Home ยป Three things we learned as Scott McTominay’s sensational brace secures 2-1 win for Man United vs. Chelsea

Three things we learned as Scott McTominay’s sensational brace secures 2-1 win for Man United vs. Chelsea

by Derick Kinoti

Manchester United hosted Chelsea at Old Trafford in a crucial Premier League mid-week clash.

After the team’s calamitous loss at the hands of Newcastle last week, no doubt Erik ten Hag would have been keen to get maximum points and relieve some pressure that was mounting on him and his players.

The United boss started Andre Onana in goal.

In defence, Ten Hag gave the nod to Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw.

Sofyan Amrabat started as United’s deepest-lying midfielder, with Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay slightly ahead of him.

Rasmus Hojlund led the line with Antony and Alejandro Garnacho on the bench. There was no place in the starting XI for Marcus Rashford who was dropped to the bench.

Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-1 win against Chelsea.

Questions remain about McTominay’s continued selection despite his goals

United took the lead in the 20th minute courtesy of McTominay, who found himself at the right place inside the Chelsea box to fire the ball into the back of the net, past the reach of a diving Robert Sanchez.

McTominay grabbed a second goal of the game in the second half to complete his brace when he headed in from a superb Garnacho cross.

However, beyond the goals, it could be argued the Scotland international did not offer much else, especially out of possession.

In truth, that has become the norm when McTominay is on the pitch – somehow manage to score but then disappear and contribute very little both on the ball and off it. It just so happens that against Chelsea, he clinched two goals that were enough to win the game.

Far too often, Chelsea managed to easily cut through United’s midfield and were it not for the fact they lack quality up front, the Blues could have hurt United much more.

Indeed, Chelsea’s equalizing goal after McTominay’s opener came from Mauricio Pochettino’s men moving up the pitch into United territory almost unopposed before Cole Palmer beat Onana with a cheeky finish.

It’s highly likely that if Chelsea had more quality up front, the Red Devils would have been made to pay more dearly for just how open they were in the middle of the park.

On more than one occasion, Fernandes and McTominay bombed forward in search of goalscoring opportunities and left huge tracts of space behind them.

At times, Amrabat found himself isolated and with multiple rival players to cover alone.

United have found it very difficult to control games and assert dominance due to the imbalance in midfield. A section of fans have questioned whether McTominay’s goals justify the chaos his continued inclusion in the team brings.

Going forward, United might be better served by prioritizing midfielders that bring balance or properly structuring the team to accommodate McTominay in a way that does not leave the side open and susceptible to conceding easy chances. It’s clear Ten Hag values his goals, especially during a season in which the forwards are not really firing.

Slightly improved performance by Antony

Against Galatasaray, Antony was praised for producing one of his best performances since joining United.

He didn’t get the opportunity to build up on the positive display in Istanbul when United lost at St James’ Park just days later.

However, Ten Hag put faith in him vs. Chelsea and the Brazilian was good.

He won a penalty in the early stages of the match but it ultimately didn’t count for much as Fernandes missed from the spot-kick.

The 23-year-old was a constant pain in the backside for Levi Colwill and Thiago Silva all game. Antony’s passing was crisp and he was probably one of the few players from either team who seemed calm and composed enough to deliver the ball to its intended target.

The United forward had a few sights of goal and should have perhaps got on the score sheet in the second half when his left-foot shot flew just inches wide of Sanchez’s goal.

Antony also got United high up the pitch well and won some crucial fouls.

More significant is that he executed his defensive responsibilities well and helped out Dalot when required to do so.

Against Newcastle, Rashford came under intense criticism for a perceived lack of effort and disinterest in helping out defensively – certainly, no one can make such an accusation against Antony who did well vs. Chelsea.

He wasn’t as dangerous and threatening as Garnacho was, but Antony earned himself some plaudits.

Hopefully, Antony carries on in the same vein and starts showing why Ten Hag sanctioned a big-money move for him in the summer of 2022.

Reguilon’s introduction helped United get over the line

During the interval, Ten Hag took off an uninspiring Lindelof and replaced the Swede with Sergio Reguilon.

This meant that Shaw was moved to slot right next to Maguire at the heart of the United backline.

Reguilon was an extremely positive change.

Beyond the energy he injected, the Spaniard helped out a lot going forward. He participated in attacking phases much more than the reserved Lindelof.

Reguilon also combined well with Garnacho, and most of United’s chances came down their side.

The two put in some nice crosses. Regulion also constantly overlapped to either create space for Garnacho or drag the full-back wider to create gaps.

With Tyrell Malacia out, Ten Hag will be pleased that he can count on Reguilon to contribute when called up.

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