United convincingly silenced Chelsea and tactically humiliated the league leaders as Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera scored in the 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Sunday evening.
Rashford, starting upfront while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was left on the bench, got the scoring underway by getting on the end of a Herrera throughball in the seventh minute, beating David Luiz for pace and slotting home past Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic. After assisting Rashford for the first, Herrera got on the scoresheet himself after his shot was deflected and beat Begovic in the second half.
United were brilliant throughout. The front pairing with best mates Rashford and Lingard troubled the three-man Chelsea defence right from the off. Herrera delivered a man of the match performance by completely eliminating Eden Hazard from the game. The Belgian only managed to create one chance throughout the game and it was the first game this season Hazard didn’t dribble anyone. Herrera man-marked him to perfection from the first to the last blow of the whistle.
It’s fair to say Mourinho got his tactics spot on. Setting up the team to play similarly as at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup at the start of last month, the Chelsea attack was neutralized and didn’t even manage a shot on target for the first time in a decade, also then against United.
All eleven players were on point. Fellaini and Pogba brilliantly pulled the strings in the midfield, while Bailly and Rojo dealt with a frustrated Brazilian-Spaniard in Diego Costa. Darmian man-marked Pedro, who hardly touched the ball due to the Italian closing him down every single time. Valencia covered the whole of the right flank, not being fazed by Herrera and Hazard when the latter occasionally drifted wide to shake off the former.
On the left, Ashley Young – the captain on the day – had the freedom to drift inside and he had a couple of attempts but unfortunately for the hardworking winger he didn’t bring his shooting boots.
There was an early warning for Chelsea that they had a proper game on their hands. Unbeaten against United in their last 12 in all competitions, they looked shocked by the hosts’ high pressure and the first opportunity of the match arose when Lingard closed down Luiz and Rashford was through. The teenager sliced his shot and it went wide.
Minutes later a poor clearance from De Gea was picked up by Matic in the centre of the pitch. Deciding to let go of Hazard for a moment, Herrera intercepted Matic’s pass, brought the ball ten yards forward and released a pin-point accurate pass along the floor to Rashford who this time opened the scoring, arguably after one of the assists of the season.
The first 20 minutes it was all United and Rashford was a little unlucky not to get a toe to Young’s cross from the left. Unmarked in the box, he was left to see the ball fly wide of the far post a couple of yards in front of him.
Young then had a great chance of doubling the lead after great work from Rashford down the right. From 18 yards he scuffed his shot and his attempt went wide.
Rashford was incredible throughout. In fairness, it was probably he’s best all-round performance in a United shirt – especially this season. Time and time again he shrugged off Luiz, Kante and Cahill, holding up the ball, creating chances for himself and others, as well as threatening the space behind Chelsea’s defence. Some eyebrows in Sky Sports’ studio were raised by the youngsters sheer strength and power.
In the opening exchanges of the second half, United were on the front-foot again. Down the left flank, Young delivered a cross that was cleared back out his way. Kante received the clearance up, before Young picked his pocket and found Herrera at the edge of the box. Herrera had a shot and the ball flew in off Kurt Zouma.
It could’ve been three, four or even five on the day, with Lingard missing a decent chance from 20 yards and Rashford nearly finding the near top corner after a pass by substitute Carrick.
With ten minutes left on the clock Rashford made way for Zlatan to a standing ovation at Old Trafford. It was nothing less than deserved after a brilliant performance.
The win moves United back up to fifth, within four points of Manchester City in fourth and six behind Liverpool with one and two games in hand on them respectively.