Manchester United might have ridden their luck to get there, but the Red Devils emerged from the English Premier League Week 9 with three competition points and a huge victory over their arch rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The match will most likely be remembered for the two red cards shown to Chelsea—one to Branislas Ivanovic and one to Fernando Torres—but in the end, it was Manchester United who emerged with a 3-2 victory and, importantly, closed the gap atop of the Premier League ladder.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men could well look back on this match as a season-defining moment and a win that sparked their run at the Premier League title this year.
What did we learn from United's thrilling 3-2 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend? Read on and find out.
From the moment that the starting lineups were issued and Wayne Rooney was listed as playing in behind Robin van Persie in the Red Devils attack, you knew that the England international was primed for a strong performance against the Blues.
Rooney's ability to drop back and build the attack—creating assists and through balls alike—are an integral part of his game and an area that has really come along with the addition of Robin van Persie into United's attack this year.
The defensive elements of his game still do need some work, but considering that United were without Shinji Kagawa and Rooney wasn't really playing in midfield, it didn't hurt the Red Devils.
Particularly in the first half, Rooney showed that he can play wherever in United's starting lineup and bring success to the team—something bound to inspire confidence from Sir Alex Ferguson in the midfield diamond formation, in which the England international could feature as the point of the diamond.
He was subbed out for Ryan Giggs after 74 minutes, but it was a solid performance from Rooney nonetheless.
He might have held the starting position due to an injury to Anders Lindegaard, and he might have made some excellent saves in the process, but there is simply nothing about United goalkeeper David De Gea that exudes confidence and control.
The Spanish international made some excellent saves against the Blues' star-studded attack, most of which came by using his feet, but the shot-stopper still did have some hairy moments that were bound to cause panic attacks on the Red Devils bench.
He is vastly talented, and his reflexes are amongst some of the best in the world, but De Gea still lacks the maturity and stability to become a regular No. 1 goalkeeper.
Sir Alex Ferguson is right to continue the rotation process at Old Trafford until either he or Lindegaard can prove that he has the consistency and talent to take over the spot on a more permanent basis.
De Gea had a good game and saved the Red Devils on more than one occasion, but he simply isn't the permanent regular that many want him to be.
Not yet, anyway.
It might seem like we're discussing this topic every week, but Manchester United striker Robin van Persie is worth every cent that United paid for him in the summer transfer window—and then some more.
Since his arrival at the club, the Red Devils have been a far better attacking unit and Wayne Rooney has finally had more time on the ball, with defensive units now having to pick up another world-class talent in the box or in the backfield.
With a goal and what we'll call an assist on the David Luiz own goal in this one, Van Perise's influence on United's attack is becoming more and more prolific as the season progresses, and the Manchester club are reaping the rewards because of it.
With United leading 2-1 and Chelsea pressing with every passing moment, the last thing that Manchester United needed was a push from their defensive backs—potentially costing them security and confidence at the back.
But Rafael Da Silva simply cannot help himself.
He was caught out, and the Blues capitalized on his poor poisoning; something that the Red Devils need to work on if they are to make do without Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in their starting side for while due to their respective injuries.
Rafael hasn't had a break in a while now, and Jonny Evans is needed in central defense, but if he is to become a regular starter for the Manchester club, he needs to know when the right moment to attack is and when the right moment to defend is.
Ultimately it didn't hurt United thanks to the red cards, but it could have been much, much worse for the Red Devils in this one.
He netted a fantastic double during the Red Devils' Champions League fixture mid week to bring them back from 2-0 down, and Javier Hernandez was once again the savior for United tonight—netting the final goal to give them a 3-2 victory.
Sure, he was offside and therefore didn't deserve to be credited with the goal, but these are the breaks that you take in football, and at the end of the day, Hernandez still had to be there to put the ball in the back of the net following Rafael's blocked shot.
With Rooney, Kagawa and Van Persie all firing for United at the moment, it seems unlikely that Hernandez will find himself a regular starting position—though perhaps in the midfield diamond, there is more room for him and more opportunities for success as a result.
Either way, it is clear that Hernandez can become the X-factor player that Manchester United need; similar perhaps to Edin Dzeko of Manchester City, who can come on off the bench and net the winning goal in the final moments of play.
He is vastly talented on the ball and has good movement off it, and with a plethora of attacking options around him, he could well become the go-to player when United are in desperate need of inspiration at times during the Premier League season.
And finally, whilst they did line up in what was essentially a 4-4-1-1 formation, it became clear throughout the match that Untied do not have a defensive midfield this season—nor do they really have the players capable of thriving in that role.
Neither Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley is playing the holding role that Sir Alex Ferguson wants him to, and neither seems capable of playing the back part of the diamond formation without venturing too far forward in attack.
That is probably fine when United's defense is back to full strength, but at the moment, United need the defensive presence in midfield and were nearly caught out by the Blues for having too many men forward in attack and not enough back in defense.
Whether this means that Sir Alex Ferguson pursues someone more suited to this role during the January transfer window or persists with the likes of Carrick and Cleverley in the midfield diamond regardless still remains to be seen.
But the Red Devils were simply dominated at times by the Blues midfield in this one—something that surely can't be a good sign going forward this year.
What did you learn from United's win over Chelsea?
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