Manchester United. . . . . .(0) 4
BLUE may be the colour but Manchester United were the team and finally it was the red flags that were flying high. For a large part unconvincingly, but ultimately with a comfort allowed by a dubious penalty decision on which the match turned, United added the FA Cup at Wembley yesterday to the Premiership title and became only the fourth team this century to perform the Double.
Chelsea, short of stature physically but not morally, carried the game to United on the back of a brave performance by Dennis Wise, their captain, in a first half in which one always sensed they needed to score if they were to withstand the onslaught that would surely come when the real United stood tall.
But they missed their chance and their chances, Gavin Peacock's shot thumping off the bar during their spell of supremacy in the game's first wind. Then, having been reminded by Alex Ferguson, their manager, after a goalless first half, of how fortunate they were, a reprieved United grabbed gratefully at the achievement that had eluded the club in 1957 when the Busby Babes had come to Wembley as champions only to lose to Aston Villa.
Two penalties converted by Eric Cantona, followed by a goal from Mark Hughes - all in the space of eight minutes - put United in the clear. If they were harsh rewards for Chelsea's efforts hitherto, the substitute Brian McClair's last- minute tap-in was plain cruel.
We saw neither the Rimbaud nor the Rambo that has been the mesmeric Cantona this season, instead he was a subdued figure that had mostly mirrored United. But when the moment presented itself, we did see a man prepared to take responsibility.
On the hour, Ryan Giggs skirted Steve Clarke on the right, eluded Craig Burley and stabbed the ball to Denis Irwin just inside the Chelsea penalty area. His touch was enough to trick Eddie Newton into lunging in and upending him. As Dimitri Kharin dived to his right, Cantona sent the resulting penalty into the other corner.
Five minutes later he produced a copy but this time its award was less just. Hughes, growing in influence, split the Chelsea defence with a pass from the centre circle into the path of Andrei Kanchelskis that left all, including the referee David Elleray, trailing. Frank Sinclair commendably kept up with the winger but nudged him in the chase. It was slight and, as television replays revealed, outside the area, but the Ukrainian's sprawl was deemed worthy of another penalty.
Now Chelsea were demoralised and dishevelled and Glenn Hoddle, their manager, introducing himself from the substitute's bench, could not turn the tide. Cantona might have had his hat-trick a minute later, shooting into the side- netting when clear, but United had only one more to wait before scoring their third, the ball squirting off the turf made slick by drizzle, off the boot of the luckless Sinclair and into the stride of Hughes, who drove low and surely past Kharin.
By now Paul Ince and Roy Keane had assumed the control of midfield they had so struggled for. It was Ince, accepting another through ball from Hughes, who danced round Kharin and squared unselfishly for McClair to apply the last insult.
That United's success was so tortuous was due to a Chelsea first-half performance both thoughtful and energetic and a tribute to Hoddle's tactical acumen. One day he may have players more able to sustain it.
Before the kick-off and before being moved back by an FA official, United's players had stood on the red carpet laid for the Duchess of Kent, but any thoughts of their own aristocracy were quickly banished.
Newton kept a watchful eye on Cantona and sprang forward himself to instigate some promising Chelsea attacks. The busy Wise, meanwhile, was their heart and at the heart of most of the better movements.
Peacock, again in the area just in front of United's back four that so perplexes them and which brought him both goals in Chelsea's own double over United in the Premiership, provided Chelsea's best moment. He robbed Ince and looped a shot from 20 yards over Peter Schmeichel that hit the bar.
Before it, Gary Pallister had scrambled the ball away after John Spencer's touch, from Newton's pass, had beaten Schmeichel. In the very first minute, Newton had worked a neat move with Peacock only for his shot to be blocked.
When Giggs shot into Kharin's midriff at the start of the second half and Irwin troubled the goalkeeper with a free- kick, the warning bells were sounding for Chelsea. But they, and Wembley, could hardly have expected the resounding ringing that was to follow.
As Chelsea sought late solace, the deserving Wise was wide with a shot but United were at a distance, as they have been indeed this season. They may not have started with a flourish but they finished with the one that has characterised them all season. Now Europe awaits. As for the Blues, never have they felt less like singing.
Chelsea: Kharin; Clarke, Johnsen, Kjeldbjerg, Sinclair, Burley (Hoddle, 68), Newton, Spencer, Peacock, Stein (Cascarino, 78), Wise. Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).
Manchester United: Schmeichel; Parker, Irwin (Sharpe, 84), Bruce, Pallister, Cantona, Ince, Giggs, Kanchelskis (McClair, 84), Keane, Hughes. Substitute not used: Walsh (gk).
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).
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