With a 3 points difference between them and 3 more games to go, this match between Manchester United and Chelsea was effectively a title 6 pointer. United fielded their usual 4-4-1-1/ 4-2-3-1 that featured 2 hard working wingers Park and Valencia on the flanks, Hernandez leading the line with Rooney operating behind him, 2 creative passers in the shape of Carrick and Giggs, and Fabio who pushed forward to help support the attack whilst his counterpart O’Shea looked to stay back to form a back 3 while united attacked.
Chelsea fielded a 4-3-3 which saw Drogba leading the line, Kalou assisting on the right as a second forward, and Malouda deeper down the left. Lampard was the most advance out of the midfield trio and Chelsea’s fullbacks got forward to provide width.
United dominate early on-
Man united began the game in domineering fashion getting a goal within 40 seconds of kicks off. It foreshadowed what was to come. Chelsea struggled to get out of their half and by the 11th minute possession was 77% to 23% favoring united. By the 15th minute United racked up 4 attempts at goal with 3 of them on target whilst Chelsea had one attempt with none on target. One of the main reason’s man united were so successful at pinning Chelsea back was because they won more tackles higher up the pitch.
They won 3 out of 6 duels from the half way line and above. Chelsea won 1 out of 5 duels; Chelsea’s failure to win the ball high up the pitch in the first 15 saw them forced back into their own half. United closed their early spell of dominance by getting a second after some good wing play from Giggs and poor defending from Chelsea allowed Vidic to score his 5th goal of the season.
United defense stifle Chelsea attack-
Chelsea started to find their way back into the match but their attack was relatively nullified by a tough and compact United defense. United pressed in two areas, high up the pitch in Chelsea’s half and deep in their half. If Chelsea managed to get beyond the initial wave of pressure United would drop back into their half and form 2 compact lines of 4. Man United defended well through the duration of the match winning 62% (42/68) of their tackles while their rival’s only won 55% (33/60).
United’s backline only made 7% of their tackles behind their box whilst Chelsea’s made 11% of their tackles behind their box subsequently they won less tackles in front of their box.
United’s wingers played a big role in protecting their backline. Park won 8 out of 12 tackles attempted throughout the course of the match; whilst his Chelsea counterpart Malouda won 4 out of 10 tackles he attempted and he didn’t make tackles deep in his half . Valencia won 8 out of 11 tackles attempted although his were located higher up the field while Kalou won 1 out of 6 tackles attempted and made one unsuccessful tackle inside his half; the theme was obvious and recurring. United’s wingers defended well and often Chelsea’s didn’t.
United threaten down the flanks –
Man united’s success down the wings was to be expected considering the lack of defensive work put in by Chelsea’s wingers. Man united wide players. Valencia in particular caused Chelsea a lot of grief. This was caused by Chelsea’s more advanced wide players failing to take the responsibility to protect their fullbacks thus the United wingers were left rampant and allowed to take on the relatively exposed Chelsea fullbacks.
This was especially the case down Chelsea’s left; nearly a third of all tackles lost by Chelsea came down this flank. Malouda failed to make any defensive challenges in his defensive third and Valencia got the better of Ashley Cole. On the right Giggs took on and beat Kalou to put in the cross which Vidic would proceed to head in and give United a two goal advantage.
45th to Lampard’s goal
Chelsea made the changes and got the better of play. The second half saw the exit of David Luis, John Obi, and Kalou. Alex came in as centerback , Ramires moved to the right credit must be given to Ancelotti for this change; not only did Ramires provided Ivanovic with good defensive cover down the right attempting 5 tackles winning 4 but he also provided the assist for Lampard.
Torres joined Drogba in the middle as Chelsea moved to a 4-4-2. United took off O’shea and introduced Evans at left back.This was a fairly even period in terms possession at the 65th minute stuck at 48% to 52% in favor of Chelsea but play favored Chelsea as they took 5 shots 2 on target and 1 goal. They simply moved the ball better in midfield and were thus allow to advancing deeper into United’s half.
United Carve out Chelsea
With Chelsea pushing men forward and attacking following Lampard’s 69th minute goal United looked poised to score off the counter. United looked to move the ball quick off the transition earlier in the match; even scoring the Hernandez goal as a result of it.
Due to the Chelsea keeping more men back, United’s counters were largely negated in the first half. United was more successful with their direct passes in the final 20 minutes of the game compared to the first 69. In the final 20 minutes they connected with more direct passes whilst in the 69 minutes prior the majority of their unsuccessful passes were direct.
Valencia was the catalyst for the late Manchester united counter attacks. Man united played through him and down the right flank. He made 3 key passes of United 6 passes into the box including the superb cross for Hernandez. In the last 20 minutes he won the ball back 3 out of 4 times in Chelsea’s half helping to start quick counter attacks.
The title race is all but over United played well today and after getting the early two goal lead it was highly unlikely that Chelsea would get the 3 needed to keep them realistically in the title race.