I have got used to seeing Chelsea playing poorly this season, but this was something else. Every week I have seen a poor performance from my side, but I expected more from the game against Manchester United.
Guus Hiddink has always made the point about how he wants Chelsea to show ambition and a desire to win games. This made his team selection ever more baffling when he decided to play without a recognised striker. He saw during his first spell at Chelsea, and even in his first game against Watford, that Chelsea have already operated best with a focal point.
I accept that both Loic Remy and Diego Costa were unavailable, but surely there had to be someone better upfront than Eden Hazard. This is the fifth or sixth time Hazard has played as a striker for Chelsea, and I have never been properly convinced by him. From what I have seen, Kenedy has all the qualities to be a top attacking player in the Premier League.
Maybe the Brazilian isn’t a natural striker, but he has played there in his native country and at youth level for the national side. He may not have the experience or quality of Hazard, but he has the physical presence that Chelsea needed. Considering Hiddink set his side out for the counter attack, he would have been much better off playing Hazard out wide and Kenedy down the middle.
Even towards the hour mark, when Hazard looked battered and bruised, and a bit shattered, he refused to turn to Kenedy, and effectively left us with 10 men. This leads me on to the subject of the referee. Last year, I always thought that Jose Mourinho was going over the top by saying Hazard needed more protection from referees. Today I finally understood it. The United players seemed to take turns to foul Hazard, meaning very few of them took a yellow card. However Hazard’s first foul, which wasn’t even a bad challenge, led to a yellow card from Martin Atkinson. This is just pure inconsistency. But I will accept that United probably should have had a penalty for Willian’s handball.
In the end Chelsea should really have scored at least one goal in the second half. Our two best chances perhaps fell to the two players in our side we really wouldn’t want it to fall to. Cesar Azpilicueta and Nemanja Matic. Anyone else in those situations would probably have scored. Matic put in undoubtedly one of his best performances of the season, but he isn’t a natural finisher, and it showed.
On the positives, I can’t talk about this game without mentioning the goalkeepers. Both David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois were magnificent. De Gea made a couple of very good saves, particularly from John Terry in the first half. However Courtois’ save from Ander Herrera in the second half when it looked virtually inevitable he would score was just unbelievable.
This makes it even more confusing as to why Wayne Rooney was made man of the match. I will accept that he played well, but he certainly wasn’t someone who made a real difference on the pitch. Given this, it is a miracle that he wasn’t sent off towards the end. His challenge on Oscar was one that really could have caused serious injury, and the Brazilian was lucky to walk away from it. It wasn’t just a late challenge, because his foot went half way up Oscar’s shin, somewhere the ball was nowhere near at any point. If it was Diego Costa with the challenge, Twitter would have exploded, so would Piers Morgan.
Rating out of 10: Overall, Chelsea defended pretty well, but didn’t offer a consistent threat going forward. I seriously doubt that Hiddink is the right man to help us up the table, but I hope I’m wrong. For this match, a 6/10.