James Lawton: Will Abramovich at last grasp need for continuity to steady Bridge?

Chelsea are a fractured team which now have to be rebuilt. But by whom? A professional football man or someone who could fill his yachts with all his football whims?

Roman Abramovich can move on Carlo Ancelotti as quickly as he likes now. Again, the oligarch peers at another skull's head vision of the Champions League he craves so desperately and, who knows, he may wish to give it another wild try.

A new man, a fresh set of whims may be on the agenda, even while his latest fad, £50m Fernando Torres, struggles for the life and confidence that once made him one of the most formidable strikers in the world.

However, if Abramovich's samovar is not on the point of overflowing with something close to terminal bitterness, he might just consider another option. It's called continuity and understanding and respect for professionals who over the years have shown they understand the fundamental reasons why some teams win and some lose.

Last night he sat in the directors' box here with a deeply reflective expression on his face. It seemed reasonable to believe it might just have been dawning on him quite how well such a policy continues to work for Manchester United.

Three years ago United wrecked Abramovich's deepest football ambition in his hometown of Moscow. They spoilt a party that was promising to glitter like some throwback to the days of the Tsar. Last night they did it with considerably more ease.

This doesn't mean United are quite what they were when they won their second European Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson but they were recognisably a team of self-belief and impressive habits. They didn't look look as though they had been meddled with to the point of breakdown. Chelsea did – and at times to a pitiful degree.

The nadir of the Chelsea season, the most demoralising evidence of the misadventure which began with the brutal sacking of Ancelotti's assistant, Ray Wilkins, came at half-time when Torres was replaced by Didier Drogba – and for a little while Chelsea found a little of the rhythm that has been so elusive since the team was effectively redrawn in the last hours before the transfer deadline.

Hauntingly for the stricken Ancelotti, not only did Drogba do what Torres has found impossible at Chelsea, he did it with the kind of service that the Spaniard had been totally lacking in the first half which ended with a United goal quite as brilliant as the one that gave them such a vital edge in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Drogba's goal was taken with some of the best of his swagger after Michael Essien had delivered a rare pass to penetrate the United cover, which Rio Ferdinand, despite some physical inconvenience, and Nemanja Vidic had mostly maintained with impeccable authority. However, United's response was in keeping with so much of their play over both legs. Park Ji-sung immediately restored the two-goal advantage after another of brilliant aplomb from Ryan Giggs.

It was more evidence of a team who after spending most of a season contriving results almost in spite of themselves, one which had found easy creativity the most elusive of qualities, had suddenly found a vein of something suspiciously resembling gold. Javier Hernandez smashed the ball into the roof of the net after John O'Shea had sent Giggs into the box with a pass of beautiful simplicity that enabled the Welshman to cross to the feet of the young Mexican.

In all of this there was an extraordinary sense of a Wayne Rooney whose appetite for football had grown dramatically with the prospect of his missing Saturday's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley. His hunger for the ball was nothing less than voracious and some of the use he put it too was often breathtaking.

For Ancelotti it was a night of shattered last hopes. United had too much depth to their game, too much confidence in their ability to fashioned moves of genuine originality. It has been a remarkable transformation in the scale of United's ambition these last few days – and there is a growing cast of characters who can lay claim to significant contributions.

Rooney has been hugely significant, along with the authority and calm brought by Ferdinand and the latest reinventions of Giggs. Again, Michael Carrick looked like a player who had rediscovered the origins of his old confidence and, in the end, it was true that wherever you looked there was a United player willing to assume some new responsibility.

Not the least example of this hauteur was the fine tackle and clearance performed on Nicolas Anelka by United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Such facility, such belief, was desperately missing in almost everything Chelsea did. They were a fractured team which now has to be re-built. But by whom? A professional football man – or someone who could fill one his yachts with all his football whims? For Chelsea fans, it can only be the bleakest speculation.



News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits