United are suffering the poorest sequence I can remember them having in quite a while.
After the first leg defeat to Bayern came the summit meeting with Chelsea, where they were largely outplayed and beaten 2-1. Then despite a riproaring opening half hour in the second leg against those 'typical Germans', United faded, the naive Rafael GOT HIMSELF sent off, and Arjen Robben's wondergoal squeezed Bayern through. And now, without Rooney, United's deficiencies were exposed again in a scoreless draw at Blackburn.
This leaves Chelsea potentially four points ahead, should they beat Bolton midweek, with just four games left through which to seal it. The momentum is theirs now, and they also have an FA Cup final to look forward to after beating Villa 3-0- Martin O'Neill's one-dimensional, tired-looking side have run out of steam just as they did last season. Chelsea's opponents will be Portsmouth. Heartwarming to see them beat their old manager, Harry Redknapp, and Spurs, in an extra-time thriller.
And if Arsenal rouse themselves to beat Spurs away on Wednesday, we can leapfrog United and apply some pressure to the leaders, although because of our inferior goal difference, Chelsea will have to drop points twice to let us in- and that's assuming we win every remaining game. Realistically, it's not going to happen... But realistically, we didn't have a chance after the consecutive defeats to United and Chelsea in February... You never know.
One has to admit, although I'm no fan of them, Chelsea have done well to ignore the absence of Michael Essien, probably their most influential player. There is now an irony to Alex Ferguson's earlier assertions that Chelsea are too old, as it is United who look over-reliant now on their experienced players. United gathered momentum in the time that the Champions League was in hibernation, but Giggs and Scholes cannot play twice a week, and United's younger players aren't up to the task yet either. Most of their defeats in the league have come after European games.