Chelsea played out a close goalless draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday, with Guus Hiddink still searching for his first win on his return to the west London outfit. The Blues moved up a spot to 14th, and they continue to trail United by 10 points. With the team looking much better defensively, could this be the start of the revival?
Despite having played just about 48 hours before kicking off at Old Trafford, Hiddink resisted the urge to make any wholesale changes to his team. A couple of players pulled out late with injuries, but aside from that it was almost an unchanged line-up. Gary Cahill was ruled out late in the day, with Kurt Zouma stepping in, while John Obi Mikel took the place of Cesc Fabregas who had picked up an illness. Diego Costa was suspended for this one, while Loic Remy and Falcao were both injured, so Eden Hazard started up front.
Hiddink reverted to the false nine system that Jose Mourinho had used at Tottenham a few weeks ago, which was a team set up to avoid defeat. Speaking of Mourinho, he was a big presence at Old Trafford, despite not actually turning up. Before the game, Manchester United scarves with his face on them were being sold, cranking up the pressure on Louis van Gaal.
It was fair to say that the Red Devils were coming into this one in almost as bad shape as Chelsea, given that they hadn’t won in their last seven games. Van Gaal’s position looks in severe danger, while they could well end up missing out on the top four. That said, their start here was a lot better than they’ve shown in recent weeks, as they pushed forward with some intent.
Both Anthony Martial and Juan Mata hit the woodwork in the opening 15 minutes, much to the delight of a weary home support. The Blues carved out chances too, with their best effort coming from a corner, as David De Gea pulled off a great save to deny John Terry.
Chelsea too looked better here, with the four attacking midfielders covering a lot of ground as they pressed the United defence. There was a solidity to the team that was lacking a few weeks ago, with Zouma standing out at the back. He made a tackle on Martial that displayed both his talent and potential, and he has to be seen as first choice at the back.
The Blues weren’t at their best going forward here, but they could have stolen a win late on. Nemanja Matic went through on goal, but his effort sailed over the crossbar, and even as a defensive minded player, he really should have done better with the chance.
After the game, Hiddink seemed pleased with the result. “On the one hand, I am happy with a point because we had a difficult game, but on the other, we had two big chances to get three points. We were lacking some attacking players and had to adapt. In general I’m happy.”
LCN Man of the Match: Kurt Zouma