Two big teams with some of the best manager but still things to improve : this how we can resume this game. While there are no more suspense with the Premier League title will go for Manchester City, there are still battle behind both for Champions League and to know which one will be second.
With two managers turn towards defence it could be a boring game. However it was very balanced with both battle in the midfield and strong defences.
It’s with a classical lineup that Manchester United welcomed Chelsea. There was just a surprise : McTominay. We will see later why and how a such young and a not very experimented player played that game. While it was announced as a 4-3-3 the Red Devils build-up looked more at a diamond 4-4-2, with Sanchez behind Lukaku and Martial both playing in the front of the attack (see pass network below)
For Chelsea it was a bit more different from their usual lineup, especially in defence. With Christensen and Rudiger aside Azpilicueta, Conte aligned a trio that does not know each other very well. This probably cost the two goals and a lot of dangerous shots especially with a lot of misunderstanding between Christensen and Rudiger.
During the first half, the two midfields were very defensive, therefore neither team was able to gain the upper hand over the other, though two goals were scored, one for each team (Willian 32’ and then Lukaku 39’).
However this dynamic changed during the second half with bigger difference between the two teams. Chelsea played more offensively but Mourinho’s team didn’t flinch. With a goal a bit against the trend at the 75th minute, Manchester United closed the game while Antonio Conte tried to come back, entering Fabregas (for Drinkwater) and Giroud (for Moses).
Pogba and the midfield
As we see on the pass network above, Pogba played in the position where he was at his best level at Juventus. When he play on the left side of the midfield with two teammates behind him, he is probably one of the best playmaker of the football circus. With Matic behind him he was free of defensive charge, something where he is very bad at it.
But let’s talk about the other midfielder, McTominay. This young Englishman (21 years old) played five games this season within the red shirt (three in Premier League and two in Champions League) and he performed quite well every time. During this game he played like Ander Herrera when Manchester United went to Stamford Bridge: by marking Eden Hazard during all the game. This tactic was quite efficient while the Belgium could not play as he did usually.
Chelsea lacks playmaker
McTominay special instructions have prevented Eden Hazard to lead the game of his team. Without Fabregas, substituted in for Drinkwater probably because of turnovers (Fabregas came on at the 81’), Chelsea game building was not very efficient. As we can see on the passmap below, there was not a real leader. While it’s look like players played well with each others, this missing leader was felt in Chelsea attacks possessions.
Moreover, Alvaro Morata didn’t improve this trend while he didn’t touch a lot of ball and so he couldn’t weight on the opposite defence.
Manchester United : a word on corners
This is something that is quite surprising from some games now: it seems that Manchester United have difficulties to get chances and goals from corners and even crosses. It’s maybe easier to understand with crosses while Valencia and Young are not the best passers in the league (especially Valencia who tend to have a stereotyped game now).
However for corners it’s more astonishing. With Lukaku, Pogba, Matic, Fellaini, Smalling or McTominay, Manchester United have a squad composed of quite tall players. Moreover, they have good shooters with Pogba, Mata and now Sanchez.
This score (2-1) logically advantage Manchester United, now second; from 2nd to 5th, each team is separated by two points. Both teams are still engaged in Champions League, but Chelsea has a bigger opponent (Barcelona) than Manchester United (Sevilla). Manchester United still has to play Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, while Chelsea still has to play Manchester City and Liverpool. Therefore the schedule is easier for Chelsea (even more if they can’t win against Barcelona) and they are still in competition for a Champions League place.
It’s the second season at Manchester United for Mourinho; he will probably not win the Premier League but what if he goes far in the Champions League? “All-in” in Champions League is maybe the plan this season for Mourinho while he is already doing a bit turnover as we can saw with McTominay (there are still Mata, Herrera, Fellaini, Lingard or Rashford).