Andre Villas-Boas’ first stern test of the season ended with a loss for his team but based on this showing, he’s making good progress. He set up Chelsea to attack and this made for a very open game, one that was enjoyed by all parties except, maybe, those on the losing side.
Free flowing attacking games like today’s are good in the sense that they expose weaknesses in a team’s defensive and attacking play. In the opening 20 minutes of the game, United’s midfield looked to have retained some of the sluggish passing that it exhibited against Benfica with Anderson being the main culprit.
His stray pass in the 12th minute was picked up by Torres who then failed to convert. In that opening period the Brazilian misplaced seven of his 19 passes compared to Darren Fletcher who completed all 16 of his.
This breakdown in passing allowed Chelsea to break and register five shots (two on target, two off target and one blocked) on the United goal, but the Red Devils replied with two shots of their own; one for the opening goal and one on target effort by Ashley Young. And this is what cost Chelsea the game.
In total, they had 22 attempts (eight on target, 11 off target and three blocked) scoring one goal and United had 14 attempts (six on target, five off-target and three blocked) which resulted in three goals. What makes it more extraordinary is that 14 of Chelsea’s shots were in the box (five were saved, six off target and two blocked) yet they couldn’t find the net.
The first half was an average performance by United yet they went in 3-0 up at half-time. Whilst their midfield play was average, there was a marked improvement in their defensive and attacking play.
A key feature of the reigning champions’ blistering start to the season has been their slick one-two passing. As you can see from the table they were comfortable playing their way out of trouble – Nani’s goal came via an excellent long pass from Jonny Evans and Wayne Rooney’s goal was the result of another Phil Jones run from defence – and this translated into more successful attacking passes than Chelsea.
Also, they enjoyed considerable success on the wings with Nani putting on a man of the match performance. When Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata, Nicolas Anelka and Romelu Lukaku were on the wings, they failed to track the overlapping runs of the full backs and this put added pressure on the Chelsea defence.
Overall both teams can go away from this game with positives and negatives. United had to call upon the brilliant goal-keeping of David De Gea to save them. Like the Arsenal game, he made a fantastic save to maintain his side’s 1-0 lead and this allowed them to keep their momentum going.
For Chelsea, Torres showed flashes of his old self and his goal demonstrated some deft finishing. The key will be whether they can build on the quick passing that released him for his horror miss because eventually he will start to the put them away.