Manchester United were no match for Chelsea yesterday afternoon at Stamford Bridge. We look at what we learned from the game.
Jones is no match for Luiz in a midfield role
Both teams drafted centre-backs into midfield but while David Luiz has the skill and experience to make the transition, Phil Jones had a slightly harder afternoon. Although he did make Javier Hernandez’s consolation goal, he was a lonely bystander, in attack and defence.
Chelsea’s first goal started with Samuel Eto’o skipping away from Jones on the edge of the box, the second after Jones thoughtlessly gave away a free-kick by fouling Willian. In mitigation, this was Jones’s first game back after four weeks out, and away at Chelsea. The fact that United had to turn to him in central midfield is their real problem.
At 18, Januzaj is United’s best attacking player
Among all the mediocrity and predictably on show from United, Adnan Januzaj once again stood out, far superior to all of his older, more experienced team-mates. Almost everything good that United did came from the 18-year-old, drifting behind their lone striker Danny Welbeck.
Januzaj was brilliant at finding space, producing two perfect crosses from the left, the second of which Welbeck should have converted. He will need Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie to return to the team to have his creativity fully rewarded. For now he has to cope with the heavy weight of being Manchester United’s best attacking player.
Thrilling Willian is just the direct threat Mourinho likes
Willian might not be quite as graceful or subtle as Juan Mata, but he is making it increasingly clear why he is the right man for Jose Mourinho’s new Chelsea team. Willian does not control or dictate the game like Mata but – like Eden Hazard on the other wing – he is a thrilling counter-attacker, able to tear through defences.
On Sunday he was a menace, bursting forward whenever in possession, skipping past Jones and Rafael more than once. That type of direct threat can unsettle any opposition, and is how Mourinho wants to construct his side.
Vidic couldn’t keep up with Eto’o – in 2009 or now
The last time Nemanja Vidic and Samuel Eto’o met was nearly five years ago, in Rome. That night Eto’o skipped past Vidic to put Barcelona 1-0 up in the Champions League final. Last night was not much more enjoyable for Vidic, one of his worst games in years.
He could not keep up with Eto’o or Hazard and the collective defending – his responsibility as captain – was dismal, Eto’o free to score the second and third. The tackle on Hazard for which Vidic was sent off was a picture of tiredness and frustration. Poor as he was, though, his being suspended is worse for United.
United under Moyes lack Fergie’s comeback power
Almost exactly two years ago, Chelsea went 3-0 up early in the second half at Stamford Bridge, only for Manchester United to surge back into the game and draw 3-3. Eight of the players who started for United that day started on Sunday, but the big change has obviously been off the pitch.
United, in the post-Ferguson era, do not have the same reserves of courage and belief that helped them to come from behind as well as they used to do.
Even when Javier Hernandez scored last night, it only ever felt like a futile consolation.