For Reds of any age, a trip to Stamford Bridge is an unenviable task for any Manchester United manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reversed the roles of the recent United vs Chelsea rivalry and it is now the Blues who will look ahead to these games in fear and trepidation.

Comment has rightly been made on the poor performance of Frank Lampard’s team but more should be made of Solskjaer’s qualities.

A recently introduced tactic has been the use of Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams in a slightly rare left-back pairing. Shaw is tucked inside and allows United to cope with Williams’ occasional mistakes while keeping his aggression, confidence and attacking quality.

When one bursts forward, the other can cover. It’s worked at grounds across the league and did so again at Stamford Bridge. It nullifies the impact of the wide players and keeps things more solid next to Maguire and whoever his centre-back partner is.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United celebrates after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 17, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)


Solskjaer has shown tactical qualities

On Monday night, that partner was Eric Bailly. Bringing him back into the side instead of using Phil Jones was the right decision. Bailly gives United, and Maguire, something that Victor Lindelof does not: pace.

The key moment for the Ivorian was his goalsaving block on Mateo Kovacic. He sprinted back to do that and it helps Maguire, who is far from the quickest, knowing he has a speedster in Bailly next to him.

But while Bailly was involved plenty at the back, it was Maguire who doubled United’s lead. Again, this is something that Solskjaer should be credited for. Set pieces have been a useless part of United’s game for far too long.

Maguire headed home in the second half, helped by his partner Bailly who blocked off a couple of Chelsea defenders. It was a thumping header from a whipped cross. Most of United’s deliveries have been floated in this season.

Matic reveals Solskjaer has worked with United on corners

Nemanja Matic revealed that Solskjaer has been working on United’s corner-taking during the warm-weather training camp in Marbella, Spain.

“I’m happy because we worked a lot on that [corners] in the last few days,” the Serbian told the club website.

“It’s a strength for the future, now that we can count on goals from headers. I’m happy with the team performance and we have to continue like this.”

Manchester United's English defender Harry Maguire (R) is congratulated by Manchester United's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic (L) after he scores their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on February 17, 2020. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /
(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

It came off and if United can finally start to take advantage of the many corners they get each game, it’ll be a massive help.

Up front, Solskjaer once again opted for a split striking force of Martial and James. It’s something he’s done in a number of big games and, combined with two wing-backs, it prevents the opposition full-backs from having any kind of influence.

That was most notable against Liverpool, but it had the same effect at Chelsea. It also sees a gap between the strikers where Fred, or Bruno Fernandes, could push up and get tight to Kovacic or Jorginho and stop Chelsea from playing out. It was another smart tactical move.

Chelsea may have been poor, but Solskjaer got tactics right

Ultimately United were not that impressive. Chelsea were poor and United matched them in the first half despite going into the break ahead.

But it’s worth remembering that Solskjaer once again set his side up in the correct way and reaped the rewards of it.

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