Club legend Pat Nevin was part of Chelsea TV’s coverage of last night’s game at Old Trafford, and now he puts down in words his thoughts on the heavyweight contest he watched…
I promised myself before the Manchester United game that I wouldn’t get carried away whatever the result. We wouldn’t win the league by winning this game and we wouldn’t have lost it by getting turned over this early in the season by the current English champions.
Like everyone else I was looking forward to the game and in particular the tactical battle between the two managers. The spectacle may have been a bit of a let down, but the tactical battle was anything but.
The first skirmish would of course be fought over the team sheets. Who was going to adapt for whom? There was also the Wayne Rooney question, or should that be one of the Wayne Rooney questions. This time it was, will he or won’t he play? Well Rooney played and did well finding space impressively but was snuffed out of creating any real chances by Chelsea’s ultra-organised defence.
What about the team sheets then? Clearly Jose decided to be the one to adapt to make the game a tighter, cagier affair. It worked perfectly, or almost perfectly in that I am sure the Blues would have hoped to break forward and score a goal at some point. It wasn’t to be and we managed to get a point, a point that was a far better one for Chelsea than it was for Man United in that they were the home side after all.
I am sure the more open exciting Chelsea will be in evidence throughout the season but now and again under Jose it will have to be about the result. This was one of those occasions. Before the game I will openly admit that had you offered me a point I would have bitten your hand off, even if it was a trifle dour at times. In fact those were my last words on Chelsea TV before the game.
What was interesting was to watch and see the defensive organisation from Chelsea, mainly because it was text book. There were few chances for United, a great shape and line at the back, constant communication and perfect concentration.As such Rooney, Welbeck and particularly Van Persie were limited to very fleeting sights of goal under huge pressure. The proof of this was that for all the possession that United had at various times, Petr Cech had an exceptionally quiet night. You could talk in depth about any of the back four, all did a sterling job, but I just loved the play by Branislav Ivanovic.
It was a master class from the Serbian and interesting that he played so differently from the home game against Villa earlier in the week. This wasn’t a night for marauding runs into the opposition box, but for a controlled performance, willing to cover his centre-backs in front and behind more than finding himself ahead of our centre-forward. He did exactly that last week to stunning effect, particularly with his headed winning goal, but when the manager tells him to rein it in, he does with robotic efficiency.
I will be putting a piece on the website that will look in depth at Brana’s contribution over the last 180 minutes and I suspect it will underline why he may well arguably be the first name on Jose’s team sheet most weeks this season.
The tactical battles between Moyes and Mourinho have always fascinated me. The Scot is an old friend of mine since the days we were at the same boys club together and I know that he has always wanted to take on the Special One on what he would consider was a level playing field. Well it is level now, he has the money as well as the squad and this will undoubtedly be one of the great battles over the coming seasons. I suspect that privately Moyes may think that the stalemate in this one wasn’t too bad, a defeat would have set the tabloids questioning his ability. In short, round one is a tie, but the bout has a long way to go.
The next few days will be a fever of transfer speculation as it always is at this time of the year. Other than Spurs doing a bit of solid business I suspect the big moves have yet to happen. The outcome of the next few days could have a huge bearing on where the silverware ends up this season.
There is a question of just where all the creative midfielders will fit in for Chelsea, but in the end it is not a bad problem to have. One thing that it does show is that Jose Mourinho is extremely keen to be positive. There will be plenty who will write in the coming days that the defensive style by Chelsea at Old Trafford signals the way ahead, but I reckon a trip to the champions early in the season will look very different from just about every other game from here on in.
The circus moves on and maybe the man most concerned this weekend should be Pellegrini – a couple of defenders out then lo and behold Man City are shipping goals to the league’s new boys. Sense prevails eventually however, this is the Premier League, there are always upsets. Cardiff can mug Man City, just a week after last year’s strugglers Villa waltz out of the Emirates Stadium with three goals and three points. The trick is to make these blips irregular or even rare, because in the English Premier League they will always happen at some point, it is all about how you react in the next game.
Last week’s quiz asked which Chelsea player played the most first team competitive games in the previous 12 months, including internationals. Petr Cech was a popular and intelligent guess which many had, while many more again plumped for Juan Mata, sensible considering his exploits with Spain. More still thought David Luiz might take the prize considering Brazil’s Confederations Cup exploits and this proved decisive, but not for him. It was Oscar who beat everyone else’s total of games in the period, helped by his Confederations Cup and Olympic appearances.
There can be only one winner chosen from the huge number of correct entries and this week it is Ailsa Burrow from London.
To stand a chance of being the random lucky winner next week of a DVD review of last season, signed by one of the players, could you tell me who was the last player to score a winning goal for Chelsea against Manchester United? Answers as ever to me at email@example.com
Good luck with that and let’s hope we can win our first major trophy of the season on Friday against Bayern Munich…the games do not get any easier do they?