Football Features

Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea: Five things learned as Blues move into top-four driving seat

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:51, 28 April 2019

In an exhausting back-and-forth contest, Manchester United and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw.

The result leaves the Blues three points clear of The Red Devils and in full control of fourth place. What did we learn?

1. David De Hehehea

Okay seriously what the hell is going on here? Has David de Gea been Space Jam’d? Was his power removed via magic to let some weird alien win a football match?

That’s obviously absurd but makes as much sense as De Gea going from one of the world’s best goalkeepers into the Spanish Shay Given – and not even prime Shay Given, but Old Man Given.

One mistake, alright you can make it. After all, it was Leo Messi in the Camp Nou so fair enough. But to then make two mistakes in the Manchester Derby and effectively throw your side’s chance of getting a result away? That is absurd. But even then people kept faith in De Gea, after all he had saved United on so many occasions through the years.

Today, though? Spilling a relatively harmless Antonio Rudiger pot-shot straight into the path of Marcos Alonso, gifting Chelsea an equaliser? This mistake was not only shocking but it came in a match United were dominating and could (should) have won.

Given that this blunder is likely to cost United the chance to secure a top-four finish, will there be calls for him to be dropped? You’d be hard-pressed to argue against them if they did. In all honesty, selling De Gea right now wouldn’t be a problem for United because he looks so lost.

2. Dreamboat David Luiz

Whilst Manchester United’s David played with all the solidity of a wet tissue, Chelsea’s David was a pillar at the heart of their defence. With Rudiger having one of his rare stinkers, and then having to leave the field with an injury anyway – the burden of marshalling the Chelsea defence fell to the unpredictable Brazilian.

And David Luiz stepped up magnificently to lead Chelsea to a hard-fought and well-earned point at Old Trafford. The Brazilian was simply first to every cross that United put in and stepped up into midfield to deal with The Red Devils’ attacking play in the final third.

For a player who is so often criticised and spoken of as a weak link, Luiz has a habit of stepping up when Chelsea need him most.

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3. Romelu Lukaku loves it

Romelu Lukaku ran so hard in the first half it was genuinely astonishing to see. And the way he celebrated Manchester United’s goal (after his incredible pre-assist) shows a very simple fact: Lukaku absolutely loves it against former club Chelsea.

The Belgian pressed, he ran into channels, he played deadly passes and always looked a threat.

In fact he ran so hard so consistently that he was absolutely exhausted by half-time. In the second half, when United really needed him to step up and fire them back into the lead his mind was willing but his body simply wasn’t ready.

Lukaku is a big dude and pressing that much sapped his stamina. Still, the energy and drive that he played the first-half with showed him to be the kind of player that United can rely on over the long haul. All he has to do is work on playing like that consistently, which probably involves getting into trimmer shape so he doesn’t tire so easily.

4. United’s diamond solution

Manchester United’s attempts to play well in recent games have been admirable but basically none of them worked. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried his standard 4-3-3 and even switched it up to 3-5-2 on occasion. Neither shape worked and United’s awful form continued.

Today against Chelsea, however, Solskjaer sent his side out in a 4-1-2-1-2 with a diamond midfield. Marcus Rashford and Lukaku were the strikers and both men split wide, allowing Juan Mata to push up the middle of the pitch if he wanted to.

Mata was exceptional, scoring United’s opening goal. Moreover, Rashford and Lukaku excelled to. United ended up hitting a wall in the second half but imagine if they had a genuine force at right-back instead of Ashley Young and better midfielders than Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera?

Given their dearth of wingers, the diamond could (should?) be United’s formation of choice next season.

5. Chelsea accident their way to success

Chelsea’s recent away form is pretty abysmal. Coming into this game they had lost five of their previous eight, so they must have had concerns about travelling to Old Trafford. And then they didn’t play too well in the first half, getting dominated by The Red Devils and only equalising through a colossal defensive mistake from De Gea.

Eden Hazard was poor, the midfield was poor, Gonzalo Higuain looked flat, Willian’s biggest contribution was getting injured and Pedro only existed it seems to clear Marcos Rojo’s header off the line. Yet despite all this, they managed to get a big result that allowed them to stay in full control of the race for fourth place.

Maurizio Sarri’s tactics have been a hard-sell at Stamford Bridge this season, and many are openly critical of Sarrismo and what it entails, but Chelsea seem to be ‘accidenting’ their way to success right now.

De Gea, as bad as his mistake was, had basically nothing else to do (bar saving one Higuain shot) all game long. So Chelsea getting the result they needed despite playing poorly bodes well for them as they look to try and win the Europa League and lock-down fourth spot.