Recently, Manchester United hosted Chelsea in a tie seemingly deemed pivotal in shaping the outcomes for the rest of the season. For United, attaining the three points may have contributed in extending their quest in regaining Champions League football, and, considering former Chelsea manager José Mourinho is now at the helm of United, the motivation to win may have been emphasised. Chelsea, alternatively, boasted a superior league position, and this, coupled with winning 4-0 in the reverse fixture, might have enabling them to be referred to as the pre-match favourites. Yet, it was indeed the home side who ultimately emerged victorious, with goals from Rashford and Herrera resulting in a 2-0 score-line, perhaps showcasing the reasoning as to why they may often be referred to as the most accomplished and successful club in England.
Pre-match, Manchester United may have been placed in good stead due to their recent run of consistent form. In the 21 games preceding this fixture, Mourinho’s side had won eleven, drawing the other ten, including a six game winning run at the turn of the year. Yet, with this tie interlocked between both of United’s Europa League quarter-final legs, Mourinho seemed to prioritise preserving fitness; the most notable absentee seemed to be talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic; the Swedish forward has scored 28 goals this season, and his experience at other top European clubs seems to have elevated the performances of his colleagues. Whilst this may have been referred to as a bold move by the manager, it seemed to ultimately highlight the strength in depth in his squad, and Mourinho’s tactical nouse to balance challenging on two fronts.
United seemed to commence the game playing at the higher standard, with earlier opportunities presented to Rashford, yet Chelsea showcased the resolute philosophy enabling them to record the most clean sheets in the league. Yet, it was indeed Rashford who opened the scoring in the seventh minute, yet video replays suggested Herrera had handled in the build-up; whilst this goal seemed to act as the catalyst in United attaining the victory, it may also instigate further demands for video technology in football, as this may ensure the continuation of consistent refereeing and competitive fixtures resulting in fair outcomes. Ultimately, the Spanish midfielder then added a goal to his aforementioned assist in a performance later deemed worthy of the Man of the Match billing, therefore enabling United to claim the plaudits, as they became the fifth side to claim three points versus Chelsea in the league this season.
This was Mourinho’s maiden victory versus his former club in his Manchester United tenure, with perhaps his bold move of placing his trust in pacey, young players providing dividends. This may provide him with the necessary boost and motivation to strive to achieve with his new club, and ultimately increase his ever-expanding repertoire. At Chelsea, he won three Premier League titles, most recently in 2015, adding to his other silverware from Spain, Portugal and Italy. This may be clear at United, as Mourinho provided Rashford and Lingard with starts versus Chelsea; whilst this may have been partly due to their pace enabling the side to create opportunities versus Chelsea’s five-man backline, he seems to also be providing these young Englishman with experience to contribute to both club and country.
With six games remaining for the majority of clubs, both Chelsea and Manchester United may seek to utilise this result in order to achieve the aims outlined by their respective boards. Whilst Chelsea seem to be in a strong position, Spurs’ seven successive wins have narrowed the gap, yet this may ultimately increase their motivation as they seek to consolidate their position at the top. Yet, United may be superiorly impacted, as they successfully avenged being on the receiving end of the result earlier in the season, proving they may achieve top four status. Moreover, with Mourinho rotating the squad consistently, and providing opportunities to proficient Englishman who fill the required home grown quota, he may be proving he has the credentials to replicate his achievements with Chelsea, and ultimately add to his EFL Cup win.
How may United utilise this victory versus the league leaders to ensure they may achieve Champions League football?