A mood of optimism swept across Old Trafford as Robin van Persie banged in an injury time equaliser against Chelsea.
The game was encouraging for the Red Devils as they grabbed a point against the league leaders and showed a resiliency reminiscent of the Sir Alex Ferguson era. A solid defensive output indicates steps in the right direction for Louis Van Gaal's side, with encouraging performances from Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling proving that a healthy Manchester United defence can contend with a potent Chelsea attack, even if it was minus Diego Costa.
The attack, while lacking the clinical aspect, was also exciting. The speed and directness of Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria on the flanks terrorized the opposing full backs and provided for an exciting counter attacking display. While they did not have the free flowing attack that Real Madrid had yesterday against Barcelona, it was an attacking output David Moyes' side lacked last season.
But the draw against Chelsea, while deserving of the optimistic mood the supporters exited in, only papers over the deficiencies of the Manchester United performance on the day. An embarrassment of defending on set pieces led to the first goal, while the manner of the draw hides the reality that getting only two points from a possible six leaves the Red Devils ten points off the league leaders.
Whoever set up the man marking system on set pieces certainly needs to take a look at themselves, because having one of the smallest players on the pitch marking Didier Drogba is, simply stated, stupid. Drogba is one of the best in the world at powering in headers, and a bigger player needs to be contending with him on set pieces.
Manchester United had numerous set pieces to fix this issue earlier in the match, but failed to do so. A simple error that was, and Chelsea was able to capitalise on it; otherwise, the course of the game could have been much different.
But the course of the game was not different, and the final score was 1-1. While Manchester United fans are buoyed with the injury time equalizer, they are still ten points behind Chelsea in the title race, and sit in eighth place in the table. It's a result Manchester United fans would have been disappointed by only a couple of years ago. How the mighty have fallen.
The real winners here are Chelsea. They remain unbeaten, and despite being so close to winning the match, have gone to both stadiums in Manchester and have managed to get a result from both.
Jose Mourinho and company look a strong bet to be title champions, but their counterparts at Old Trafford still have much to do before they can consider themselves among England's elite again. While optimism is the mood, cautious optimism should be the attitude as Louis Van Gaal moves forward to their next sequence of matches.
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