Here we take a closer look at an intense first half battle of wits between Manchester United and Chelsea, where Jose Mourinho replicated his game plan in the FA Cup game—marred by Herrera’s sending off—to perfection.
Mourinho set his team up in an unorthodox 3-5-2 shape, with Darmian and Herrera tasked to man-mark Pedro and Hazard respectively. It worked, mainly due to Chelsea’s inability to take advantage of the space created by Hazard’s movements. The absence of Alonso hurt Chelsea badly, as he was always within close proximity of Hazard for swift exchanges. Rashford and Lingard were relentless and well-drilled in their pressing from the front, as Chelsea’s build-up was successfully stopped.
Conte won’t be pleased to see his team crumble in this fashion, albeit without two key first team players and an out of form Diego Costa. A lot has to be questioned about his decision to alter their defensive shape to a 5-3-2, leaving Hazard in the forward line and exposing Chelsea’s lack of midfield cover with a thin midfield ‘3’. Teams have found out how to break down Chelsea’s deep block—via flank-oriented penetration and manipulating the midfield block.
With just six games to play, Conte will certainly be looking to fix the problems in his system as soon as possible to avoid an embarrassing title collapse. It begins with an FA Cup semifinal against fellow title rivals Tottenham, where Conte’s men will seek to atone for their performance at Old Trafford. It’s third time lucky for Jose meanwhile, as he savors this emphatic victory over his old employers with such a complete performance.