Five things we learned from Chelsea's win over Manchester United
Eden Hazard is a certainty for Player of the Year award
Eden Hazard struck again as Chelsea put one hand on the Premier League title at Stamford Bridge today. The Belgian magician is surely a certainty to win the Player of the Year award. Here are five things we learned from today's match.
An experienced centre-half could be the making of Paddy McNair
Louis van Gaal appears to have unearthed a rough diamond in Paddy McNair, the 19-year-old centre-half who made his 15th appearance of the season for Manchester United against Chelsea.
An unknown when he was thrown in at the deep end due to an injury crisis last September, McNair has quietly impressed in his debut campaign and earned himself a new contract as a result.
Having played against Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea this season, the Northern Irishman has been exposed to the best opponents, but next season will be key for his development.
If United can sign a world-class defender such as Mats Hummels this season, McNair could benefit hugely from his experience.
Eden Hazard has escaped the Chelsea form slump
When Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead in the 39th minute, it was almost inevitable that the Belgian would be the man to make the breakthrough.
While the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and Diego Costa have suffered a loss of form during the second half of this season, Hazard has kept his foot on the pedal and justified his status as front-runner for the Footballer of the Year awards.
Hazard’s opener against United was his fifth for Chelsea since the beginning of March and it was a finish of the highest quality, with the 24-year-old rolling the ball between goalkeeper David de Gea’s legs.
But for Hazard, Jose Mourinho’s team may have found themselves facing an anxious title run-in.
Luke Shaw is finally showing glimpses of his potential
Luke Shaw has endured a miserable first campaign at Manchester United following his £28m summer arrival from Southampton due to injuries, lack of fitness and a series of below-par performances.
The 19-year-old only returned to the team after a six-week absence against Chelsea because of an injury to Daley Blind, but he certainly made the most of his chance at Stamford Bridge.
Shaw was a constant threat down the left-flank, displaying the pace, power and attacking abilities that prompted United to sign him.
The England defender also looked sharp and focused defensively in what was, by some distance, his best performance in a United shirt.
The Premier League is too demanding for Falcao
Andrei Shevchenko was a guest of Roman Abramovich for this game and the former Chelsea forward would undoubtedly have shared the pain of Radamel Falcao as the Manchester United striker endured another difficult 90 minutes for his club.
Due to injuries forcing Wayne Rooney into midfield, Falcao made his first start since the end of February, but he rarely looked like adding to his paltry four goals for United.
The Colombian is a willing runner and is blessed with incredible movement, but aside from a snapshot blocked by Gary Cahill and a left-foot strike against woodwork, he struggled to get behind the Chelsea back four.
Like Shevchenko at Chelsea, it appears as though the pace and physical demands of the Premier League are too much for Falcao.
This fixture will be a title battle next season
Barring a catastrophic collapse over the final six games of the season, Chelsea will be crowned champions and deservedly so, but United’s performance in this game saw Louis van Gaal’s team lay down a marker for the 2015-16 title race.
United dominated this game for lengthy spells, despite being without four key players, and will consider themselves unfortunate to have lost.
But with United set to spend big again this summer, the progress made by Van Gaal’s team in recent weeks suggests they will be serious challengers next season.
Chelsea will win the league by some distance this term, but with United - and Arsenal - making positive strides, this fixture will carry much more significance next term.