Domination without incision gets you nothing on the pitch. United found out the hard way at the bridge, where Jose Mourinho set to soak pressure. It is a tactic the Portuguese coach might as well have patented. Set a wall of bodies in front of the goal, with willing runners in midfield to break when crumbs fall their way, and United gave Chelsea lots of crumbs on Saturday. It was obvious Mourinho had watched lots of Manchester United tape. He specifically targeted Fellaini, deploying the robust Zouma to shadow the Belgian around the pitch.
You can not fault Chelsea’s strategy, not because it gave them the win, but because it was not imperative to win on the day, and they were disciplined enough to stick with a plan that required lots of patience and running without the ball. Van Gaal’s men annexed the ball as United maintained possession for large parts of the contest – finishing with 71% of the total possession. Their 15 total shots attempted shows that United were not satisfied with just playing keep ball, but tried to get the ball in the net albeit with considerably poor accuracy, with only 2 of the shots finding the intended target.
Chelsea mirrored United’s shots on target tally which is indicative of the way Mourinho was able to grind the match to a halt, 4 total shots on target between both teams with Chelsea getting the one that mattered as the mercurial Eden Hazard tore through and was able nutmeg Dea Gea at his near post. Falcao’s feeble attempt to keep possession, against John Terry who had pressed up the pitch, sparked the Chelsea break away.
Louis Van Gaal’s recent discovery of his best starting XI was thrown in jeopardy after being hit with a, ill-timed, mini-injury crises of sorts. LVG had to reshuffle the squad, and tweak certain positions, which ultimately led to United conceding their areas of strength. The injuries to Jones, Rojo, Blind, and Carrick meant Van Gaal had to break up the very effective Mata/Herrera partnership. He also decided to pull Rooney away from goal to operate once again in midfield, and recall Falcao as the main forward. The Colombian loanee was disappointing on the day, a recurring theme for the Monaco striker.