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Premier League: United Show Character – and Get a Helping Hand Against Luckless Chelsea!

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United

I always said this Premier League clash could be fun!

And as a Manchester United fan, I have to say it was – and also a much-needed win for the visitors who were under pressure before kick-off after recent results left them ninth in the table.

Yet while there were only a few Premier League 2020 highlights to talk about, there was no shortage of talking points as the race for a top-four spot took its latest twist.

 

Highlights of the game

This was never going to be a repeat of the opening day scoreline, when the two sides were largely well-matched only for the full-time score to be one-sided in favour of United.

Six months on, these two remain well-matched, but there’s still a shadow of their former selves and under their own level of scrutiny.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard called for more from his players than he has received of late, while counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, depending on which publication you read, never seems to be more than a few games from losing his job – differing treatment for different rookie managers perhaps?

A low-key first half saw both sides have spells of possession. Chelsea created half chances but fail to take them.

There was also a talking point when Harry Maguire caught Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi in a very sensitive area right in front of the Blues’ technical area.

Thankfully, despite social media going into overdrive, it was deemed to be exactly what it was – a natural reaction with no intent to hurt an opponent.

There’s never a bad time to score a goal but on the stroke of half-time is always ideal. And so it proved when Aaron Wan-Bissaka twisted Willian into submission and delivered a delicious cross which Anthony Martial superbly flicked beyond the reach of Willy Caballero.

Chelsea hunted for a leveller and were naturally aggrieved shortly after the break in the latest VAR dispute of 2019/20.

Kurt Zouma swept the ball home only for it to be ruled out for a foul on young Brandon Williams by home captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

Yes, Williams was pushed but Azpilicueta had been shoved onto him by United midfielder Fred. No wonder VAR is turning atmospheres fractious at times.

As the Chelsea fans chanted “It’s not football anymore,” it was hard to disagree.

Their frustrations doubled shortly afterwards as United new boy Bruno Fernandes – who had struck a post moments earlier – whipped in a corner. Maguire was too strong for Antonio Rudiger as he powered a header beyond Caballero.

Only a brilliant block by Eric Bailly – starting his first game of the season for United after he was badly injured in pre-season – prevented Chelsea from reducing the arrears.

Chelsea have failed to win or draw one match against Manchester United in the Premier League this season
Players react as the screen shows a no-goal review by the VAR on Kurt Zouma’s netter

They were further aggrieved when substitute Olivier Giroud headed home a Mason Mount cross – although VAR was quite right to adjudge the Frenchman offside.

Mount hit the post himself in the final minute but by then the game was all but up and United had what could be a precious three points.

It really wasn’t Chelsea’s night. They lost the influential N’Golo Kante after just 12 minutes and have now gone four league games without a win for the first time since May 2016.

For United, who had made their worst start to a league campaign since 1989/90, this was only their second clean sheet in 13 away games this season.

They needed a bit of luck and they got it, continuing their pretty decent record against their rivals this term.

The question now is: can they start defeating the smaller clubs around them and make a concerted push for a top-four spot.

I remain unconvinced but, there again, I’m not sure Chelsea will make it either!

 

Key statistics

Martial is only the third Man United player to score home and away Premier League goals against Chelsea in the same season, after Wayne Rooney in 2011-12 and Eric Cantona in 1992-93.

This was United’s first league double over Chelsea since the 1987/88 season.

United scored with their first two attempts on target in this match and scored two headed goals in a Premier League game for the first time since November 2017 against Newcastle.

This was only Chelsea’s second defeat in 18 Premier League home games against United (won 10, drawn six).

Chelsea have won just one of their past six league matches (drawn three, lost two). They have won more Premier League points in away matches than at Stamford Bridge during the current campaign.

The Reds have triumphed in just four of their last 15 Premier League games against Chelsea (drawn six, lost five) but they are unbeaten in seven home matches (won three, drawn four).

Chelsea are the only club to have won more Premier League matches against United than they lost, with 18 victories and 17 defeats.

Chelsea are on a club Premier League record run of 76 consecutive fixtures without a red card. Their last one came when Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off in a 4-1 defeat at Watford in February 2018.

 

What’s next?

This was the start of a key spell for Chelsea which includes five out of six games at home.

It’s Spurs and Jose Mourinho next at Stamford Bridge (Feb 22) before German giants Bayern Munich are the visitors in the Champions League last 16 three days later.

United have an even busier spell. They travel to Belgium next to meet Club Brugge on Thursday night, entertain Watford next weekend and then meet the Belgians for the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on February 27.

 

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