Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal said that the point against West Brom was the Red Devils best performance of the season. A statement short lived, as United put in another good shift against league leaders Chelsea.
It’s fair to say Manchester United were clear underdogs going into the game; not something you hear very often when teams visit Old Trafford. However, the underdog status seemed to spur United on. When Louis van Gaal first joined he said he needed three months before anybody began judging him and his United side, and signs of improvement are certainly starting to show. A great performance from the Reds saw them gain a justifiable point at Old Trafford.
Link up play
Things look like they were starting to click for Manchester United. Down the left flank summer signing Luke Shaw and fellow youngster Adnan Januzaj linked up nicely throughout, as they looked to get behind the Chelsea back-line. As well as this, United were also managing to deliver a number of crosses to their target man Robin van Persie, who managed to get a yard or two in front of John Terry on a number of occasions, and bring players like Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria into play; the sort of play we haven’t seen from Manchester United this season.
Let’s get physical
With a team that contains the likes of Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Didier Drogba, United knew they were in for a physical battle. However, they did step up when they needed to. Marouane Fellaini started in the heart of midfield and was very effective in attempting to take Cesc Fabregas out of the game. It seemed initially that Van Gaal was surprised by the importance of a physicality of the Premier League, but I believe we will see more of Fellaini in the near future.
Dangerous in attack
United were able to get a total of seventeen shots away, with seven hitting the target, compared to Chelsea’s seven shots. While some shots were rash, United were showing signs of creating more chances and a goal never looked far away. They kept pushing on until the final minute, which is when they found their late equaliser, showing a similar determination seen in United sides of old.
Nearly there, but not quite
This was by far United’s best performance so far this season, but they still showed that they can be exploited. They were much more physical throughout the 90 minutes, but will be kicking themselves for conceding Chelsea’s goal. As I previously mentioned, Chelsea are one of biggest and most physical sides in the league, Manchester United quite simply didn’t have enough physical players to deal with it. Leaving Didier Drogba to be marked (and poorly) by Rafael , who never really stood a chance, as Drogba headed home from the near post.
Defensively United still look shaky. Rojo and Smalling lost possession on a number of occasions, which led to immense Chelsea pressure. Both centre-backs were lucky not to give away penalties in the first-half, as they both held John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic respectively in headlocks and wrestled them to the ground.
It was obvious that it was going to take time to re-build this Manchester United side, but they proved on Sunday that progress is being made. United now face Manchester City and Arsenal in their next two Premier League games. If they can maintain the high energy levels and get the crowd behind them like they did against Chelsea, then both City and Arsenal will be in for a fight.
With City falling to defeat in their previous two games, and Arsenal failing to really convince, it could be the perfect time for United to play two of the heavyweights. If they can continue in the same vein throughout their remaining games, I’m sure we will see much improvement from Manchester United.