Manchester United is not the best team in the world, but they are a stubborn and unpredictable side. Especially in big games like this. The last time Chelsea won a league game against Manchester United was the 1-0 match in which Alvaro Morata scored from a Ceasar Azpilicueta cross in the 2017/2018 season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won 4 out of 6 games against Chelsea. His big-game record continues to be impressive.
Chelsea FC was coming off the back of a Champions League home tie against Sevilla. Frank Lampard’s side drew the goalless match. United closed another famous night in Paris with a win over PSG in the Champions League.
Manchester United switched to a 4 at the back which they used against Newcastle, while Chelsea switched to a 3 at the back. Luke Shaw who performed well as a left-sided centre-back in Paris was back in his full-back position with Fred and Scott McTominay shielding Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, and Harry McGuire. Daniel James, Bruno Fernandes & Juan Mata played behind Marcus Rashford who started up top with Anthony Martial out. Edinson Cavani & Donny Van de Beek were on the bench.
Chelsea started with Kurt Zouma, Thiago Silva, and Azpilicueta at the back with Ben Chilwell & Reece James at wing-back. Jorginho & N’golo Kante made up the midfield with a front 3 of Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, & Timo Werner. Man of the match from the Sevilla game Edouard Mendy started in goal with Kepa Arrizabalaga out with a shoulder injury. Old/new goalkeeper Petr Cech was in the stands.
It was a drab affair as both sides struggled to get anything going. Some nice Chelsea build-up play ended with Pulisic driving at the United defense but the move broke down after a signature sliding tackle from AWB. Dan James set off on a counter-attack but Reece James eased him off the ball. Sloppy play everywhere as both sides did not want to give anything away.
Chelsea’s front 3 was drifting all over the place and drifting into each other’s spaces, making the play unstructured and incohesive. United crowded out the midfield, meaning buildup for Chelsea relied on the wing-backs beating 2 or 3 men to get the ball to an attacker. 15 minutes into the game and neither side had produced anything tangible. The first 30 minutes was devoid of action except for when Mendy almost put the ball in his net with a back pass.
Christian Pulisic would take a shot in the 32nd minute, but it was comfortable for David De Gea. Pulisic would fire another shot that took a deflection and went out for a corner. From the resulting corner, Harry McGuire withheld Azpilicueta from a ball that was coming to his head – as clear as a penalty can be. Var did not give it a second thought before they dismissed the case. Pundits, fans, and many others agree that it should have been a penalty.
Chelsea got caught out on the counter with Rashford (MBE) 1v1 against Mendy. The Senegalese international stuck out a leg to keep his side in the game. United players were getting into the game after almost half an hour of domination from Chelsea. Shaw received a yellow for pulling James almost 3 times in one move. There was a fine Juan Mata shot that Mendy palmed away in the 40th minute after which there was a yellow for Havertz.
Both teams continued to struggle to create anything meaningful as they were scared of giving anything away behind them. By the 54th minute, nothing had happened. OGS blinked first. He took Mata and James off for Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani. A short United corner ends back with Fernandes, and his cross gets a deft touch from Cavani which almost beats Mendy at the near post. The best chance for Chelsea came from a delicious Reece James cross which McGuire managed to turn away from the incoming Pulisic on 59.
The game continued its drabness as Havertz and Werner off for Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount on 72. Still, nothing to report but tackles, with Rashford receiving a yellow. A free-kick routine between Hakim Ziyech (on for Pulisic) and James ends with a cross that Fred clears, almost directing the ball to his own goal post. The resulting corner is skied by Jorginho on the volley.
From then till the end, it became United’s attack versus Chelsea’s defense. Silva blocked a Cavani shot and moments later Mendy pulled off a save at full stretch to deny Rashford. Game over. First back to back clean sheet for Chelsea and a first for United this season.
The game lacked in quality. It was not from the players on the pitch, but from the lack of quality in both dugouts. Their approach sucked and made the game a poor showing. Chelsea’s front 3 did not manage any cohesive attack, while United’s attack was also unstructured and poor. Poor passes everywhere and the constant changing of shapes from both managers meant the players lacked clear ideas with and without the ball. A cagey affair that ended with both sides sharing the points. The best players from the game came from the defense of both sides. That shows how the tie went. Poor and uninspiring from both sides. This used to be the zenith of English football, shame what it has become.