On the back of yet another superb evening in Paris on Tuesday, Manchester United welcomed Chelsea in Premier League action yesterday.
Despite optimism prior to the game, it was a fixture that neither side appeared to want to win, as the score-line reflected the excitement – or lack thereof – that the match provided.
However, there were a few things to take away from the match as United secured another point in league action.
Team selection hampered United
The unchanged side selected by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the thumping of Newcastle United a week ago was a good idea on paper: the side linked up well after the international break and secured an emphatic victory against Steve Bruce’s side, especially as they came from behind to win. But Chelsea are a much different beast to Newcastle, unfortunately for United.
Many were hoping or expecting the hosts to line up similarly to how they did against PSG on Tuesday evening, with a five-man defence, but Solskjaer nixed the set-up that had fared so well in the Champions League. Skipper Harry Maguire returned to partner Victor Lindelof in a four-man defence, and Axel Tuanzebe started on the bench despite a Man of the Match showing against PSG.
Alex Telles had an outstanding debut at left-wing-back on Tuesday but was absent completely against Chelsea; he was taken off prematurely in midweek.
And though Daniel James and Juan Mata had excelled against Newcastle last weekend, the former’s lack of confidence really harmed him against Frank Lampard’s side as he couldn’t manage any meaningful shots on goal. Mata looked astute technically, but it was his lack of speed on the right that meant he was not as involved as he could have been.
Solskjaer’s reluctance to bring on the likes of Donny van de Beek and Mason Greenwood were also puzzling, especially the former, who has looked excellent when introduced so far this year. Perhaps Solskjaer was keeping the pair fresh for the meeting with RB Lepzig on Wednesday, but the work rate and athleticism of the two could have really helped against an increasingly-sluggish Chelsea backline.
David de Gea is slowly - but surely - coming back to form
Whisper it quietly, of course.
You’ve heard it all before – probably after every semi-decent three-game stretch that the Spaniard plays – but David de Gea played a solid game against the Blues. Indeed, he didn’t have too much to do, but you can only beat what is in front of you – and De Gea has done exactly that since the international break.
He had a solid game against Newcastle last week, looked immense against PSG on Tuesday and produced a few fine saves against the visitors last night. He kept out Christian Pulisic’s bullet from the edge of the area and made a couple of other neat stops against a quick Chelsea attack.
Perhaps it’s the return of Dean Henderson to put pressure on the goalkeeper. Maybe Solskjaer has given him an ultimatum behind the scenes. Whatever it is, De Gea is playing well – long may it continue.
Strong debut from Cavani, but time is needed for the frontman
Edinson Cavani, Manchester United’s brand-new striker, made his debut against Chelsea with a half-hour cameo from the bench.
While his first touch, a flick from the near post that almost snuck in, may have given supporters a few unrealistic expectations from the Uruguayan, he did look energised and ready to contribute for the Red Devils.
Edinson Cavani's first touch in a Man Utd shirt was inches from a goal 👀— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 24, 2020
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However, it is imperative for Cavani that he be given time. The striker hasn’t played since March and hasn’t scored since February, so don’t expect fireworks from the new talisman right away. He looked eager to perform last night – he is in great shape and carries himself with a swagger up front not seen at Old Trafford since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure in 2017.
Again, it’s unrealistic to compare him to the Swede, but there is hope he can make a similar impact when the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford aren’t firing as usual.
Is he likely to be given a start on Wednesday when United host RB Lepizig? Probably not - but United need another first-class team selection when they take on Julian Nagelsmann's side.