Manchester United and Chelsea provided an intriguing clash for Premier League spectators on Sunday, as their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford threw up all manner of talking points.
Robin van Persie's late strike to cancel out Didier Drogba's opener sparked delirium in the stands among Red Devils fans and a sense on injustice among the visitors from Stamford Bridge - all to do with a red card.
Branislav Ivanovic had fouled Angel di Maria down the left of the area to give away the crucial free-kick and there was little argument with that decision. The problem came when referee Phil Dowd decided a yellow card was necessary, which turned out to be the Serbia international's second soft yellow card.
Jose Mourinho was not best pleased with the decision, but should probably be more displeased with his side's inability to kill the game off after Drogba scored. The Blues attempted to slow the game down and see out the game, but they fell at the final hurdle.
A draw was probably fair though, as Manchester United were the better side in the first half and should have gone in at half time with a lead - Louis van Gaal thinks they should have won.
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Anyway, three areas that stood out the most to me are as follows...
David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois at the top of their games
The two young goalkeepers played important roles in keeping the game at just 1-1; Man-of-the-Match Courtois will feel particularly hard done by, having conceded in what was United’s last attack of the night.
The growth of David de Gea has been quite staggering; the 23-year-old was the Red’s stand-out performer last season and has continued to develop into one of the best shot stoppers around. He also appears to have taken over the reins as Spanish No.1, ahead of the struggling Iker Casillas.
Having spent three seasons on loan at Atlético Madrid, Thibaut Courtois is not only a goalkeeper with huge potential; he has achieved much of that potential at just 22. It is such a rarity to see a keeper so young command his box in the way the Belgian does.
You can expect to see de Gea and Courtois at the top of their game for the next decade and more.
Marouane Fellaini’s got his confidence back
If you sign for Manchester United and under-perform like Fellaini has you will obviously come under a lot of scrutiny, more so than most other clubs.
When David Moyes signed the big Belgian question marks were raised as to whether he had the mentality to be a ‘big club’ player. It appeared as though the former Everton man wasn’t up to the challenge last season – with many poor showings and no goals scored.
Such was Fellaini’s apparent demise – West Brom’s official twitter account mocked the United man during last week’s Monday night game tweeting: “Fellaini has now taken his tracksuit off, fortunately he has a Manchester United strip on underneath”.
The 26-year-old went on to score his first goal for the Red Devils in that game – silencing many of his critics in the process.
Starting Fellaini against Chelsea turned out to be an excellent decision form Louis van Gaal, the Belgian dominated the middle of the park making life very difficult for Cesc Fábregas and Nemanja Matic. Vitally, Fellaini also played a huge role in United’s equaliser, rising highest to meet Di Maria’s delivery before the ball rebounded to Van Persie.
Jose Mourinho focused on attacking football
The Portuguese has often been criticised for playing an overly defensive game but it must be said he’s got Chelsea playing very attractive football this season.
The west London club sit top of the goalscoring charts with 24 strikes in the opening nine games. Diego Costa has been an excellent signing and with back-up from Loïc Rémy and Didier Drogba, they have plenty of fire power.
Of course it’s easier to play attacking football with the talent at Mourinho’s disposal, but it was expected that the Blues would show a more disciplined, conservative approach last night – especially after going a goal ahead. The Chelsea boss was happy for Eden Hazard to play a more or less free role – which allowed him to inter-change with Oscar and Willian.
Chelsea were superb for the majority of the second half but their failure to get a second goal cost them in the end. Bringing on Mikel and Zouma was Mourinho’s way of shutting up shop – which may have worked if Branislav Ivanović hadn’t been dismissed.
Luckily for fans, Mourinho’s new Chelsea will be much better to watch than his previous sides – but will they be as effective?
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