Manchester United concede in the last minute as Eden Hazard scores a penalty for Chelsea
Manchester United and Chelsea were again involved in another thrilling encounter, with the London club advancing to the next round of the League Cup. Chelsea came back three times to draw level in normal time, whilst taking the advantage in extra time after the introduction of Eden Hazard and Oscar. United fielded a mix of players, although at right back Rafael was the most experienced player in the United defence – with Wootton, Keane and Buttner making up the other three positions. Here we discuss the main talking points from the game and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
United’s shape, flexibility and squad depth
United lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with, a midfield trio of Fletcher, Anderson and Giggs – who captained the side. Hernandez was the lone frontman supported by Nani on the right an Welbeck on the left. Anderson’s bursts forward weren’t tracked by the labouring Romeu, whilst Ryan Giggs was box to box all night, providing cover with Fletcher and support for Hernandez – a truly exceptional performance, topped off with two goals.
United’s shift from a diamond against Braga to a 4-4-2 against Chelsea on Sunday highlights the flexibility of this United side to adapt game to game, as seen by Sir Alex Ferguson. For all the negativity around United’s central midfield from some United fans, both Ryan Giggs and Anderson, who I thought was MOTM, were exceptional all night. Anderson’s performance (covered in detail later in this blog) should put him inline for inclusion against Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime, which means competition for Carrick, Scholes and Cleverley for a starting berth.
Young centre back pairing
With neither Smalling nor Jones ready to return to competitive football just yet, Fergie wasn’t going to risk injury to Rio or Evans ahead of Arsenal’s visit on Saturday. He opted to pair Scott Wootton (21) and Michael Keane (19) together at the heart of United’s defence. Scott has recently been a substitute for the first team whilst Michael has been playing for the U21s.
Both centre backs did many things well. Unlike the Newcastle tie where they were faced with physicality, this time they came up against guile and trickery, particularly when Chelsea brought Oscar and Hazard on to join Mata. When high balls were played forward, both were good in the air and won most of their headers. Neither player is particularly quick and at times they were caught out on the turn – particularly Scott, but with the help of Fletcher, they coped admirably despite shipping five goals.
Scott may well be disappointed – he gave away a penalty and gifted Daniel Sturridge a goal. His lack of composure and concentration is something he can only work on but I stand by a long-held stance that he isn’t and never will be good enough for United. That’s nothing against him at all as few players are lucky enough to even play for the first team but at 21 he needs to go to a football league club to play regularly and start a new chapter in his career.
Michael though was superb. He showed some incredible maturity at times and his reading of situations was brilliant. On the ball he was outstanding – spending the 2010/11 at right back has clearly benefited him in that respect. He’s not 20 until the new year but the club must surely be looking at getting a good loan spell for him. He’s a good height and does still need to fill out a bit but should the centre back injuries continue, he must surely be ahead of Wootton at least now.
(It’s also worth noting that defending clearly doesn’t come naturally to Buttner. If you’ve called for him to be ahead of Evra then you need to give your head a good wobble.)
Anderson, you tease
Every now and again it looks as though United may have part of an answer to the old central midfield issue. Anderson has an impressive ability to put in a teasing performance from time to time that just gets you thinking.
Against Chelsea, he put in 65 minutes of football that hinted at his form in his first season. Full of energy, going box-to-box, he was not only excellent in possession but superb at carrying the ball from deep into attacking areas. In fact, he was directly involved in most of United’s best moves including some of the goals. His dominant central display, aided somewhat by bookings to both Mikel and Romeu, was something of a statement – he’s hardly featured this season despite being fit.
The issue, and it won’t surprise anyone, is his fitness. It’s embarrassing that a professional footballer should be blowing so hard after an hour. He eventually had to sub himself due to exhaustion, signalling to the bench after 75 minutes that he had to go off. Fletcher (missed nearly a year) and Giggs (nearly 39) both completed 120 minutes with ease and although Anderson clearly has a less naturally fit metabolism/physique compared to the, it’s appalling that they could outlast him with ease.
(click to enlarge image)
Buttner’s challenge on Moses was a clear penalty, which was given and converted:
For me, all four were penalty kicks.
Chanting and atmosphere
Over 6,200 United fans in one stand at Chelsea made for a brilliantly entertaining evening. Away games in domestic cups always seem to bring out a raucousness in us – some things like the flares will be criticised but they make for a great atmosphere.
Given recent events there were some fabulous chants to do with Mark Clattenburg and blaming referees – all said purely to wind Chelsea fans up (and it probably worked). One thing I hadn’t quite really noticed until Sunday was just how sterile Stamford Bridge is (it’s nearly as bad as Old Trafford) – silence, they score, they make noise for two minutes, then silence again. Modern football really is a sad state of affairs at times.
Meanwhile, singing “you only sing when you’re winning” to the United fans when you go 4-3 up… oh the irony!
It’s all a bit of fun though!
In a thrilling encounter, Chelsea advance to the next round after taking control in extra time. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United will be deeply disappointed that the team couldn’t hold out in normal time, however the inexperienced Scott Wotten’s challenge on substitute Ramires allowed Chelsea a last gasp equalizer, scored by Eden Hazard. Chelsea’s quality improved in the second half after the introduction of Hazard, Oscar and Ramires. Mikel and Romeu could not cope with the surging Anderson and the Spaniards hesitation on the ball led to United’s opener, converted by the high pressing Ryan Giggs.
As mention in the article, Buttner’s challenge on Moses was a clear penalty, converted by David Luiz. The Brazilian defender was then at fault for United’s second as he lost the ball after stepping into midfield, leaving gaps at the back. Anderson’s superb through ball found Hernandez, who slotted home perfectly. After the break, Cahill equalizer with a great header from a corner. United had looked unorganised from corners in the second half, however there was no doubting the quality of the header – that was well over the line after Rafael’s failed clearance.
United’s third was exceptional, with Nani and Anderson linking up in the Chelsea box for the Portuguese to chip the ball over the advancing Peter Cech. A trademark finish from Nani. It looked as if United were going to advance to the next round, however Hazard scored a last gasp penalty – confidently rolling the ball down the centre of the goal. It was a blow to United having done so well in normal time.
Chelsea’s class showed in extra time, with Mata, Oscar and Hazard pulling the string behind the wasteful Daniel Sturridge. However, it was the Chelsea young forward who put the Londoners in the lead for the first time, following a mistake from Scott Wootton, who attempt to header the ball back to Anders Lindegaard, only for the ball to fall way short of his intended target. Before the game many fans would have welcomed the introduction of United’s youngsters, knowing only too well that this would be an invaluable experience. The young defender will not doubt learn from his mistakes. Ramires made it 5-3, after a superb ball from Hazard found the galloping Brazilian, who proceed to round Lindegaard. Ryan Giggs tucked away a penalty, following a blatant foul on Hernandez to make it 5-4. United couldn’t find an equalizer as the game drew to a close. Thankfully, many were talking about the football until pictures emerged of a Chelsea fan making a monkey gesture towards Danny Welbeck.
United host Arsenal on Saturday and will hope to build on their recent 3-2 victory over Chelsea from last Sunday.