable, 3-0 lead after a David Luiz header over a team expected to win or draw at Stamford Bridge that evening. Strangely, United had some of the best chances for most of the game, but the bounces and decisions went Chelsea’s way for the first hour of the match. The match unfurled to its presumably inevitable conclusion of a Chelsea victory, the Blues’ back line and wingers gifted United three goals—two Rooney penalties, and a Javier Hernandez free header in the box. 

After the final whistle, as much blame rests on the shoulders of the players and Andres Villas-Boas for his questionable substitutions as praise should be given to United’s fight back discounting the dodgy decisions given by Howard Webb. 

Like confronting a boyfriend who grew complacent and lazy, United had to have a talk with Chelsea and set the record straight. No matter how serendipitous Chelsea’s fortune, only their own effort could keep things from falling apart. Lackadaisical in possession and in the back, Chelsea’s players and coaches grew complacent against the defending Premier League champions. United took their chances and got themselves back into the game, which ended 3-3. Neither team nor ref was the ultimate determining factor in the result of this match. 

However complex the game of football may be, most Chelsea supporters felt commoved to blame the cheating United players and Howard Webb. Injustice is an often used excuse in the economy of soccer, and is too often the initial fall back of Chelsea fans. 

Chelsea supporters have a heavy persecution complex that dates back to the aesthetic and tactics of the Mourinho Era. However, if someone closes down Iniesta, Chelsea fans may not need to blame UEFA or Øvrebø for the calamity at Stamford Bridge. If Ivanovic makes the extra effort to close down Giggs’, Chelsea would be celebrating a victory over a rival in after a close call. Lack of effort and foresight have plagued Chelsea Football Club since the Champions League Final in 2008.

An outpouring of this privileged victimization sentiment does not breed empathy. It creates a Boy Who Cried Wolf model for criticizing Chelsea Football Club and its supporters. I know that losing is hard with Chelsea’s huge wage bills and prominent team, but as Roman and Andres strive for beautiful, winning football, supporters should deal with the impending losses with class and perspective. Trouble is AVB hasn’t done anything to help this process along. He continues to lament the referee’s decisions when they don’t go his way. 

Chelsea fans must hold their own organization and owner accountable instead of blaming everyone else for the club’s shortcomings. No one wants to get with the whiny, privileged sad kid in class who scribbles Descendents’ “Parents” lyrics on the soles of his Chucks, now do they? 

Of course, I ask too much. 

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