The pre-match build up for Chelsea vs Manchester United revolved around Jose Mourinho and his affiliation with both sides. Unfortunately for United, the match itself hinged on Mourinho as well, but it was his poor preparation which drew the limelight. While the men in red had more possession, shots, tackles, corners, a higher pass accuracy and a higher aerial win percentage than Chelsea they still managed to come away with a humiliating 4-0 loss. How did this happen?
Mourinho’s line-up is partly to blame. Sticking Ander Herrera in the holding midfield role (alone) allowed the Spaniard to be completely overrun by Chelsea’s fluid attacking movement. Marouane Fellaini, who was paired with Paul Pogba in a more advance midfield role, was ineffectual at building attacks and his partner struggled to impose himself on the game. With all of Mourinho’s talk of not celebrating if his current team scored against his former, he clearly gambled on a more attacking United side than against Liverpool, with a swap from two holding midfielders to one. The gamble did not pay off.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Conte, at the end of the day, had done his homework and stifled any attacking menace that Untied posed. Marcus Rashford and Jessie Lingard were pinned back too deep to be threatening by Chelsea’s wing-back system, which, in turn, left Zlatan Ibrahimović isolated up front. When the Reds did manage to get numbers up the pitch, the former Italian international coach pulled a ‘Mourinho’ on Mourinho: deep, organised defending with numbers behind the ball forced United to take pot-shots from range, which Courtois dealt with comfortably.
In this kind of form against the top teams (one point from fixtures against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea in the league) United are looking at a real tough battle for Champions League qualification, let alone the title which seemed a hopeful, yet realistic, aim at the beginning of the campaign. With the visit of Manchester City in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, things are not going to get any simpler for Mourinho’s men.
De Gea: 5
If De Gea was a standard top-division goalkeeper, he could have avoided blame for almost all of the goals. Unfortunately for the Spaniard on this occasion, De Gea is up there with the best goalkeepers in the world and so has to take a meagre portion of the blame pie when he lets four goals drift into his net. Rushed out erratically in the first thirty seconds to allow Pedro the opportunity dance around him and pass the ball into the empty net. Could not have done anything for Cahill’s goal, but he has pulled off saves from similar chances to the ones which Hazard and Kanté scored from before.
One of the only players in Red to leave the pitch with a sliver of dignity. United’s most threatening player in attack, consistently beating his man and putting good crosses into the box which Ibrahimović and Rashford did not capitalise on. Did well to deal with Hazard for the majority of the game and minimalised Marcos Alonso’s attacking threat too.
Had a reasonably solid game and was tasked with man-marking Costa out of the game, which the Ivorian achieved successfully. Picked up a yellow card for a silly challenge on Costa and, with his manic style of defending, looked in danger of picking up a red. Unfortunately, the best performing summer acquisition hobbled off in the second half and is thought to have damaged his knee ligaments, meaning Bailly is likely to be out for approximately two months. With the recent performances from Chris Smalling, this could be a serious blow in Mourinho’s chances of turning results around.
With Halloween coming up, I might revisit this performance for creative influence on ‘horror’ costumes. An absolute nightmare does not even do it justice. Can legitimately be blamed for all four goals: 1 =could have intercepted Alonso’s route-one lump but shirked responsibility and left De Gea exposed; 2 = lost Cahill at a corner to give him eight lightyears of space to blast the ball home; 3 = bamboozled by Hazard before the Belgian finished nicely; 4 = bamboozled by Kanté (yes, Kanté) to rub salt into the wounds.
Another one who had a shocker. Was caught the wrong side of Pedro in the opening thirty seconds for the first goal and almost gifted him a second when he was dispossessed by the Spaniard, only for De Gea to save. Won zero tackles and was torn to bits by Pedro and Moses. There was a distinct lack of forward passes from the Dutchman who is normally so important at restarting United’s attacks from deep. Although Luke Shaw did not look like he had done enough against Fenerbahçe to warrant himself a place in the starting XI, Blind seems to have done him a favour with this performance.
The only player who really tried to get United’s heart beating again. Tireless running and some good forward passes but was completely overwhelmed as United’s sole holding midfielder. Tried to do too many things at once and was given very little protection from Pogba and Fellaini. Needs to sit alongside an accomplished defensive-minded midfielder if the Spaniard is going to excel. Still managed to make more tackles than anyone else on the pitch but it was not enough as the Reds’ back four was still horribly exposed.
A truly awful game from the Belgian and a big fall back to reality after a few commendable performances this season. The Belgian’s lack of pace left Herrera to deal with Chelsea’s counter-attacks by himself and his creativity going forward was almost non-existent. Fellaini is normally included in the team to ruff up the defence and add aerial presence; to sum up his game, Fellaini won zero headers. Hauled off at half time for the less technically-inept Mata.
Only came away with an above 5 rating for not doing anything wrong rather than doing anything spectacular, as is often the case with Lingard. Did well to cover the hapless Blind with his defensive work rate and tried his best to link attacks in the final third, but to no avail. Forced Courtois into good saves in either half. Taken off for Martial’s directness in the 65th minute.
Another poor performance which will be remembered by the cynical English press for much longer than his brilliant display against Fenerbahçe. Lost possession too easily and too often and failed to add the creative flair to United which they so desperately lacked. For his price tag, the Frenchman was poor. That being said, he did make himself known physically, putting in four tackles and winning aerials against an aggressive Chelsea midfield. Did not provide adequate cover for Herrera when paired with him in the second half.
The poorest performance from the young star to date, but not entirely his fault. Was pushed to an almost right wing-back position to deal with the attacking threat of Alonso and Hazard which meant that his qualities were supressed. Moved to partner Zlatan up front in the second half but failed to add any spark to United’s lethargic play. A few bright moments showed that it was not an entirely fraudulent performance.
The worst of the bunch of recent rubbish performances from the big Swede. Missed a very good opportunity to equalise in the opening ten minutes and grab a consolation at the end, apart from that, failed to have any sort of presence at all. Dropped deep too often which congested the area outside the opposition’s box with Pogba, Lingard and Mata (when he was on) all contesting for space.
Came on for Fellaini at half time and improved United offensively but offered little to United defensively on the right flank. Was caught in no-man’s-land for the third goal but did redeem himself slightly for setting up Ibrahimović on a plate in the 80th minute only for the Swede to fluff the chance.
Replaced the injured Bailly to the dismay of United fans. With almost his first touch he gifted Chelsea a golden opportunity from a counter. Struck a solid long-range effort which drew a good save from Courtois. It is not very heart-warming for United fans now that the Argentinian error-a-game player is first choice backup at centre half with Bailly’s injury.
Replaced Lingard for the final 25 minutes but had very little impact on the game. He, like the majority of talent in the red half of Manchester, is not pulling his weight so far this campaign.