|Image from North Wales Live|
A massive result for Manchester United in the race for Top Four as they halved the gap from fourth to three points. The win pushed United up to seventh place as they put two headers past Chelsea at the Bridge to complete the first double over Chelsea in Premier League history. A slightly controversial win with VAR intervening twice to disallow two Chelsea goals as well as denying a potential red card for Harry Maguire.
Manchester United swapped to a back five as they have done against big teams with Eric Bailly coming in for the ill Victor Lindelof and slotting in alongside Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw as the back three. Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka acted as the wingbacks and would be required to offer width in attack and neutralise the Chelsea fullbacks. In midfield, Fred and the returning Matic sat in the pivot and Bruno Fernandes moved to number 10 as Andreas Pereira was rightfully benched. In attack, Greenwood was rested and sat next to new signing, Odion Ighalo while Daniel James and Anthony Martial made the attacking two. Chelsea kept Willy Caballero in goal for a second game running and kept the same back four that played against Leicester. With Kante and Jorginho retained in midfield, Mount was swapped for Kovacic and the injured Hudson-Odoi and Abraham were replaced by Willian and Batshuayi for his first Premier League start in two years.
Caballero, James, Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta (c), Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire (c), Shaw, Williams, Matic, Fred, Fernandes, James, Martial
Match Analysis:Manchester United started the game rockily as Chelsea piled on the pressure at home and could have scored a few times but efforts from James and Batshuayi failing to hit the target. Chelsea suffered a big loss with Kante being forced off after 12 minutes and Mason Mount being called upon earlier than expected. With 20 minutes having past, a collision with Maguire and Batshuayi left the United captain on the floor and he seemed to push his boot into Batshuayi’s groin. While VAR ruled this not to be a red card and Maguire himself claiming that it was a reaction to Batshuayi falling on him and preventing such with his foot, this was a controversila call as, when comparing it to the red card for Son earlier this season, should have remained consistent and sent the defender off. Nevertheless, United absorbed this pressure and got back into the game and late into the first half, good link-up between Fred and Wan-Bissaka gave the young fullback some space on the wing and he whipped in a fabulous ball and the predatory Anthony Martial glanced a header past Christensen and Caballero and scored for only the third time in 2020.
An injury to Christensen forced the Dane off at half time and Kurt Zouma replaced him as Chelsea’s second substitute and almost made an immediate impact five minutes in; the Frenchman seemed to have levelled the game with a sumptuous volley but VAR intervened as a push on Brandon Williams by Azpilicueta was deemed to be a clear and obvious foul in the build-up to the goal and Anthony Taylor cancelled the goal. A scrappy fifteen minutes followed with a series of bookings and Bruno Fernandes almost opened his account with an excellent freekick that hit the bottom of the post. He made up for it with a whipped corner that was blasted into the net by the slabhead skipper, Harry Maguire and United doubled their lead. Lampard reacted to this and took off Michy Batshuayi for Olivier Giroud as the Belgian was wasteful throughout the game and it is unlikely he will start for Chelsea again. United took in the Chelsea pressure and handled it well, even bringing on Andreas Pereira for Daniel James to help boost the midfield. Chelsea did create a few chances with Mason Mount hitting the post with a good freekick and Giroud having a goal rightly marked offside late on. United pressed Chelsea all game and won the ball high a few times and as a result of one of these , Ighalo missed a glorious chance for a debut goal but in the end, United bested Chelsea and won at the Bridge again. The last time Manchester United lost at the Bridge was in November 2017.
All in all a great performance and two clinical goals with fantastic assists. United needed that win and Chelsea may complain about the Maguire decision or even the foul on Brandon Williams but overall they were wasteful in attack and leaky in defence and United deserved the win. Solskjaer got his tactics right again and will want to carry this victory into the away game against Club Brugge.
David de Gea 7/10
Had a quiet night with nothing to do. Composed in the goal and seemed to have Mount’s effort covered and kept going despite injuring his shoulder as a result. Good passing into midfield and wide areas at times. Could do nothing about the chalked-off goals and will be delighted to get a rare clean sheet this season.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka 9/10
Fantastic defensively and a superb cross for the opener. Performed as he normally does in defence but took his attacking play up a gear. Can only improve more and has to be considered to compete with Alexander-Arnold in the Euros squad.
Eric Bailly 8.5/10
A couple of mistakes but for his first game since April, he played excellently and made me chuckle a few times with his skill and robust defending. Nevertheless, the Ivorian is back and could start against Club Brugge with the ill Lindelof unlikely to return and, if he remains fit, could compete for the starting role alongside Maguire.
Harry Maguire 9/10
Monster. Great defensive performance and good to see him score as well. Perhaps a bit lucky to stay on the pitch but the decision was reviewed by VAR so I don’t expect him to be banned. I’m not sure of the logic behind it but honestly, I don’t care right now.
Luke Shaw 8/10
Great display from Luke Shaw who has been criticised for his attacking play and has made that LCB position his own for the moment. A strong defensive player and can burst forward when swapping with Brandon Williams.
Brandon Williams 7.5/10
Solid defensively but needs to work on his attacking play. Got a bit lost at times in that wing-back role and is more suited to playing as a standard fullback.
Nemanja Matic 8/10
The unsung hero and badly missed against Wolves. Anchor today that allowed Fernandes and Fred to play more advanced. Will be vital to United’s success without McTominay and should he leave in the summer, he has to be properly replaced.
Magnificent performance from the Brazilian as he continues his good run of form. Got the team going and won the ball high up a few times and ought to have got a couple of assists.
Bruno Fernandes 8.5/10
While he has not quite flourished in this position yet, he is improving this side significantly by his prescence and was a master of set pieces. He was so close to scoring his first goal with a clever freekick but immediately made up for it with a fantastic corner to tee up Harry Maguire. He will be massively important for United against Watford on Sunday as they will be hard to break down.
Daniel James 7.5/10
Offered width and did look dangerous on the counter. The Chelsea players were wary of his pace and put two players on him at all times which allowed for spaces to form. He will want a goal very soon and ought to start in Belgium.
Anthony Martial 8.5/10
While he may have been quiet for most the game, he came up with the goods and a great header. Offered a lot as a target man at times and drifted wide to try and create a few chances.
Andreas Pereira 6/10
Did nothing wrong which is amazing in itself but had very little time to do anything at all.
Odion Ighalo 6/10
So close to oepning his account for United but Caballero came out well and snuffed out his chance. Other than that he was strong and energetic to try and hold the ball up.
Diogo Dalot N/A
Came on with minutes remaining.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 9/10
Got his tactics bang on as the counter worked and the back five allowed United to defend well and surge forward with the ball. Would have been nice to see Ighalo earlier on but just nit-picking here and there. The defenders were a bit nervy at times but it worked very well for the most part. He has beaten Lampard three times this season and should have established himself as tactically-apt manager by now.
Anthony Taylor 5/10
Made a few bad calls with Willian’s ‘dive’ and the handbags with Zouma’s challenge and rarely let the game go smoothly as he blew for every little foul instead of playing advantage. The Maguire issue is a big one that he, for consistency with the Son red card, should have had a look at but failed to do so and relied just on what was said in his ear.