WHY IT IS TOO EARLY TO WRITE OFF THE RED DEV­ILS AT THIS TIME

You don’t win the Bar­clays English Pre­mier League ti­tle by beat­ing clubs around you - you win it by en­sur­ing you beat ev­ery­one else

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports International - PHIL NEVILLE

Manch­ester United made a dis­as­trous start against Chelsea on Sun­day - and got worse as the game went on.

From what I saw from United in their 4-0 de­feat at Stam­ford Bridge, I don’t think they are any­where near the level their man­ager Jose Mour­inho wants them to be at, and it will prob­a­bly take them a lot more time to get there.

But what I would add is that they have come out of a pe­riod of tough games, and they are go­ing into a spell where their fix­tures look a lot more winnable. Mour­inho said so him­self af­ter­wards.

The next few weeks are an im­por­tant time for them be­cause you don’t win the league by beat­ing the clubs around you - you win it by beat­ing ev­ery­one else.

That is what United have to do now, and they have to be more ruth­less be­cause draws will not be enough - for me, when they were held at home by Stoke at the start of Oc­to­ber, it was al­most as dis­ap­point­ing as Sun­day’s de­feat.

In the next few weeks, United are at home to Ar­se­nal but also play Burn­ley, Swansea and West Ham. Even if they only win those three games, then their world is a brighter place.

Yes, United need to go on a run to make up the ground they have lost but they are only six points off the top of the ta­ble and we have al­ready seen things can change very quickly in the ti­tle race

Af­ter a great start, lead­ers Manch­ester City have gone three games with­out a win and look like they have lost con­fi­dence. I don’t see a side play­ing with any rhythm or flu­id­ity.

And it looked like Tot­ten­ham’s vic­tory over City had launched their sea­son - but they have drawn both their league games since.

It is one of those years where there is not go­ing to be a run­away win­ner, so United just have to stay in touch at the top.

How Conte’s Chelsea have turned things around.

What Chelsea have done re­cently is an ex­am­ple of why it is far too early to write United’s sea­son off.

Af­ter the first six games of the sea­son, which saw them strug­gle de­fen­sively and lose to Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal, I was won­der­ing what their new man­ager An­to­nio Conte was do­ing. His team looked like the same old Chelsea who strug­gled last year.

But then Conte changed to the 3-5-2 for­ma­tion that has brought him such suc­cess with Ju­ven­tus and Italy, and they have not looked back.

In three games since, against Hull, Le­ices­ter and now United they have scored nine goals, kept three clean sheets and picked up nine points.

All of a sud­den, their for­ward play­ers are play­ing with free­dom - plus they have a solid foun­da­tion be­hind them with their three cen­tre-halves plus N’Golo Kante and Ne­manja Matic in mid­field.

Haz­ard in par­tic­u­lar has ben­e­fited be­cause he is tak­ing up much bet­ter po­si­tions and is hav­ing a greater ef­fect on games for the full 90 min­utes be­cause the de­fen­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity is to­tally off him.

United fail to re­peat An­field de­fen­sive dis­play

While Chelsea look like they have found the for­ma­tion and sys­tem that suits them, United are still search­ing for theirs.

It looked like they might have found it against Liver­pool at An­field on Mon­day night when they were hard to beat, solid, ag­gres­sive and a threat go­ing for­ward.

They still cre­ated chances against Chelsea on Sun­day but pretty much ev­ery­thing else went out of the win­dow - they were opened up far too eas­ily and did not have the same ag­gres­sion.

While Mon­day’s 0-0 draw was a fan­tas­tic de­fen­sive per­for­mance, where United looked like they wanted to de­fend and en­joyed it, against Chelsea they did nei­ther.

Con­ced­ing the first goal af­ter only 30 sec­onds killed their game-plan but they made things worse af­ter that by try­ing to chase the game.

In­stead of be­ing hard to break down it looked like they were try­ing to play their way out of trou­ble and it played into Chelsea’s hands.

The Blues were not both­ered about United hav­ing more pos­ses­sion be­cause they knew the more they had of the more ball, the wider open they would be when they hit them on the coun­ter­at­tack.

As the game went on, United took too many chances at the back and looked ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble.

They be­came ragged and their play­ers lost con­cen­tra­tion, which is some­thing you would never nor­mally as­so­ciate with a Mour­inho side, and Chelsea’s third goal epit­o­mised United’s poor de­fen­sive dis­play.

Yes, it was a good pass from Ne­manja Matic to give Eden Haz­ard the chance to take on Chris Smalling in­side the area but you would not nor­mally find those gaps.

So, I am not sur­prised that the big­gest thing Mour­inho was dis­ap­pointed about af­ter­wards was the mis­takes that led to all four of Chelsea’s goals.

It is not as though the Blues con­tin­u­ously opened United up. Cut out those er­rors, and it would have been a much tighter game.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.