New Manager, Same Old Trafford Comeback
Manchester United welcomed table topping Chelsea to The Theatre of Dreams on Sunday and, after 94 minutes, the two sides shared the spoils thanks to a late Robin van Persie strike.
It is well documented that Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are good friends, having spent three years together in Spain. Mourinho worked on the coaching staff after the Dutchman was named Barcelona manager in 1997 and the two have formed a friendship that remains unbroken.
This translated onto the scoreboard as neither side managed to take all three points from the game.
The giants of English football clashed right from kickoff in what resembled a derby match. Tackles were crunching, both teams pressed high up the pitch and it looked a certainty that referee Phil Dowd would be brandishing a few cards.
Thirteen minutes in and Rafael da Silva was the first to be booked after a clumsy foul on Eden Hazard. The Belgian troubled the full-back all evening often drawing Chris Smalling out of position to provide extra cover on the right.
The jousting continued throughout the half with Chelsea threatening David De Gea’s goal and then United pinning the Blues in their own box, however, neither side could find the back of the net and they went into the interval level.
Chelsea’s Premier League record against United is better than any team as they had won over 30% of their meetings before this meeting. With this in mind, the Red Devils would have done well to come out firing in an attempt to strike fear into Mourinho’s men but this was not the case.
In fact, the home side seemed to have relaxed to the point of not looking bothered about the game anymore. Chelsea took advantage of this and, on 53 minutes, took a much deserved lead through a powerful Didier Drogba header. United then crumbled.
Angel Di Maria was struggling to make an impact on proceedings and the team seemed to have been deflated by the Argentine’s poor performance. He threw his boot at two chances in the first half that came close to hitting the stadium’s roof rather than the back of the net and failed with almost every pass, cross and dribble he attempted.
Louis van Gaal was short of options on the bench with both Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao missing from the match day squad so it was youngster James Wilson who got the nod to replace the ineffective Juan Mata.
It looked very much a case of the student becoming the master as Mourinho was on course for three points against his former boss.
With time whittling away, however, there were signs of the Manchester United of old as the home side began to gain in confidence and finally threatened Chelsea’s goal. Di Maria finally swung in a decent cross which Marouane Fellaini failed to convert before, with eight seconds remaining in added time, the ball fell to van Persie who smashed home past a grounded Thibaut Courtois to steal a point.
The draw means Chelsea remain top and four points ahead of Southampton. While United are one point worse off than they were at this stage last season under David Moyes and languish in an unimpressive eighth on the table.