5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea


By Matthew Jones

1. Robin reliant running on empty

A few weeks ago, I praised him for his comments claiming he did not want to be rested ahead of the Norwich game, having received a knock in the 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, but Robin van Persie is looking fatigued.

I commend him for not hiding when it would be easy for him to have a quiet word to Sir Alex Ferguson to give him little rests in home games against teams in the lower half of the table, but perhaps that’s exactly what the manager should be doing.

You always want Van Persie on the field, he’s a match winner, but apart from the fact that he’s tiring himself out, it’s also stunting the development of Javier Hernandez, who let’s be honest, isn’t having a half bad season himself in front of goal. He has 16 goals in all competitions and is our second leading goalscorer, only seven behind the flying Dutchman.

He didn’t affect the game at all when he came on yesterday and he cut an isolated figure as the lone frontman against Madrid on Tuesday.

The fact that he’s had such a barnstorming start to his United career is hardly helping his image at the moment in the media, who are harping on about the slump he’s in.

For anyone else, it would barely register as a blip, but for a man as good at goalscoring as Van Persie it’s a big deal. Hopefully the international break comes at a welcome time.

2. Fatigue

The general issue of fatigue is one I feel really affected us yesterday. I know it’s Chelsea and we had to play a strong side but I was surprised not more players who would have been exhausted from their efforts on Tuesday night were fielded.

Energy sapping areas like full back and central midfield especially.

Yet not only did Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra all survive from the Real Madrid game to start yesterday, they played the entire 90 minutes too.

Carrick was one of our best performers and has a fantastic engine but Cleverley really faded badly after half time and gave away the ball constantly, while Evra was also struggling to get about the pitch.

Our squad is that good this season that I don’t necessarily feel the team would have been weakened by a few more changes yesterday. I felt Chris Smalling and Anderson in particular might have played, they both need games after all, and Ferguson will need to count on his strength in depth in the coming months, but he will need to rely on players who are match fit too.

3. For once I won’t curse an international break

I usually despise it when the Premier League is disrupted by international breaks but the latest one after this weekend’s home game against Reading might come at exactly the right time. To be fair it’s usually the meaningless international friendlies I have a problem with that serve no decent purpose other than to fill the pockets of the UK countries’ football associations, so at least the upcoming double head World Cup qualifiers are competitive games. But with fatigue evident and United clearly needing time to get over the heartbreak of going out of the Champions League to Madrid, a week away from domestic fixtures will surely serve to recharge the players’ batteries and refocus them for a title charge as well as aiming to put on an improved performance in the FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, whenever that may be.

4. It’s Carrick you know

As the most popular chant of the moment among United fans goes, ‘it’s Carrick, you know, can’t believe it’s not Scholes’, certainly this season the comparisons to Sat Nav are not misplaced. It’s been a season where, bar the obvious blinding form of Van Persie, the underdogs and much-maligned players of the past have shone. Jonny Evans and Rafael have really matured into established United players, while David de Gea’s star is on the rise and Patrice Evra has repaired his image after a fall in from over the past 18 months prior to the start of the season. But Carrick has been the leading man this season, emerging from the shadow Paul Scholes, and it will only be Van Persie who beats him to this season’s Sir Matt Busby player of the season award.

He was one of few players to shine in the Chelsea game, along with Rio Ferdinand, Evans and De Gea. He broke up Chelsea attacks, put in some hard and crucial tackles, retained possession and got us going forward, while his reverse, chipped pass to Hernandez for the opening goal was simply sublime. The best moment of the game for United fans.

5. Not so lucky number seven

I really feel for Antonio Valencia. Player of the season last year, he’s had a terrible 2012/13 campaign so far. I thought a saw a flicker of last season’s superstar when he came off the bench against Real Madrid in the week, going past full backs like he used to do at will last season, but when he was introduced yesterday it was a hugely disappointing showing. Don’t get me wrong, not many players came out of the game against Chelsea with too much credit, but having been so excellent last year, he’s really taken several steps back, and I’m sure most United fans, like me, are unable to put their finger on his dramatic loss of form. The only thing I can venture is that he’s suffered a serious crisis of confidence – either borne out of deciding to don the famous United No 7 jersey in the summer or perhaps it’s a curse of claiming the Sir Matt Busby trophy for such a stunning season last year. That sounds silly but being such a quiet, humble and hard-working player, perhaps the Ecuadorian has simply being left dumbstruck by how good a player he actually blossomed into last season. Perhaps he’s realised just how hallowed the shirt worn by the likes of Cantona, Best, Beckham, Robson and Ronaldo is at Old Trafford and he doesn’t feel worthy of it. Believe me, when he took the jersey in the summer, I wasn’t surprised. He was THAT good last year and I was looking forward to him kicking on this season, but it just hasn’t happened. He seems to distrust his blinding pace and always hesitates to skin full backs he would saunter past last year. Valencia is not a Rooney or a Rio in terms of personality. He’s not a loud or abrasive player. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t seem like a player capable of dealing with scrutiny or groans when something goes wrong from the Old Trafford crowd. I hope he can regain some of last year’s magic before the end of the season or refocus during the summer, otherwise I fear for his future at Old Trafford.

Man of the Match Poll & Player Ratings: Manchester United vs. Chelsea HERE.
Latest Manchester United 2012-13 statistics HERE.
Share your thoughts with the Stretford End Arising forum HERE.

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  1. Normally I read these articles and agree almost totally with what is written, but not this time, blaming fatigue is wrong, Chelsea played on Thursday, we played on the Tuesday, if any team should have looked fatigued it was Chelsea, United had a full six days to get over Tuesday, physically and mentally.
    Our problem was once again complacency and lack of concentration, Roy Keane said before the game that this team has the quality, but it lacks the most important thing, desire, the desire to win, and to win every game, Carrick and Cleverley were overrun by one player, Hazard, the second time in a week that Fergie has been outflanked with tactics.

    Carrick is not the player a lot of people think he is, look at the chalkboards, they will tell you the true story, passes 10 -15 yd completion rate is excellent, but his defence splitting passes ala Scholes is awful.

    I agree about the team selected, if you agree with Ferguson about fatigue, why were the likes of Smalling and Anderson on the bench. The reason for that is Ferguson doesn’t think they are good enough to beat a tired Chelsea side.

    We drew yesterday because of lack of concentration and complacency

  2. Fatigue????? Chelsea have played 9 more games than us so far this season (51 vs 42). And they ran us over in the 2nd half. In my opinion we have too many players that are good enough against weaker teams (Rooney and RVP) but unfortunately goes missing against the really great teams. Chelsea will be the team to watch next season, not Shitty or Arse. Chelsea took us to the cleaners at stamford bridge until Clattenburg saved our arse with two wrongly awarded red cards…. Fergie gor this one wrong, but no one dear critize him…..

  3. Blaming fatigued players against a team that had two days less rest than us,(and they had to travel to Rumania) as well has having played 9 more games than us.

  4. Sideshow Bob on

    I rarely listen to after match comments from managers so unaware of what was said yesterday. I thought several of our players looked fatigued yesterday.

  5. But, isn´t that what we have a manager for? Or a whole management team indeed. My point is that we shouldn´t look fatigued against a team that clearly has had a tougher season than us, and also taken into consideration what a mess chelsea seems to be in…… and they are managed by rafa.
    After the first half I saw us winning by 4-5 goals, i did not expect us to be total overrun by chelsea. It is a terrfying thought what they can do with that squad managed by someone like mourinho. Don´t like the thought of that.

  6. Sideshow Bob on

    It’s been a tough week for the squad both mentally and physically. Personally not too concerned about our fitness levels for the remainder of the season, especially now we are no longer in the Champions League. Get through this week, beat Reading, then the squad will have ample recovery time between matches.

  7. we played 10 men against the 2nd best side in the world and not to mention we were killing them till the nani red card which dealt us a huge blow mentally cos we felt cheated( dont forget we also ran riots in thier defence after thier 2 goals).. we also fielded 5 of the players who played against 12 man real madrid and these are the players whose legs gave way against chelsea in 2nd half… so Kent pls get ur dumb brain working and stop criticising the players.. nutter!!

  8. Why didn´t the chelsea legs give way in the second half?? they played only two days previously in Rumania whereas we had 4 days to recover from a game in manchester.

  9. and they´ve played nine games more than us this season. I can see our season collapsing in a Arsenal like manner. Out of the league cup, more or less out of the fa cup, out of the champions league. a little bit of complacency in the league and shitty would have closed in on us. I would hate to see the league not being decided before the last game of the season again.

  10. seen that happen before… we are getting towards the business end of the season and if we lose the replay against chelsea who knows what the impact in the league will be. we have then gone from a potential treble winning team to a team that may struggle to winn the league from a 12 point lead.

  11. Matthew Jones on

    Sorry guys, perhaps I should have pointed out that my point about fatigue is not anything to do with the games we’ve played this season and how Chelsea have played more than us, nor was it intended to ignore the fact that Chelsea played on the Thursday night and away in Romania, my point was about the mental fatigue/anguish of going out to Madrid in the manner that we did, not to mention that players like Rafa/Evra/Carrick and Cleverley had to play against a Madrid side with 10 men for over half an hour.

    Also, I understand Chelsea played away on the Thursday but they played in the Europa League against second rate opposition, it was hardly a taxing game for them. Also, of that team, only Lampard, Oscar, Cech & Luiz survived to play United on Sunday. Hazard played 75 minutes and was a second half sub on Sunday while Torres and Mikel were also second half subs who’d started the Bucharest game.

    As for the pessimism surrounding ‘our season collapsing’ and criticising Ferguson’s tactics, are you actually Manchester United fans?!?!?!

    Kent seems to think we’re already beaten before a date for the second leg of the FA Cup replay against Chelsea has been fixed!

    While apparently one half of terrible football seems to indicate that our season is going to implode. Get a grip people.

  12. Kent just has a weak mentality… Thank goodness he’s not a footballer or a sports man if not he won’t even be worthy of lacing the boots for a team like uxbridge FC not to talk of arsenal who have weak mentality.. Man utd would be totally out of context cos they breed only massive winning mentality in that dressing room..

  13. Fiftyyearsared on

    Matthew Jones has hit the nail right on the head with his comments about mental fatigue following the Madrid match. Now with the break that is coming United will regroup and go on to win the double. Chelsea will be seen off easily at the Bridge, Fergie will see to that. Keep the faith folks and look forward to more glory for the Mighty Reds!!

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