Grant struggles to feel special at highest level

Ferguson's strollers show Chelsea manager that European tests can be walk in the park

Against expectation, it is Chelsea rather than Manchester United who go into the home leg of their respective Champions' League quarter-finals this week a little uneasily. The night after United strolled to a comfortable 2-0 victory against a supposedly improved Roma, Chelsea seemed to be on the way to a similar outcome away to Fenerbahce in Istanbul, only to lose 2-1.

All in all, they should still progress to meet either Liverpool or Arsenal in the Premier League's very own semi-final – a third in four years played out at Anfield and Stamford Bridge? – but in the meantime more ammunition has been stored up, and in some cases used, against the man in black, Avram Grant.

Grant's essential problem, it has long been clear, is that he is not Jose Mourinho. Who is? A Mourinho team, we were assured by Fenerbahce's former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman, would never have let such a lead slip. But the testimony of former players is normally about as objective as that of spurned lovers; Kezman did not explain how Mourinho, or anyone else, would have prevented Deivid's 30-yard screamer from finding the top corner of the net with 10 minutes to play.

From all we know of the Special One, he would have made exactly the same change as his successor did, sending on a defensive midfield player (John Obi Mikel) for his least effective, recently stricken attacking one (Frank Lampard) to achieve another dull draw. Colin Kazim-Richards' earlier equaliser, by the way, was the first goal Chelsea had conceded in more than 11 hours in the Champions' League, dating back to early October.

And so the pressure on Grant is cranked up again, just as it was after the FA Cup defeat at Barnsley, when his players missed countless chances, and during the critical home game against Arsenal, in which his substitutions changed prospective defeat into victory after the crowd had sung, "You don't know what you're doing". Stamford Bridge will be similarly unsympathetic if Chelsea, with the benefit of an away goal, do not put Fenerbahce away on Tuesday.

There is no recorded instance of United followers daring to utter the same chant at Sir Alex Ferguson, though only two seasons ago sections of the Old Trafford crowd sang "4-4-2" in protest at his tactics while losing at home to Blackburn with a 4-5-1 formation. Those of little faith might have dared to think similarly during a poor start in the Olympic Stadium last Tuesday, with Owen Hargreaves left out, Cristiano Ronaldo strangely and ineffectively playing through the middle, Wayne Rooney stranded out on the left and Ji-Sung Park on the right while Ryan Giggs sat in the dug-out.

"Woe betide me," the lugubrious Grant might have thought, had he used such a system in a Champions' League quarter-final. Then, with half-time not far off, Rooney moved inside to supply Paul Scholes and Ronaldo hung back long enough to power forward and score with a header Nat Lofthouse would have been proud of.

The pressure was off, and by adding a second goal, Rooney removed it altogether. Ferguson cannot afford to allow any complacency, insisting: "We'd be foolish to take the game lightly. In European football a goal changes the situation quickly. I wouldn't want to start the game against Roma and after 10 minutes have lost a goal. I think we have to get into a real mode of making sure we play our way and make sure it's a difficult night for them. One goal for us would finish it, I think."

Ferguson will make changes for his Premier League visit to Middlesbrough this afternoon. That may well mean a recall for Hargreaves, who, the manager says, has been a victim only of Michael Carrick's form, not any disciplinary action. As for Europe, all talk of destiny in this 50th year since Munich is now being avoided: "If we get through this one it could be Barcelona, which would be a very difficult game," Ferguson said. "We've got a chance, that's all you can say."

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin