Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left furious by a refereeing decision but his side failed to create enough chances in London.
While Bruno Fernandes failed to provide a further moment of magic, two of his teammates stood out.
The Welshman is in good form. His energy and defensive workrate are immense but he also played with a bit of quality on Sunday afternoon, too, doing well on both wings and sending in a couple of decent crosses. In a fixture where Manchester United seriously struggled to create chances, those made by James were much-appreciated.
The importance of his defensive qualities shouldn’t be underestimated either; James was a key figure in preventing or breaking up Chelsea counter-attacks throughout. Only Bruno Fernandes attempted more tackles than James.
Luke Shaw’s post-match comments sparked controversy. The England full-back claimed that referee Stuart Attwell had told United’s players he did not want to award a penalty after a handball by Callum Hudson-Odoi because it would, itself, cause controversy.
As for Shaw’s performance, though, he was good again. Bruno Fernandes is the heartbeat of this United team but his recent form has been uninspiring. Shaw has been United’s best player of 2021.
His best defensive moment came with an important touch and then a fantastic block to deny Ziyech. Solskjaer said of it: “That’s what you do when there is a goal to be saved, you put your body on the line.”
In attack, Shaw made three more chances. No Premier League defender has created more chances this season.
Pogba and Cavani
Both players were missing for United due to injury and so they were obviously not the side’s best players. They were, however, winners of the afternoon. Pogba and Cavani were sorely missed for different reasons. Cavani’s movement and finishing would have helped massively but Pogba’s on-the-ball quality in midfield would have been even more crucial.
Fred and McTominay made some good interceptions but neither, and this applies particularly to Fred, has enough quality on the ball. Passes were loose, astray and prevented United from building good attacks.
Pogba would have changed that, but remains out for a couple more weeks. As for Cavani, it shouldn’t be too long now.
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