match reviews

What we learned from Matchday 11 – Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0

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United’s wretched record at Stamford Bridge continues as the Red Devils were downed by a well-placed Morata header on Matchday 11; some talking points from the game are: 

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Jose’s tactics not to blame

Jose’s tactics are usually to blame when United fail to win, yet are accepted when there’s victory. Some have called for the manager to ditch the 3 CB system – blaming United’s defensive approach on the formation, despite Chelsea sweeping almost everyone aside last season using a similar tactic. Spurs have never been accused of playing defensively, yet they also play three CBs regularly. United appear defensive because the attack is clearly not gelling – players like Mikki are to blame for that not Jose’s tactics. The players on the pitch have as much responsibility to win a game as the manager. Jose can accuse his players of lacking the mentality to win titles – and he may be right – however, the reverse cannot be said to be the case. Summary being, Jose doesn’t have the players to be as competitive as he wants to be – perhaps the real reason behind his recent frustration.

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Jose’s tactics have been called into question severally especially regarding the use of Martial

United need Pogba

A recurring theme in United’s struggles is the ineffectiveness of the engine room, where Pogba’s absence has been severely felt across the team. The Frenchman’s absence has shown how short of quality the Red Devils actually are across the park. Herrera and Fellaini are United’s other senior CMs, but neither is capable of influencing a team the way the Frenchman does – despite Pogba lacking consistency.

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Herrera doing his best to “keep tabs” on the match-winner

The France international’s presence in the team gave Matic a dependable foil to carry the ball forward purposefully, another creative midfielder to share the load with Mikki. Most importantly, the former Juve star’s drive and vision to pick a pass from midfield opened up opportunities for the forwards. With Herrera and Mikki struggling to create anything and United’s ball retention appalling, there is increased workload on Matic – who really deserves a break or risks burning out soon. The midfielder is due back from injury soon and can’t come quicker because…..

Mikki’s form a real concern

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The Armenian’s form has dipped terribly over the past month

As has been noted more than a few times in recent weeks, Mkhitaryan has gone off the boil. The former BVB forward struggled in his debut season, prompting Jose’s special treatment – which appeared to work with Mikki starting the season in sparkling form. However, the player who dazzled in the opening weeks was nowhere in sight against Chelsea – nor has he been seen since the last international break. The player’s role in Jose’s 3-4-1-2 formation is VERY crucial as the fulcrum of the attack behind the strikers. The Armenian can be largely blamed for United’s blunt offense. There have been moments of brilliance from the forward over two seasons, but those have been few and far between. Surprisingly, Jose has yet to pick on Mikki’s lack of impact.

Matic shines despite result

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Matic was unable to turn the tide against his former employers despite putting in a decent shift

A Chelsea fan declared United should be happy to have conceded just the solitary goal having conceded four last year. There is some logic to his comment as the Red Devils neither played substantially worse nor better than last year. However, the key difference being the odds had evened out slightly in United’s favour – and Matic switching allegiances could be directly responsible. The Serbian wasn’t at his best, as United’s midfield trio which included Herrera and Mikki were clearly outclassed, but he definitely stood out for United regardless. There is no doubt the defeat would have been much heavier was Matic in Blue on Sunday evening.

United not title favorites

Just weeks ago, it appeared the only team capable of stopping United was Man City. However the chips are beginning to fall into place in the EPL, and it now appears there may not be any team capable of stopping City in their current form. United on the other hand look a shadow of the side that started the season on fire, with injuries and loss of form gradually taking its toll. United have never had it easy at Stamford Bridge so the result in isolation has no real bearing on United’s destiny. Yet the pace at which City are flying in comparison to United’s inconsistent results means there can be only one realistic title favorite among the two. A City collapse cannot be ruled out especially if KDB suffers any injuries, however, the quality of the Pep’s team means they are the current standard bearers of the EPL. Presently, United look capable of finishing no higher than third.

Morata trumps Lukaku for now

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Lukaku’s new look did nothing to improve his fortunes in front of goal

The situation surrounding the summer transfers of the two big money strikers on show is well documented, as well as the banter between both sets of supporters over who got the better deal/player. Both strikers had started well for their respective sides but hit a scoring drought. However, as it panned out, Morata delivered on the day it mattered, while Lukaku was a peripheral figure for most of the game. One game will not determine who proves to be a better signing, yet there is a fear from United’s perspective that the quality of Lukaku’s teammates (and service) will determine how effective a striker the Belgian proves to be. However with Morata, there will always be fears of a return to Spain – with Benzema’s future and form increasingly under scrutiny.

International break at the right time

International breaks are usually unwelcome – especially on the back of a defeat, as a positive “next result” can change the mood quickly. However, this break couldn’t have been timed better for the Red Devils, with players and manager needing time for reflection, as well as recharging the batteries. United also have quite a few injuries which should start to subside following the two-week hiatus. The likes of Pogba, Rojo and a recently returned Fellaini should provide a timely boost.

Following the international break, United will be looking to bounce back as they play host to Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Matchday 12.

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