Reaction as United defeat Chelsea in the first game of the season.
Well, that was a game of two halves, wasn’t it!
Conditions may have had a bearing but the quality was as low as entertainment was high in the first period. Chelsea were easily deserving of being level at the break and probably deserved the lead; the quality of their chances were better and their control of the game was much superior. The Blues are a team in transition but one thing Frank Lampard seems to have done well is school his team on exploiting the weakness of the opposition. In some regards, anyway.
Chelsea had most of the ball as United were almost non-existent in midfield and time and again the left side of defence was exploited. Luke Shaw’s poor first half performance didn’t help Harry Maguire who often looked as if he was defending last ditch. The positioning of the defence needs to be settled. Maguire evidently takes a deeper step in the defence and that is not necessarily an issue but one can’t help but think it’s a consequence of him having just a few days of training to get familiar with his new team-mates. A consequence of leaving the move until the last minute.
It is too difficult to be heavily critical of the sloppy play of Martial and Pogba because of the conditions. And, of course, their second half performances more than compensated.
United were fantastic in the second half, though that was more to do with energy and commitment than quality (though there were some moments of genuine quality). To be honest, it couldn’t have been better than that — those two elements were so often missing last season, and the quality will hopefully follow. In the second half, United pushed with the kind of aggression that we were used to seeing a few years ago. It was magnificent.
Perhaps some of it owed to Chelsea’s collapse as much as United’s own great effort. But considering they have been rightly panned for their dismal showings, they deserve praise when putting in a display like todays. There is no point suggesting it will be a great sign of things to come — it’s a great day, but let’s wait to assess where we go from here.
The signs of promise
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was excellent while Scott McTominay kept up his promising pre-season form with a hard-working performance where he showed some excellent positioning to disrupt Chelsea attacks.
The rule change on goal-kicks had the potential to provoke doubt in a United defence still trying to get to know each other but they were fairly composed; more composed than I was watching it. The aggression and perseverance in the second half was so encouraging, as was the cameo of Dan James.
As mentioned on our podcasts this week, it’s not so damning that Ole kept the deadwood so long as they aren’t playing. Smalling and Jones were not in the squad, nor was Rojo, and Matic and Young didn’t get on the pitch. If this is an indication that lessons have been learned it is arguably more of a boost than the win.
Much is made of United giving chances to kids but Chelsea are too. The reason for that is more out of necessity than choice but there was a reminder in there about the calibre of those players. Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham were lively and embarrassed more senior players in the first half; so maybe it’s worth remembering that Chelsea embarked on a record run of FA Youth Cups that is comparable with United’s own from the fifties, so, the quality is there.
United meanwhile have laboured at lower levels due to years of restructuring and misdirection, and the hope is on the shoulders of individuals like McTominay and Pereira who do not have a pedigree of success to compare with the Blues at the lower level. It is worth then putting that into some sort of perspective when thinking of what to expect from these younger United heads.
So pleasing then to see McTominay putting in the hard yards to compensate for any gap in talent, and Andreas Pereira putting in a solid shift.
Do United make any changes against Wolves?