United 1 - 1 Chelsea
Rafael Smalling Rojo Shaw
Januzaj Fellaini Blind Di Maria
Another good performance and yet another late equaliser; LVG seems to be instilling a fighting mentality into our players. After last year’s debacle, it is good to finally see our players not giving up when chasing a result. In the space of 7 days, we’ve won 2 points from two matches in which we were trailing until the dying minutes. I remember last year I went to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play against Everton. We lost that game by a goal but we failed to record a single shot on target during the final 20 minutes, if I’m not mistaken. We gave up on a handful of other games too without really putting up a fight. Today we knew we were playing the best team in England but we didn’t fear them and played quite well. LVG’s tactics were spot on.
So, how did we do in defence?
|Good Game Smalling|
First thing I learned on Saturday was that Jones was out of the reckoning for Chelsea’s game due to injury. What the fuck is this guy made of? Can’t he handle a game per week?! Thankfully, I don’t think we really missed Jones today. His replacement, Smalling, was excellent. Smalling gets a lot of criticism but I still think that he’s a very good defender. OK, he’s no Vida or Rio in their prime but he’s not as bad as some people make him out to be. He’s prone to that stupid decision every now and then but then again, each and every defender we’ve got is prone to a rash decision that could fuck up a good performance. Rafael is the undisputed king of rash decisions. One moment he’s doing extremely well and then he does something that makes you forget all the good he’s done throughout the game. Unfortunately, there’s no room for error if you’re a defender (and goalie!). Perhaps that’s why the likes of Rafael, Smalling and Evans have been severely criticised in the past. Anyway, our other central defender Rojo was decent but he still hasn’t come to grips with the physicality of the Premier League. There’s much room for improvement if he’s to keep playing at centre back. Rafael had a good game but the goal we conceded was due to him not marking Drogba properly. Having said that, I don’t think it’s his fault that our manager served him up in a mismatched aerial contest v Drogba. To be fair though, Chelsea is a team full of 6ft players so I think we ran out of tall makers. Shaw had his best game in a United shirt. He seems to have established a good understanding with Januzaj and looked threatening going forward. What’s more important is that he did his defensive duties with no fault. He said last week that he’s not playing to his full potential and I think that this game was the first step towards transforming to a Manchester United full back from a Southampton player. Well done.
Midfield? I was a tad disappointed with three of our midfielders. Blind lost his battle with Matic while Mata never controlled the game. I know that LVG said that Roo will have to work for his place if he wants to get back into the starting XI but Mata had a chance to cement a place in this team and missed it. Roo will walk into the team for the derby this Sunday. Di Maria was marked out of the game and made some poor deliveries. He still managed an assist though and that’s the trait of a very good footballer. Januzaj had a good game, he caused Chelsea plenty of headaches. He still needs to improve his decision making though.
|Man of the Match Again|
Fellaini was our best player. At the start of this season, I wouldn't have dreamt that Fellaini would be our best player in a game against Chelsea. He’s excelled from a player who was surplus to requirements to a player that could contribute towards our task of returning amongst the top four. All in the space of a week. The Fellaini we saw vs Chelsea was the same one we got used to see bully midfielders when playing for Everton. Fellaini marked Fabregas out of the game. He was powerful and committed. He went agonizingly close to scoring his second goal for United but his bullet header was well saved by Courtois. Luckily, the rebound fell to RVP who scored the leveller. I’d be surprised if he’s not involved in the derby on Sunday. Well played.
At the front, RVP had some decent attempts saved by Chelsea’s excellent goalie. His efforts were rewarded on the 94th minute when he scored the leveller. This is not the van Persie of two years ago though. He’s not as sharp as he used to be, otherwise he would have got a couple of goals in this game.
Going back to the other side of the field, De Gea made a world class save once again only to concede a goal from the resulting corner. Unlucky. There’s nothing he could have done about the goal conceded.
|Were our celebrations over the top? Or were they justified?|
So what’s my overall opinion on the game? I’m quite satisfied. Chelsea didn’t do much damage. Their goal could have been avoided and considering we had two world class strikers missing, we did pretty well on the attacking front. Our defence did well, but then again, the league's best striker (Costa) wasn't playing in this game. I’ve got some mixed feelings on end of the game. I was obviously pleased to see RVP score the goal but on one hand I was delighted to see the boys celebrate the goal like they did. It showed what the goal meant to our players. On the other hand I thought the celebrations were a bit over the top. Old Trafford celebrated as if we won the game. We did not win the game. We only won one point. Granted, it was against an excellent Chelsea side, but still, we are Manchester United, we were playing at Old Trafford and we shouldn’t be celebrating a point as if we won the league. That's what I call "the small club syndrome".
Can we beat City at the Etihad? Yes, we can but it depends on which Manchester City and which Manchester United turn up on Sunday. Both teams are quite unpredictable this year. Come on United! Time to get our first away win of the season!
"It's just a process and we are now in the middle of that process. It's getting better every day, we are improving all the time. Today showed that." Robin van Persie