The Blues incrementally solidified their position in the top four by earning a credible draw at Old Trafford.
Manchester United scored the first goal in the 11th minute by Juan Mata with commendable work from Luke Shaw and Romelu Lukaku. However, a shot from Antonio Rudiger was rebounded to the feet of Marcos Alonso gifting him an easy goal in the 43rd minute.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Maurizio Sarri, both had injuries in their match. Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea trudged away in the second half and Eric Bailly limped away after an awful collision with Mateo Kovacic.
United are at 6th position in the table, a point behind Arsenal. They must count on the Gunners to drop points in the next two final fixtures and hope that they don’t win the Europa League in order to keep their Champions League dream alive.
Sarri’s men have the luxury of qualifying for the UCL by either winning the Europa League or by maintaining their 3rd position on the points table.
Let’s look at crucial talking points of this clash between the heavyweight teams.
5. Did Solskjaer’s major rejig of the starting lineup cost the team?
Solskjaer made five changes to his lineup which was pocketed by Manchester City. Curiously, he decided to go with de Gea in this fixture even though he had made errors in his past 5 games. His gamble hadn’t worked out well.
The other changes in the squad were partly forced by the injuries of Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard. However, this gave the hosts a tactical edge over ‘Sarriball’ and had got the better of the Italian’s strategies.
4. Has Juan Mata been underutilized this season?
Juan Mata has been a recurring player in Old Trafford under both Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer. However, he proved his selection. Sandwiched in the back between Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku in a diamond-like formation, he scored his first goal since December.
— ilyas (@BoomThatsGenius) April 28, 2019
Courageous with the ball and had sweated to seal out Jorginho, he scored the team’s only goal with the help of Luke Shaw. This stellar show would be a subtle reminder on his importance to the team, especially at a time when his contract talks are underway.
3. Was Chelsea’s uninspiring midfield the cause of their lacklustre second half performance?
Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho put on a weak show in the midfield without much dominance. Paul Pogba’s energy with the ball happened to bully the midfielders and they stayed aloof for a major part of the action.
Gonzalo Higuain’s lethargic static play added further pressure and burden on the already uninspired midfield as they had to clean up the Argentine’s errors and bring the ball out to the front to Eden Hazard. Kovacic being involved in a nasty crash, injuring Eric Bailly wasn’t also a bright point on the visitor’s outing.
2. Did Nemanja Matic ‘get away with one?’
A controversial moment in the first half saw Matic jumping into Cesar Azpilicueta and the former wasn’t booked by the referee. Matic’s stray forearm caught the Chelsea skipper in his face while shielding the ball and he went down on the ground.
The skipper was furious when the referees didn’t take any action against Matic as they considered it to be innocent. However, Gary Neville admitted that Matic had ‘got away with one’. Escaping punishment in the match against his former club he might face issues with the FA for his careless swing.
1. Did David de Gea‘s howler cost United three points?
Solskjaer’s decision to keep de Gea in the squad once again proved to be awful after his mistake gave the visitors a chance to equalise. Antonio Rudiger’s shot from 35 yards was too much for the Spaniard to handle as he fumbled with it and rebounded it straight to Alonso’s feet.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 28, 2019
However, his late save of a shot from Higuain helped the hosts from losing face. He has made three errors in the past 4 games which directly resulted in goals. These mistakes aren’t going to help his case when he’s in the middle of an expensive contract extension. Squandering away United’s midfield dominance in the first half, he definitely has given a deafening blow to the team’s quest for a spot in UCL.