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MOTM: With few players to choose from, Herrera stands out above the rest

With rumors of a possible sacking facing Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, his side turned in a huge performance, defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. For Jose Mourinho, it was another disappointing display as the entire team struggled away from the friendly confines of Old Trafford.

In the first half, Manchester United started brightly. They pressed Chelsea’s back three aggressively and forced them into wide areas. Early turnovers in the oppositions half allowed United to get some decent chances. Ashley Young put in a dangerous cross that Marcus Rashford should’ve done better with. If the youngster would’ve squared his header it would have been a

If the youngster would’ve squared his header it would have been a tap in by his strike partner Romelu Lukaku. Another chance came a few minutes later after Nemanja Matic made a good run from midfield and Henrikh Mkhitaryan found Lukaku at the top of the box. The Belgium’s shot was parried by his national team teammate and United struggled to keep a hold of the game.

As the match kept going, Chelsea took control. They nearly took the lead after a Phil Jones own goal was overturned for a foul. With both teams playing three central defenders and two strikers, the midfield was far too open, and Chelsea took advantage. With Eden Hazard dropping deep and the wingbacks playing slightly more narrow at times, Chelsea always had a numerical advantage at the center of the park. As a result, United began playing more and more long balls forward with little success. United’s pressing game began to drop off and Cesc Fabregas dictated the play going forward. The Spaniard excelled with numerous options moving all over the pitch, causing United’s defense to be out of position far too often, fortunately, Ander Herrera did an exceptional job of tracking the runs from midfield and helped keep the first half scoreless.

As a result, United began playing more and more long balls forward with little success. United’s pressing game began to drop off and Cesc Fabregas dictated the play going forward. The Spaniard excelled with numerous options moving all over the pitch, causing United’s defense to be out of position far too often, fortunately, Ander Herrera did an exceptional job of tracking the runs from midfield and helped keep the first half scoreless.

The second half began and little changed at the beginning. United attackers would receive the ball and instantly are surrounded by three Chelsea midfielders, making the transition from defense to attack nearly impossible. Forced to hoof the ball long, Lukaku could not hold off Chelsea defenders and settle any sort of possession.

The breakthrough finally came after a cross was whipped in and found the head of Alvaro Morata. The goal came as a result of United central defenders getting dragged out of position, leaving Morata with acres of space in the center of the box.

Struggling to get a grip on the game, Jose Mourinho took off Mkhitaryan and Jones, bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial. The move meant that Herrera sat deep and began marking Chelsea’s central playmakers. It changed little. The second nearly came after Fellaini gave the ball away in midfield, but Chelsea put the shot wide.

A final chance came for United with the chance to tie it. A cross found Fellaini in the middle and the Belgium did well to chest it down and volley on target. The shot was well saved and United couldn’t take advantage of a promising free-kick position in the dying moments.

In what was a disappointing performance, three players stood out above the rest.

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David De Gea

Perhaps the only player not to blame for Chelsea’s goal and helped keep United in the match. An early strike by Hazard was well saved by De Gea and he smothered every attempt. He did well to hold everything he could and didn’t allow as many loose scraps for Chelsea’s attackers to take advantage of. The poorest part of his game was his distribution. With few targets to aim at out of the back, his long balls towards Lukaku and Rashford failed to find their targets more often than not. That being said, him being mentioned as a potential MOTM says a lot about United’s lackluster performance.

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Ander Herrera

The Spaniard has been steadily improving throughout the season and this was one of his best performances. Tasked with tracking Chelsea’s midfield runners, he often found himself making crucial clearances at the edge of the box time and time again. His passing wasn’t great and struggled with the numbers in midfield. However, he constantly was willing to take on possession, even in difficult areas. He showed a passion and willingness to fight back in the face of Chelsea’s overwhelming momentum.

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Eric Bailly

You could blame the Ivorian for Chelsea’s opener, but damn near every United player was partially at fault for the goal. Of the three centre-backs, Bailly was the most impressive in his ability to step into midfield and mark Hazard. He recovered nicely at times but was far too often pulled out of position. This wasn’t a great performance, but like Herrera, he never stopped in the face of mounting pressure.

Conclusion

Nobody was great in this match and Mourinho will be incredibly disappointed in the team’s performance. Out of everyone, Herrera was the most consistent. He helped keep his team in it with his tireless defensive work and did everything he could to get United moving forward. His last-ditch tackles, and constant pressure was one of the few standouts in the Untied midfield. My choice of Herrera as MOTM is an indictment of the failures of United’s attackers and wingbacks. I am sure Herrera would prefer the three points, but he will have to settle for MOTM.

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