Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge as Manchester United manager couldn’t really have gone much worse. It didn’t take long for the entertainment to start, with Pedro opening the scoring after just 30 seconds.
One point now separates the top five teams in the Premier League, but what did we learn from United’s humiliation at Chelsea?
5. United Must Address Defensive Woes
The best teams Jose Mourinho has assembled have been built on top defences. During his first spell at Chelsea he had John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, while Claude Makalele hovered up everything in front of them.
As of yet it’s difficult to see just who is protecting that back four. Morgan Schneiderlin was brought in last season to do that job, but he’s barely been seen this season. Are Fellaini and Herrera well equipped to help out the vulnerable Smalling and Bailly?
If United are to accomplish anything this season, they need to stop relying on David de Gea and start defending properly.
4. Chelsea Have Found Their Plan A
During the early stages of the season Chelsea had a certain lack of identity. Their overall quality helped secure wins over minor players in the Premier League, but they have stalled recently in matches against Liverpool and Arsenal.
They’ve recently switched to a different formation, playing three at the back with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso impressing at wing-back, giving license to their most attacking players to be free and express themselves.
With this win, coupled with the victory over champions Leicester last week, Chelsea have announced themselves as major challengers this season. Once again they’re a team with a clear identity, thanks to new manager Antonio Conte.
3. Eden Hazard is Sparkling Once Again
Hazard came in for sharp criticism last season. He wasn’t alone in that regard, but having won the PFA Player of the Year and helping Chelsea win the Premier League the previous season, more was expected from the Belgian.
Thankfully for Chelsea fans, Hazard is now back to his best.
His goal, a composed finish following neat interplay with Nemanja Matic, signified a well timed return to form, while his whole display encapsulated everything brilliant about the attacking midfielder. He now has four goals in the league this year, and if he continues his goalscoring form then Chelsea could be set for a competitive season.
2. Zlatan is Out of Form – Repeat, Zlatan is Out of Form
This is not something United fans would have anticipated when the Swede signed in the summer. Ibrahimovic scored four Premier League goals in United’s opening four games, but he hasn’t found the net in the league since United’s defeat to Manchester City.
The former PSG and Milan striker was virtuously anonymous during the draw at Liverpool and endured another dull performance on Sunday. It’s probably not a coincidence that the 35-year-old’s loss of form has coincided with United’s, but fans of Jose Mourinho’s side will be desperate to see Zlatan hit the back of the net soon, and rediscover that swagger that we have all come to know and love about him.
1. It’s Tight at the Top – But United Won’t Be There Any Time Soon
Perhaps a bold shout, but on the past weeks evidence an arguable one.
If you take a look at the current top five teams in the Premier League they all have a definitive style. While there are occasionally shortcomings in their systems, all players in their respective sides all look at ease and understand their roles within their sides, and right now United just don’t look like a complete team.
Paul Pogba is yet to excel so far this season, Ibrahimovic is out of form and David de Gea was helpless in conceding four goals on Sunday. If United can’t figure out a way to pick up points, they’ll have to wait until next season to mount a title challenge.