Chelsea 5-4 Manchester United: When money bought Class
Vindictive Chelsea got some semblance of revenge for their 2-3 loss to United as they repeatedly came from behind to finally win their Capital One Cup tie in extra time. There was poor defending on display yet again as at least five of the goals came from defensive errors of one form or the other.
Chelsea fielded five of the players who played against United on Sunday with Daniel Sturridge playing in front. Lucas Piazon featured on the left wing with talented new transfer Victor Moses on the right flank and Oriol Romeu playing in the centre. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand played as full backs on the right and left respectively.
Manchester United featured a very inexperienced defence as part of a team featuring a lot of non-regulars with Rafael as the only regular starter. Scott Wootton and Michael Keane played as the centre backs with promising Alexander Buttner as left back. Daniel Welbeck was stationed on left wing and Nani on right. Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Ryan Giggs brought up the midfield with Javier Hernandez the lone striker.
As was the case on Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson deployed the wide-men formula that he put to optimum use the last match. Chelsea, in a surprise move played Piazon and Moses, both of them wide attacking wingers, on the flanks with Mata and Mikel covering the entire midfield.
Since Ferguson had deployed what was essentially a reserve side, the possession began to fall steadily to Chelsea right from the start. The hosts were asking all the questions in the initial exchange as the United players found settling into a rhythm very difficult.
While it is true that at the end of the normal time the score was tied at 3-3 and that by itself should indicate an overall square encounter, the stats say otherwise.
While the dangerous trio of Mata-Oscar-Hazard mustered 17 shots on goal in between them, United could got 13 shots in total. This stat is made worse by the fact that Oscar and Hazard were substituted in after half time.
In all technicalities, Chelsea ruled the middle of the park after the half time and United could only find their attacks from the quick breaks they got once in a while.
MONEY AND CLASS
It is often said that money can never buy class, but Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner has been endeavouring for a long time to prove this wrong with his big spending ways throughout his tenure of ownership. Manager after manager, player after player, he’s bought everything that money could buy with most of his investments ending in frustration.
This time around though, he may just have done it by getting players who are not only young but also possess technical skills that are a class apart from the league.
Even when the United side worked very hard, hurried and harried every Chelsea player getting opportunities to break forward sometimes, the difference in class showed. Anderson had to physically impose himself to keep the ball, Fletcher had to constantly pass sideways to maintain possession while on the other hand Oscar simply turned and twisted, and kept steady control on challenges making it look so simple. Mata was peripheral with his vision and flawless technique and probed the inexperienced United defence mercilessly.
The last goal from Hazard’s counter was the perfect example of the individual skill difference. With minimal time remaining, Hazard picked up the ball on the halfway line, and ran directly at the United defense. Dumping Ryan Tunnicliffe to the ground with a tricky turn, he then threaded an impossible pass to Ramires, who found himself bearing down on Lindegaard’s goal with nobody else to stop him.
It is true that United have been criticised for their rather mechanical and non-creative approach in midfield. That much was glaringly obvious in this match as the United midfielders were outplayed in the middle but one must remember that the creative minds of the United lineup were not playing this match.
For Chelsea, though the result is good, their no-rotation policy has started to affect them as all three of their top midfielders were needed to beat a reserve United side.
The most important lesson that Nani perhaps learnt is that when your team is one goal up with just a minute to go, perhaps going solo and losing the ball is not such a good idea.