1. United have generally played well and obtained results this season against top ten opposition. This was United’s third win against Chelsea this season and two of those came at Stamford Bridge, a stadium which for a long time going back to the peak of the Ferguson’s teams we seemed unable to perforate. Credit to Ole for preparing excellent game plans time and again. This factor has to be underlined when considering that particularly against the top teams, Ole is facing some of the best managers around and most of the time, much more experienced in the game than him. Long may this trait against the top teams continue. We now have to find a way to break down ‘lesser’ teams. Hopefully Bruno will help in this area. He certainly seems to be able to pick out passes that matter.
2. The defence looked shaky in the first half, especially in the first fifteen minutes. The whole team struggled initially, as if they needed to shake off the rustiness of a two-week absence from the competitive scene. Also, the three at the back welcomed back Eric Bailly after a long absence and it took them some time to gel together. Yet, all three central defenders were good. Bailly was back to his robust tackles and no nonsense defending, in a system which suits him perfectly. Maguire marshalled the defence well and scored a long-awaited goal (in the league) with a bullet of a header that would have been unstoppable for any keeper. Shaw was however my pick from the three, if I had to choose the one defender that shone most today. He defended very well against Pedro or Willian and except for one misjudgement in the second half, he was impeccable. On top of his defending, he also found time to come out with the ball on quite a few occasions and that was crucial for the team to relieve the pressure on the team. A clean sheet was really the cherry on the cake.
3. This win against Chelsea was significant, almost key to United’s efforts to secure fourth place (or fifth) in the league and secure Champions League football next season. We are now just three points from Chelsea in fourth place, two from Spurs and a solitary point behind Sheffield United. The second half of March might well be determinant on whether we manage to achieve the target. In those two weeks, we play City at home, Spurs away and Sheffield at home. Those matches are followed by a decent looking run-in, at least on paper. I’m hopeful. Believe…
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