In the most-hyped fixture of matchday 28, Manchester United met Chelsea at home at Old Trafford. Recently, Manchester United has struggled mightily against Chelsea, having won just once in their last fourteen matches. This included a tough 1-0 loss earlier this season.
However, despite a poor performance in the first half, Manchester United adjusted well tactically and earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
Despite being heavily criticized for his poor performances against top six sides, Lukaku played arguably his best match in a Manchester United shirt. His hold-up play, something pundits often criticize him for, was strong throughout the game. Lukaku was able to utilize his strength and hold-up play to allow the attack to flow through him.
On his goal, Lukaku had a deft first-touch that shielded the ball from the Chelsea defender, Marcos Alonso, and enabled him to calmly put the ball in the back of the net with his next touch. He also assisted Jesse Lingard on Manchester United’s second goal with a gorgeous cross.
His powerful run in the 93rd minute was arguably his most impressive play of the day. He picked up the ball behind the half-way line, showcasing his strength and pace, as he beat three Chelsea defenders, dribbling all the way to the other end of the pitch.
With his display in this match, Lukaku finally proved that he could perform well against the other big sides in England. However, only time will tell if this type of performance will become the norm or will just be looked back on as an anomaly
After being brought on in the 64th minute to replace Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard instantly changed the Manchester United attack. As a classic number 10, his movement drifting back and forth across the pitch troubled the Chelsea defenders and instantly sparked the Red Devils’ attack. This clever movement was rewarded as he found a pocket of space in Chelsea’s penalty area and headed home the match-winner in the 76th minute.
Lingard thriving in the big moments has quickly become the norm for Manchester United this season. With performances such as these, Lingard is making a strong claim to be England’s starting number 10 in the upcoming world cup over Tottenham star Dele Alli.
Despite being criticized heavily for his team’s negative tactics in big games this season, Mourinho got his tactics spot on. Pairing Paul Pogba in the midfield with youngster Scott McTominay worked brilliantly. McTominay stayed back and neutralized Chelsea star, Eden Hazard. Thus, Pogba roamed a lot freer throughout the midfield and played the creative role that he thrives in.
In addition, Mourinho’s decision to bring on Lingard in the second half immediately paid dividends. Lingard scored the match-winner within ten minutes of coming on and put in a solid performance overall. Mourinho’s tactics this game should help alleviate some of the pressure he has been facing recently from both supporters and pundits alike.
Willian was one of the lone bright spots for Chelsea in a match that left their supporters disappointed with the result. He continued his incredible goal-scoring form as of late as he scored the lone goal for Chelsea. He fired a shot low and with power to beat David de Gea at his near post to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.
He consistently drove at the United defense with pace and was difficult to deal with throughout the match. His combinations with Eden Hazard and direct play down the wings delivered the brightest moments of Chelsea’s attack. Conte needs to continue to develop tactics that highlights Willian’s great form.
The poor performers:
Despite most Chelsea players delivering lackluster performances, the blame for this loss must fall mainly on the manager’s shoulders. Conte’s side started the game off well but began to perform poorly towards the end of the first half.
As has become the norm nowadays, Conte once again showed that he has no plan B when his tactics go awry. He failed to adapt to Mourinho’s halftime adjustments as Chelsea were stagnant going forward throughout the second half.
In addition to that, he employed far too many negative tactics in the second half. He didn’t sub on Cesc Fabregas until the 81st minute, despite Chelsea desperately needing a creative spark. Furthermore, despite Willian looking absolutely gassed from the 60th minute onwards, he inexplicably took off Eden Hazard instead. Chelsea supporters are becoming increasingly more disillusioned each week with Conte’s tactics.
Having purchased Morata for £58m during the summer transfer window, Chelsea were certainly expecting him to be a stalwart up-top. However, as has become an all-too-common theme this season, Morata put in another poor performance. Clearly lacking in confidence, he has failed to score in his last 10 appearances for Chelsea.
Morata’s hold-up play was dreadful as the Manchester United defenders pushed him off of the ball far too easily. His movement was solid but it was ultimately useless as he could never retain the ball when it was played to him. Morata did manage to score late in the match. However, the goal was ultimately called back as he was ruled offside. Morata has consistently been one of Chelsea’s worst performers this season.
Ultimately, Conte needs to drop him from the starting eleven until he regains his form. He is currently a large liability up top and Chelsea would certainly be better off playing Olivier Giroud over him.
What does this mean:
With the win, Manchester United moved up to second in the table while Chelsea dropped to fifth. Chelsea faces the league-leaders, Manchester City, in their next match. They could easily drop points in this match which would be absolutely detrimental to their push for top four.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have to be very pleased with this result. Despite their poor recent record against Chelsea, they put in an absolute shift this match, especially in the second half. They will look to use this result to propel them forward in the huge upcoming fixtures against Liverpool in the League and Sevilla in the Champions League .
Featured image by Andrew Yates/Reuters.
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