United came flying out of the traps and led 2-0 after just 11 minutes but rather lost their way afterwards and can have no complaints at having to do it all over again at Stamford Bridge. Rafael Benitez was jeered by the Chelsea fans as he made a double substitution in the second half but one of those he introduced – Hazard – sparked the comeback and Ramires secured the replay for the Blues. Chelsea were comeback kings at Old Trafford as they phenomenally rebounded from a 2-0 deficit at halftime to force a replay. The match finished 2-2 and after a nervy start, the 2nd half was all Chelsea. The first half was one to forget as we conceded 2 goals early and then wasted a few great chances, the 2nd half was pure domination and in the words of Ian Wright “I’ve never seen Manchester United dominated like this at Old Trafford”.
What We Learned :
1. John Obi Mikel must start
2. Defensive instability
3. Crossing has been miserable
4. Lack of clinicality is costing us
5. Hazard has to start in big games
1. John Obi Mikel must start :
Mikel came off the bench along with Hazard changed the game. He took control of midfield and was key in the Blues’ fightback. He shut down many United attacks and was very calm and composed on the ball as he picked out a pair of good passes and eliminated some of the pressure United put on our midfield. John Obi Mikel is, at the moment, our only true holding midfielder and he showed that. His play was brilliant and although Hazard’s substitution was more effective, Mikel’s performance was underrated because he played a huge part in the revival.
2. Defensive instability :
From the start, we saw it. The defensive mixup began early and it cost us. Cech, Cahill and Azpilicueta were at fault for the first goal as Hernandez peeled away from Azpilicueta and Cahill and then Cech came too far off his line allowing Chicharito to brilliantly lob him with a header. 7 minutes later, Moses made a poor foul on Nani and that free kick was poorly defended (although accurately placed) and Cech was exploited as he couldn’t make a decision fast enough and was barely beaten by Rooney’s clinical freekick. We also struggled with other United attacks in the 1st half. Nonetheless, we must tightened up in the back… John Terry anyone?
3. Crossing has been miserable :
We haven’t had the best crossing in recent years, especially in the full back positions. Cole and Azpilicueta were beyond horrible when crossing, often missing everyone in the box. The lack to pick out a body in the middle or at least get something from the cross cost us dearly as many times, we had several good headers in the box. The corners were just as disappointing – Mata, Hazard and Oscar struggled to find a Chelsea player in the box. We certainly had good headers available at times, but our failure to pick them out resulted in missed opprotunities. Several times, we had the winger and full back passing back and forth as neither of them wanted to cross the ball. The heading ability of Demba Ba, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, etc. was not utilized.
4. Lack of finishing ability is costing us :
How many chances did we not take? You put your palm on your face when you realize how many we wasted. It was a shame, but just like against West Brom – we didn’t take them. It’s something that sets you back, your goal difference suffers, your ability to close a game suffers and your hopes suffer. We could of easily defeated United by 3 or 4, maybe even more. Mata was tragically denied by the foot of David De Gea at the end and Ashley Cole was fatally slow to shoot in the box right at the death. Even in the first half, Demba Ba, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses missed glorious chances to give us a goal back. It was painful to watch as several Chelsea players didn’t test the goalkeeper or take their chances.
5. Hazard has to start in big games :
Him and Mikel were brought on during Lampard’s departure and arrived to a chorus of boos. Turned them to cheers moments later with a goal of pure quality to kick-start Chelsea’s revival. Eden Hazard was the most effective player in the match, his presence after coming on had Rafael struggling. His pace, ability to run at defenders, pick out a few passes and test the goalkeeper was something that was missing in the first half. If he started, I can only imagine what the result would of been. Hazard was at his “start of the season form” today and it was evident what he brings to Chelsea. After that performance, Sir Alex Ferguson must be furious at himself to not sign Hazard. Luckily for us, Hazard is our player and one of the best. Unfortunatly, he didn’t play today and that nearly cost us dearly if not for his amazing performance after coming on for Lampard.
6. Lampard doesn’t belong in the double pivot :
Why Frank Lampard started alongside Ramires today was beyond me. He has never been a good holding midfielder as he is naturally an attacking midfielder and that was evident today. Lampard went forward without thinking and it exposed us to United counter attacks and when defending, many players got around him with ease and used his lack of defending to push forward even more. Combine all that with Ramires’ style of play, it’s suicidal. It punished us and we could of bowed out of the FA Cup to our rivals if not for John Obi Mikel’s performance. As I said earlier, Mikel was very effective and played real well while allowing Chelsea to get back into the match. While I’d like Mikel-Luiz in the double pivot, Mikel-Ramires is all that bad either, but Lampard in the double pivot is a horrible idea. Lampard also wasted a chance to get Chelsea back into the game when drilling a shot into De Gea’s arms following good work from Mata. Subbed to howls of derision when the scoreline was 2-0 to United.
Other Points :
1. Torres’ time is ticking
2. Oscar is very inconsistent
3. John Terry must play