Poor Chelsea slump to unimpressive defeat at Old Trafford
Chelsea slumped to another defeat and blew the title race open once again with a poor performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The Blues never got going in a game that was defined by an early goal for Marcus Rashford.
The forward ran onto a long pass and slotted under the onrushing Asmir Begovic to give the Red Devils the lead, and Jose Mourinho’s men never looked back, shutting down the game and scoring a second to seal the points and a modicum or revenge for the Portuguese manager.
Replays showed that Ander Herrera had controlled the ball with his arm before playing in young England forward Rashford, but complaints were muted as Chelsea failed to perform across the pitch.
Chelsea were disrupted on the morning of the game by news that Thibaut Courtois would not be fit after picking up an ankle injury, and there was further bad news when Marcos Alonso pulled out of the warmup after feeling unwell.
This prompted a reshuffle in the back 5, and just as when Victor Moses missed the Crystal Palace game through injury, shifting the delicately balanced defensive structure proved costly. Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpilucueta and Moses all played at right back at different points, with none of them looking comfortable in attack or defence, while the absence of Alonso on the left drained any attacking impetus down that side.
N’Golo Kante battled in midfield but was overwhelmed by the superb Ander Herrera, and Diego Costa had another stinker up front. After a string of poor games from the Brazilian, there are now genuine concerns about starting him this weekend at Spurs.
United played well and defended superbly, finally getting a second through a deflected strike from Herrera, who deserved no less for a great display. Their shape and structure restricted Chelsea’s attacking intent in key areas, and Jose Mourinho will have been satisfied to remind fans of his old club that he can still outwit the very best managers tactically on his day.
The Blues turned to their star man Eden Hazard to try and pull them back into the game, but even the sparkling Belgian was unable to find the moment to turn this sorry performance around. While a couple of refereeing calls could have gone against United, nobody at Cobham this week will be blaming Bobby Madeley given the poor performances throughout the Chelsea team.
With six games to go, the Blues are now just 4 points clear of Tottenham with inferior goal difference, and what looked like a certain title is now feeling a long way off. This weekend’s clash with Spurs is growing in importance by the day.