The more games in a row your team wins, the more frustrating it becomes when this streak eventually comes to an end. This is the only real reason Chelsea fans should be annoyed with the result of this game.
Having initially lost 4-0 to Manchester United in the very first game of the season, things have generally been going from strength-to-strength at Stamford Bridge. Both teams headed into this game with some semblance of form; Chelsea were in a better position on paper having won their last seven games, but the sky above Old Trafford has been looking brighter as of late after the side recorded two away wins at Partizan and Norwich City.
Heading into the game it seemed clear that the two managers had potentially placed a different value on the cup. Frank Lampard opted for a clear focus on youth with six changes in total from the weekend. Meanwhile, Solskjaer named possibly the strongest XI he had available with their being a clear objective of maintaining the sides away form.
To be completely honest, the fixture might quite possibly be one of the least encapsulating games I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The first halve certainly lacked a lot of quality and the only real stand-out moment was the goal.
Having already left a pass short to his teammate, things would get worse for Marcos Alonso as he clumsily fouled Manchester United winger Daniel James in the box. The contact was soft, but with no VAR in the competition a penalty was given. Despite the side missing numerous penalties this season, Rashford sent Willy Caballero the wrong way and calmly dispatched from the spot.
Half-time chatter in the concourse couldn’t have been any further away from the game at Stamford Bridge with fans glued to the TVs showing the vastly superior Arsenal versus Liverpool cup tie.
In the 61st minute, Chelsea did get themselves back into the game through Michy Batshuayi. You could’ve been forgiven for mistaking him for Diego Costa in the whole thing as he took down a long ball and drove at the United defence, smashing it beyond an outstretched Romero into the bottom corner. Despite its brilliance, it wouldn’t even be the goal of the night.
Having been introduced to the game just moments before, Pedro somewhat needlessly gave a free kick away. Not to worry though, it was so far out that surely it wouldn’t pose a threat of any kind?
How foolish I was to think this.
I’d seen Rashford step up to these free-kick’s hundreds of times, normally the only person in danger would be a fan behind the goal. On this occasion however, he couldn’t have struck it any more perfectly if he tried a million times. The ball moved all over the place and nestled into the top left corner of the goal. Certainly one of the finer goals a visiting player has scored at Stamford Bridge and undoubtedly worthy of securing the win for his side.
I completely back Franks decision to play so many of the young players for this game. Experience in a game of this importance against Manchester United will have done wonders for their development. I do think, however, that the type of players in the lineup did heavily restrict our ability to play some of our best football.
Whilst Michy Batshuayi’s goal was a moment of absolute brilliance from the eccentric Belgian, the difference between him and Giroud/Tammy was night and day. Tammy and Giroud are able to offer so much more in terms of hold-up and bringing the players around them into the game. Several times on Wednesday, the ball was lumped up long to Michy Batshuayi and he simply wasn’t able to do anything with it, sloppily giving it away. I think he’s always been more of a finisher, and the way we set up on Wednesday did expose his weaknesses.
The midfield trio of Kovacic, Jorginho and Gilmour would’ve been perfect if we’d been able to find ourselves with a little more control of the game. From this position they would’ve been able to effortlessly transfer the ball between themselves, waiting for the right moment to strike a killer ball to the Chelsea forwards. What this game highlighted most of all was the impact Mason Mount has on this side, his pressing is invaluable and I don’t think we’ll see many lineups this season without him. However, with Watford on Saturday and Ajax on Tuesday it does make sense he was given a rest for this game.
Overall, I thought the youth were excellent again and more than justified their selection in the side. Marc Guehi was commanding from the back and Reece James was superb at right back. He certainly is beginning to look like the real deal and I don’t think we’re too far away from seeing him start a Premier League game. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised, after his poor performance in this game, to see Marcos Alonso dropped. This would allow Cesar Azpilicueta to play at left back whilst we await Emerson’s return to the side and give Reece his chance.
Generally, I don’t think you’ll find too many Chelsea fans upset now over the result. What hurts more than anything was that it was at the hands of Manchester United, this game would’ve been the perfect chance to avenge the opening day of the season. Having made six changes from Chelsea’s away win at Turf Moor, it seems obvious to me that Frank was willing to potentially head out of the cup. That’s certainly not to say he deliberately put out a weaker side though, I believe he wanted to continue to give the young players good minutes. If we had won on Wednesday then great, players such as Gilmour continue to get good game time in a competition. If not? That’s potentially four fewer games the side has to play and also means we get a midweek fixture removed as we head into a tricky Christmas period.
Whilst the win was a great result for Manchester United, particularly in continuing to build form, I can’t help but feel it has merely papered over more cracks. Once again, they only scored through set pieces and their movement and passing in open play left a lot to be desired.
If we win away at Vicarage Road on Saturday, then any pain left from this loss will be swiftly removed.