Manchester United 5-2 Bournemouth: The three key things we learnt as the Red Devils demolished the Cherries

Ahead of gameweek 33, with only six games remaining in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United faced a straightforward fixture against Bournemouth at Old Trafford, where the visitors are struggling in the relegation zone and have one of the poorest away forms in the league.

Going into the game, majority of people were expecting the game to be one-sided in favour of the hosts, as they remain unbeaten in all competitions since the end of January and are looking to finish in the top four for the first time since the 2017/2018 season. On the other side, for Eddie Howe’s men, the main objective for the team is to avoid the relegation drop and be in the Premier League for another year, which could be decided on the final day of the campaign with how things are going.

As predicted, the hosts were in full control of the game from the first second of the game to the final whistle, as they went on to achieve 69% possession of the ball and 172 passes in the attacking third compared to Bournemouth’s 57 successful passes in the final third. Though, the visitors were able to play some good football in patches and periods, compared to other teams that have faced a difficult trip to Old Trafford, which allowed them to score two goals through Junior Stanislas and Joshua King.

In the end, the sheer brilliance and pure class that Manchester United had in midfield and in attack was too much for the Cherries to handle, as the game finished off at 5-2 in favour of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team. The Red Devils remain in fifth place, as Chelsea and Leicester City were able to win their respective games, whilst Bournemouth are in 19th position and a single point away from safety.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

The individual mistakes at the back have to be ironed out

For sure, the focus will be on the amount of goals that the side had scored and how they responded after going down by a goal in the 15th minute of the game, but the individual mistakes that were made by the likes of David De Gea, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire have to be seriously considered. The side have conceded a number of cheap goals from the 33 goals they have conceded so far this season, which could play a pivotal role on if they finish in the top four at the end of July or not.

From Maguire leaving his legs wide open to be nutmegged before De Gea was beaten at his front post once again, to Bailly giving away a penalty with an unnecessary handball just inside of the penalty box, quite a few concerning errors were made against a struggling Premier League side. Fortunately, no further mistakes were made to allow the visitors to push for a magical comeback.

Given the amount of money the club have spent in recent years as well as how they are currently interested in players such as Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish, Solskjaer will be looking to go all out on attempting to challenge for the league title next season, and in order for this to be achieved, the monumental mistakes that are made by the goalkeeper and the defence have to be ironed out.

Rashford, Martial and Greenwood cannot stop scoring at the moment

Towards the start of the campaign, United were badly struggling for goals and were relying on the penalties they were receiving, with both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba on the sidelines whilst all the pressure and expectations were solely on Marcus Rashford’s shoulders. Six to nine months later, along with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, the strikers simply cannot stop scoring at the moment.

Martial, Rashford and Mason Greenwood have been scoring goals left, right and centre since the season had restarted a couple of goals, as United have scored 12 goals in their last four Premier League games. And when looking at the statistics of the strikers up until now, Greenwood has 15 goals in all competition, Martial and Rashford have 20 each in all competition, which clearly shows that the club and the manager will never be dried up of goals for the next couple of years or so.

Manchester United’s dominance remains high against the struggling sides

Under the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Manchester United had this rising issue of the fact that they would find it difficult to confidently beat the mid-table teams or the struggling sides in the relegation zone and put at least a couple of goals past them. Now, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in charge, the side are able to continuously play a strong starting line-up, who have the bond and chemistry with one another to be at their best and be in full control of the opposition.

As long as the team are able to continue in this same, professional and dominant manner from now till the end of the season, then both Solskjaer and Manchester United should have no problems at all in picking up maximum points and finishing in the top four. Not only that, with how the rule of five substitutions is being used, it allows the Red Devils to have the ideal individuals to bring on from the bench, whether they need to defend a lead or bring on an a player to quickly turn the game around.

Brighton 0-3 Manchester United: The three key things we learnt as the Red Devils sink the Seagulls

Ahead of gameweek 32, with only seven games remaining in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United faced a difficult trip away to the Amex Stadium to take on Brighton, where the visitors have not been able to take a point away from the hosts for the past two seasons.

Going into the game, Graham Potter’s Brighton were intending on continuing their unbeaten run since the campaign had resumed, as they currently sit in 15th place and just six points above the relegation zone. On the other hand, for United, who aiming for a top four finish, they have to make an attempt in turning around their results away from home to increase their chances of finishing above Leicester City and Chelsea, who have been resting in third and fourth place for a long time.

The visitors, as expected, were in full control of the game from the first second of the game to the final whistle, as they went on to achieve 63% possession of the ball and 132 passes in the attacking third compared to Brighton’s 49 successful passes in the final third. However, the hosts were able to hit some stride into the match once it was game over, and when both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba were taken off the pitch, but they were lacking the cutting edge of quality to score a goal.

At the end of the day, the Red Devil’s quality in each department was just too much for Brighton to handle, at the fixture was simply game, set and match ten minutes before the hour mark. United remain in fifth position, and will be hoping that the sides above them drop points over the coming days, whilst Brighton will be aiming to pick up three to five points over the next few fixtures to ensure they are safe from the relegation zone and are in the Premier League next season.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Bruno Fernandes continues to prove that he is the real deal

Notching five goals and three assists in eight Premier League appearances, Bruno Fernandes continues to prove to the English media and the rival supporters that he is the real deal, the same people who had thought that his style of play would be found out sooner rather than later. As his partnership alongside Paul Pogba carries on to develop and improve day by day, the duo have helped the team to seriously dominate possession and create constant chances for the attackers.

Since the arrival of the Portuguese international at the end of January, the side have incredibly gone on to be unbeaten in 15 games in all competition, where his contributions in the attacking phase has been top notch, along with his work rate and inspirational mentality. Bruno went on to scoring two crucial goals in each half of the game against Brighton, where both goals were cleverly taken, with the first one being just outside of the penalty box and the second one being a first-time volley.

Mason Greenwood is on the rise, as he takes Daniel James’ spot

At the age of 18, Mason Greenwood has just under 900 minutes of Premier League game time so far this season, and he already has six goals and one assist to his name. Being regarded as a youngster that is rapidly on the rise, he is starting to be seen as a player that has more potential than both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, and the best part about it is the fact that he is not fazed or worried about these remarks as he is more than happy to reach the expectations that have been set.

Currently playing as a right-sided winger, Greenwood has been bonding well with the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, especially in a position that he is not familiar of. On top of that, his pressing high up the pitch, ability to linkup with his teammates, dribbling style with both feet deserves to be praised highly, as he is offering a huge amount of threat in many ways for Solskjaer and United, compared to Daniel James, who looks to be very inconsistent and predictable.

The Red Devils are finally starting to turn their away form around

If Ole Gunnar Solskajer and Manchester United are seriously looking to push for a top four finish, then they will have to turn their away form around instantly and before it is too late. As things currently stand, the side have the seventh best record away from home, with even the likes of Leicester, Southampton and Wolves achieving more points than United when on the road.

When looking at United’s remaining fixtures away from home, they still have to go away to teams such as Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, which will certainly not be straightforward as many would think. As long as Solskjaer is able to keep Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba at the top of their game and of the opposition too, with the attackers taking their chances when it matters the most, the team should find zero issues in picking up maximum points from the remainder of the games, let alone the three away fixtures they have from now till the end of the footballing season.

Man Utd 2-0 Man City: The Reds complete the league double over the Citizens as they continue to push for a top four finish

After dropping points away to Everton in their last league game, Manchester United’s intention were the three points only in their next fixture, which was against no one else but their local rivals in Manchester City at Old Trafford. They went on to achieve the victory with conviction, as the team managed to do the league double over the Citizens for the first time since the 2009/10 season.

Due to Chelsea and Sheffield United winning their respective games whilst Leicester City face Aston Villa on Monday night, it was a must win game for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men, who were quite confident going into the game as Pep Guardiola’s key man in Kevin De Bruyne was unavailable to play because of a shoulder injury. And without the Belgian international, Man City were still able to dominate possession, but did not have the cutting edge of quality to create the key chances.

The visitors, as expected, were in full control of the game from the first second of the game to the final whistle, as they went on to achieve 73% possession of the ball and just under 150 passes in the attack third compared to United’s 50 successful passes in the final third. However, it was the hosts that made the key moments count, as the crucial goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay were more than enough for the side to pick up much needed victory to go back into fifth-place.

At the end of the day, the noisy neighbours simply did not have much to play for in the league and did not bring their A Game to a fixture they have dominated on so many occasions over the past three to five seasons. On the other hand, the Red Devils had the motivation of the manager and most importantly the whole of Old Trafford behind them, to proceed onto winning the game.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

The back-three/five setup is proving to be the perfect plan for the Red Devils

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not had a regular system or style of play in place that has been consistently successful and effective at the same time. However, the back-three/five setup fits the current squad of players like a glove, as it allows the team to totally nullify the opposition’s attack before going onto producing a few attacks of their own. The perfect example was honestly from today’s game, as City had managed to create one chance and complete just seven shots throughout the whole game.

And when United had their time and space on the ball, they were able to counter attack through the likes of Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James, who were offering the perfect mixture of creativity, movement and burst of pace on and off the ball. Meanwhile in midfield, Fred and Nemanja Matic did more than enough to cover the middle of the pitch, two individuals who have the aggression and intelligence to protect the backline whilst help the team to push high up the pitch.

Solskjaer’s record against the top-six teams continues to grow and flourish

For sure, after doing the league double over Chelsea and now over Man City, the talks about Solskjaer’s incredible record in the big games will continue to increase, as he has played the top-six teams on 12 occasions in all competition so far this season, having won seven times, drawn twice and lost three times. This is actually quite a positive record for a young manager who does not have the greatest of squads and is still missing the key individuals in Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.

As long as he is able to do the double over Jose Mourinho’s Spurs next week as well as pick up maximum points in the remaining league games, to help the side qualify for next year’s Champions League football, he may end up managing the club for another couple of years, despite the recent rumours of Max Allegri or Mauricio Pochettino taking over as manager. And if he does end up doing the unthinkable, the board will have no choice but to back him up in the summer, which could lead to a potential charge for the league title along with possible success in the domestic competition.

The complete performance from the likes of Bruno, Martial and Wan-Bissaka

The whole United starting line-up played intelligently and superbly from start till end, even the likes of Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay and Odion Ighalo had put on quite the perfect cameo from the bench towards the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game. However, the key individuals that stood out the most were none other than Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes, three important players that are pure specialists in their expertise and are truly indispensable from the first XI.

Wan-Bissaka, who has been the side’s player of the season just after Fred, has got the whole right flank on lockdown time and time again, as he successfully kept Raheem Sterling in his pocket for the third time this campaign. Bruno Fernandes, since arriving to United in January, has completely transformed the team around and has helped to bring the best out of a number of players. Finally on Martial; he has had a lot of unnecessary criticism towards him in recent weeks, but his performance as well as his key goal to give his team the lead should be enough to see him getting back to his best.

Everton 1-1 Man Utd: Solskjaer’s men fail to take the advantage as they pick up a point at Goodison Park

After seeing both Leicester City and Chelsea drop crucial points in their respective games as well as sixth-place Tottenham Hotspur going head-to-head with eight-place Wolves on Sunday afternoon, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the potential of taking the advantage, which was dependent on if they could go away to Goodison Park and pick up the three points against Everton.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had dominated possession but were missing the cutting edge in the final third of the pitch, which could not be provided as the likes of Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were closely marked by the Everton defence. On the other hand, the host went onto complete more shots and actually created three big chances, but the opportunities were not taken, and David De Gea did more than enough to bounce back from his error early in the game.

It took just three minutes for Everton to take the lead, as De Gea thought he had enough space and time on the ball to clear it away, and when he did so, the ball was kicked right onto Dominic Calvert-Lewin and into the back of the net. This was the Spaniard’s seventh error that led to a direct goal since the start of last season, making him the joint-most with Bernd Leno and Martin Dubravka.

Although it took them ten minutes to regroup and sort out the organisation within midfield, United went onto dominate the rest of the first half as they were superbly shifting the play from side to side and playing at a high tempo. And because of their pressing high up the play, they caught Everton out in the right moment where they were playing the ball out from the back, which allowed Bruno Fernandes to pick up the ball and fire his low shot past Jordan Pickford to get the needed equaliser.

The second half was one-sided, with the hosts edging out the control in possession and were attacking the United defence on all fronts, especially with players such as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof on a yellow card. The Toffees huge and final chance came in the last moments of the game, where Calvert-Lewin’s attempt took a slight deflection off Maguire’s before reaching the corner of the net, but the Video Assistance Referee ruled the goal out eventually as Gylfi Sigurdsson was in an offside position and was apparently obstructing the goalkeeper’s view from the play.

In the end, United failed to make things count when it mattered the most, whilst Everton will be disappointed that they only picked up a point and the winning goal was unfortunately ruled out in the dying seconds of the match. The Red Devils remain in fifth-place, still three points behind Chelsea, as Carlo Ancelotti’s men sit in eleventh-place just below Arsenal due to goal difference.

With no further ado, here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

United’s defensive issues continue as De Gea and Lindelof fail to perform

For sure, United are undefeated in all competitions and have completed six clean sheets since the disastrous loss to Burnley back in January, but the fact still remains that the side’s backline is not good enough to guide the team to a top four finish or help them to challenge for the Europa League trophy. Despite bolstering this department up with the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, the side are conceding way too many chances and most importantly, a lot of cheap goals.

The weakness within the backline happens to be both David De Gea and Victor Lindelof, two individuals who have not shown the consistency and quality that shows they are good enough to play week in and out. With their lack of concentration and incapability to be intelligent in the key moments, they are seriously preventing the team from progressing as a whole.

The main solution to this would be to replace Lindelof with Eric Bailly, who has returned to full fitness recently and is seen as the best centre-back in the squad, and in with De Gea, his place in the team will be under huge amount of pressure once Dean Henderson returns to the club in the summer, who is having a superb season at Sheffield United.

Bruno Fernandes continue to show his quality and comes up with the goods

Since arriving to Manchester United on the final days of the January window, Bruno Fernandes has gone to be a huge influence for the side, on and off the ball, as he continues to show his incredible quality time and time again. With two goals and two assists in four league appearances, he is proving to be the heartbeat of the team and the one to get the best out of his teammates, which is exactly the type of player that the Red Devils have been missing for the last couple of years, in all honesty.

The 25-year-old was working his magic in a number of different areas today, whether it was in the number ten role, the deep midfield position centrally or on the left flank, he was making a statement that he is not a limited player and he has a lot in his locker to offer to the team. United seriously have a phenomenal  player who is more than capable of being placed into the category of world class players or just below it, especially if he helps them to somehow reach Champions League football, but it’s up to the manager and the squad to look after him and also get the best out of him.

The Red Devils have a number of huge games coming up in the month of March

Derby, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield United and the Europa League tie against Austrian side LASK. There are six huge games for both Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the month of March, which will play a crucial part towards the final third of the season and if the club’s season is a successful one or not. As things stand, the campaign will go down as a failure, due to no Champions League football next season and no success in any of the other competition, and this will lead to a difficult summer window of not being able to attract the much required players.

However, everything can turn around in a matter of matches, as the side are three points behind Chelsea, who have only won two league games this year and have a few difficult games coming up in the league. And in the Europa League, the team look to have a straightforward tie and could have a simple route to the final if the other results in the competition go their way and if they receive some luck in the draws. And not only that, Paul Pogba has returned to regular training and Marcus Rashford could potentially be back in April, two great players who are game changers and winners.

Man Utd 3-0 Watford: The Reds Devils move up to fifth place as Bruno Fernandes shines once again

After seeing the likes of Leicester City, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur drop crucial points on Saturday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United went on to beat Nigel Pearson’s Watford in what was quite the comfortable and straightforward victory at Old Trafford on a Sunday afternoon.

Ahead of the game, the main thoughts on a United point of view was if they can taken the advantage for once from the results of the other teams above them, as they have failed to do so on many occasions throughout the season and it is why they are currently not in the top four positions. Meanwhile, for Watford, who still remain in the relegation zone and just a point away from safety, the questions were if they could pull off an upset against a big side or would their poor run continue.

Looking at it as a whole, the hosts had unsurprisingly dominated possession from start to end, along with creating a couple of clear-cut chances and completing just under 10 shots on target. Although it took the side some time to get into the game, with the visitors pressing high up the pitch and causing a number of problems, they were able to play on the front foot after the half hour period.

With the crucial goals coming from the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, the side were able to work on their inconsistent home form and show to the neutral supporters that the race for a top four finish is not over anytime soon. And the side should have had a fourth goal here and there, but Daniel James was sadly not convincing enough in front of goal.

On the other hand, the Hornets posed a decent threat through a few set pieces and on the counter-attack, with a goal from Troy Deeney being harshly ruled out due to an apparent handball from Craig Dawson. Watford will want to work on their performances and decision making in the final third of the pitch, as they did not create a single chance and ended the game with just four shots completed.

In the end, United made the advantage count and picked up the much needed win, allowing them to move above Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United into fifth place. And for Nigel Pearson’s Watford, there will be a huge amount of concerns and fears on what is in store for them for the rest of the season, as they still need to face the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.

Here are the three things we learnt in United’s latest league fixture…

Bruno Fernandes completes another perfect performance

Completing one goal and one assist in his third league game for Manchester United, it just feels like Bruno Fernandes has been playing in the Premier League and at Old Trafford for a number of years. Once again, he has shown the capability that he can play in many areas and is able to be seen as the heartbeat of the side’s attack, as he continues to show his intelligence and class on and off the ball.

As long as the movement and pace are up there in the final third of the pitch, he is able to create the clear-cut chances that the likes of Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are always looking for. With Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba still remaining on the sidelines and are not expected to return from injury anytime soon, Solskjaer along with the squad are blessed with an individual that they can depend and rely on, who is able to create something out of nothing and is also quite a vocal leader.

The Red Devils produce the ideal result and performance after a long time

It’s been a long time since United have been able to match the three points along with a convincing performance and a number of goals. The last time they completed that, was against Norwich in the second week of January, which still feels like a long time ago for a side that wants to reach Champions League football and start challenging for the league title once again. Despite the lack of quality and squad depth, the team are making small steps of progress, whether it can be seen or not.

Having won back-to-back league games for the third time this campaign, the side’s consistency and effectiveness on both sides of the pitch is starting to show its rewards, as they once looked close to finishing in the middle of the league but are now a couple of points behind fourth-place Chelsea. With the side yet to reach their peak and are still missing a few key individuals within the line-up, who knows what the squad are capable of achieving if they all have the same winning mindset.

Can Solskjaer do the unthinkable and guide the team to a top four finish?

For sure, the side’s chances of finishing in the top four does look slim, especially when you consider the difficult run of games United still have and how they are also busy with the Europa League fixtures. However, if the results in the remaining league matches go in their favour and they are able to pick up maximum points from now till the end, anything can really happen in the Premier League.

The victory against Watford makes it their 11th league win of the season, with only the four teams above United that have won more games than them so far this campaign. And given the situation that the noisy neighbours Manchester City have found themselves in with the UEFA, with them receiving a two-year ban from Champions League football, it could potentially mean that if Solskjaer’s Manchester United were to finish in fifth-place, they could actually qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The four Premier League players to have in your Fantasy team for the rest of the season

With just three months of football remaining, every single Fantasy Premier League manager will be reviewing their teams and be aiming to make the most out of the outstanding features they have, whether that’s the wildcard option, the bench boost, the free hit or even the triple captain selection.

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League has been really unpredictable this season, as majority of the teams in the league and a lot of the well-known players from the top-six sides have been inconsistent. However, with 11 league fixtures left and the European Championship to take place this summer, a large number of individuals will be working their socks off to reach this grand stage.

Not only that, given the return of the prestigious Champions League as well as the Europa League football, all Fantasy Premier League managers will be doubting any important decision they make and they will not be totally sure of what results to expect or predict in the upcoming fixtures.

With no further ado, here are the four perfect Premier League players to have in your team…

Goalkeeper – Alisson

Having the best defensive record in the league, conceding 15 goals in 26 league games, there’s no doubts at all that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are miles ahead of the rest of the teams in the country and are potentially on their way to ending the season undefeated. On that note, having Alisson Becker in your team is a no brainer, who is on 10 clean sheets along with Nick Pope, despite playing nine games fewer than the Burnley shot stopper due to the calf injury he picked up back in August.

The 27-year-old Brazilian international is now being recognised as the best goalkeeper in the league and one of the best in Europe, as he continues to put in the hard work between the goalposts along with helping the side through his ability to play as a ball-playing individual. With Liverpool’s fixtures looking straightforward, barring the games away to Arsenal and Manchester City, there should be no huge problems in seeing Alisson to carry on achieving the consistent clean sheets, who is only valued at £6.2m.

Defender – John Lundstram

A lot of FPL managers would have found out by now about the advantage and benefits of having John Lundstram in their team, someone who is a central-midfielder but is actually seen as a defender on the Fantasy Football app and website. The main positives are when Sheffield United keep a clean sheet or when Lundstram himself bags a goal, as he is able to go onto gaining a few extra bonus points, which is why he has accomplished over 100 points and is expected to gain more and more.

Although he has been benched by Chris Wilder over the last couple of weeks for the Blades’ record signing in Sander Berge, he is expected to be brought back into the line-up soon rather than later, as the side are continuing to push for a spot in next season’s Europa League and will want to finish the campaign on a high note. With the side having the second best defensive record in the league, along with Lundstram being the club’s third best player in terms of direct goal contributions, it would surely be an easy and simple decision of bringing him into your backline for a figure of just £5.0m.

Midfielder – James Maddison

For sure, his form over the last two months has not been brilliant, but with the likes of Norwich, Aston Villa and Watford coming up for Leicester City, it would be more than ideal to keep or bring James Maddison into your fantasy football team. The English playmaker has managed to produce 68 key passes so far this season, with only three other players in the league outdoing him in this area.

With the Euros coming up this summer, Maddison will hope that his performances throughout the season as well as what he produces in the final few months will be enough to persuade Gareth Southgate to select him in the squad, as he will have a number of players to choose from due to the rise of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and many other individuals. Back onto Maddison, for a value of £7.4m, he is bound to come in with the goals and assists for the Foxes, as they actually have an easy run of games before they face Spurs and Man Utd towards the end of the campaign.

Striker – Tammy Abraham

In his first full season as a regular starter for Chelsea, Tammy Abraham has shown up with the much needed goods, as he has notched 13 goals and three assists in 25 league appearances. Given the ongoing injury he has had from the start of this year, he has not been able to perform the same way as he was once doing and it has prevented him from playing at his best, but with the recent winter break and some further time off, he is now fully back at 100% and is ready to score the crucial goals once again.

It’s not easy to choose the ideal striker in your fantasy football team, but for a team that’s quite attacking-minded as Chelsea are and with Abraham always starting ahead of the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud, he will always seem like the most suitable option as he aims to end the season on 20 league goals and over. Chelsea’s remaining fixtures from now till the end of the season does not seem difficult at all, barring Liverpool and Man City, the rest look like straightforward victories if they can be dominant and ruthless on both sides of the pitch.

Chelsea 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils walk away with the much needed three points as the Blues’ unconvincing home form continues

Ahead of gameweek 26, the main focus was the incoming battle between Chelsea and Manchester United, two clubs who used to go neck to neck with one another for the league title back in the early years of the 21st century, but are now challenging it out with one another for a top four position.

Going into the game, the main thoughts were purely on how both teams would react following the long winter break, as neither of the sides have entered into 2020 in winning spirits and have been failing to show consistency. A win for Frank Lampard’s men would have killed United’s chances of finishing in the top four whilst extending their gap in fourth place away from both Spurs and Sheffield United, meanwhile, the three points for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team would be a huge sigh of relief for himself and the players, who have been criticised by the English press in recent weeks.

Overall, if one was to see the actual match and compare it to the end result, you would be shocked with the amount of chances that the hosts had from the first second of the game until the final whistle, as they were unable to convert their attempts on goal into the back of net. And in the end, despite the two goals that were cancelled out in the second half, they had only completed one shot on goal in the whole game, which is not good enough for a top-four side that are playing at home.

On the other hand, United showed how clinical and effective they are in the big games, where they are able produce something out of nothing and are always posing a threat through Anthony Martial and Daniel James. Surprisingly for the visitors, both their goals had actually come from headers, which has not been the usual way of scoring for them, especially with their difficulties on set-pieces.

In the end, United picked up the much needed victory, allowing them to move up to seventh place and three points behind Chelsea, who have a tough run of fixtures that are coming up which includes facing the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Manchester City. The result at Stamford Bridge is what the Premier League supporters would have hoped for, as the race to finish in the top four will continue till the final day of the season whilst the challenge for the league title is already over.

With no further ado, here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Bruno Fernandes went on to complete quite a performance

Completing one assist, three key passes, 31 passes at a success rate of 79.5% and 54 touches on the ball, Bruno Fernandes had put on quite the performance in the number ten role, where he was also playing more as a false nine from time to time. With how quickly he has settled into English football, the chances of him being an expensive flop is really minimal as showed his intelligence on and off the ball as well as his immaculate positional awareness in what was his second game for United.

Looking at the understanding and chemistry he has formed with the likes of Fred, Daniel James and even Anthony Martial, there is no doubt that he can play a pivotal role in helping the side to finish the season on a high, as he is starting to show that he is the one to link the side’s attack from midfield. Once the individuals in Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay return from injury, the team will have the perfect balance in midfield, which will allow Bruno Fernandes to play at his absolute best.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his setup and tactics spot on again in a big game

For sure, there are many valid questions and pure hesitation about Solskjaer’s shocking record and performances when it comes against the so-called lower teams. However, the results against the top-six sides continue to stay strong and does speak for itself, as Ole has now done the double over Chelsea, which has actually not been done by a Manchester United manager in a really long time.

Within the back-five setup, it helped the team to be more compact in their own half, especially with Luke Shaw being effective as the third centre-back and the fact that Eric Bailly’s return was more than ever needed, someone who is seen as the side’s best defender. And on top of that, the effort put in by the wing-backs up and down the flank as well as from Fred through the middle was second to none, as they were able to stretch the Chelsea defence and cause them several problems.

VAR intervened on a few occasions with nearly all the correct calls

There has been a huge debate about whether the VAR system is actually useful or not, since the start of the footballing season up until now. Despite many decisions going against and for a club, it has to be seen as a fact, that nearly all the outcomes produced by this method have turned out to be correct. It may take a couple of minutes or so to review an event, which could unsettle the players and the supporters, but as long as the decisions are right, there should be no arguments at all.

Besides the outcome of the kickout from Harry Maguire on Michy Batshuayi, which could be analysed and reviewed in a number of ways, with no red card shown following the incident, the rest of the decisions made by the officials was spot on, including the moment where they had to cancel Kurt Zouma’s goal due to a foul in the build-up and Olivier Giroud’s goal because he was marginally offside. Although VAR is not a smooth and straightforward process at this moment of time, but it definitely will be soon or later, when the Football Association will go over how the method is used once the season comes to an end, and think of ideas on how to improve how it is implemented.

Chelsea vs Man Utd: The three key battles for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men to look out for ahead of the Monday night fixture at Stamford Bridge

Ahead of gameweek 26, Manchester United shockingly sit in ninth-place and six points away from the top four positions, as they take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Given that there are only two league wins that separate both teams from one another, it does show the how competitive as well as how inconsistent the Premier League has been this campaign.

There are no doubts that both sides will be showing their energy and work rate on and off the ball along with the intention of securing the three points to help their side move a step forward to playing Champions League football next season. A top four finish for both teams would help them target the world class players in the summer window, in order for them to become title contenders.

Most importantly, this would be the perfect opportunity for the Red Devils to mark their stamp and also turn their away form around, having only won three games away from Old Trafford and have picked up just the 12 points out of a potential 36, whilst Chelsea’s record at home has been quite on and off with nine other teams having a better home record than them.

It’s time to look at the three key battles that can decide the outcome of this fixture…

Daniel James vs Cesar Azpilicueta

With Marcus Rashford on the sidelines for a couple of months along with Anthony Martial being really off form for the last month or so, the main attention and focus on the go-to-man will look to be Daniel James, who is always a handful with his incredible burst of pace and movement in the final third of the pitch. He may lack the final quality when needed the most, but there is a huge certainty that he will be the dangerman out on the flanks and mainly when he cuts through into the middle.

James will be in for a skin-tight and a difficult clash with Cesar Azpilicueta, who is now being utilised as a left-back due to the rise of youngster Reece James in the right-back position. The Spaniard is known to be one of the most complete defenders within the league, having played as a centre back, left back and right back throughout the last couple of years. Given his experience and exceptional positioning defensively, it would be no surprise to see him keeping Daniel James in his back pocket.

Tammy Abraham vs Harry Maguire

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham is having quite the season and especially in his first full campaign as a regular starter, as he has played on loan for the likes of Aston Villa, Swansea City and Bristol City in recent years, in order for him to gain the intelligence and understanding before he plays in the top flight of English football. And now he is on double figures in league goals, notching 13 in 24 league appearances, with only six players in the Premier League that have more goals than the 22-year-old.

Abraham has the capability to play as a target man and also as a poacher, when you consider his aerial ability as well as how he is in the right place at the right time, and he will be up against none other than Harry Maguire, who is starting to be seen as Manchester United’s best centre-back. Despite his poor performances and lack of consistency towards the end of last year, he has than more than enough to turn his form around, as the side have conceded only six goals in 10 games in all competition.

Bruno Fernandes vs Jorginho

When you see the lack of options that Solskjaer has within midfield, remembering that Paul Pogba is still a few weeks away from returning and Scott McTominay has just returned to regular training, It will mean that Bruno Fernandes will have to guide the team and show in a big match that he is the real deal. After a bright display against Wolves at home, there should not be many worries for the Red Devils of if he will be a flop or can he handle the intensity and physicality of English football.

On the other hand, for Chelsea, Jorginho will be the individual to keep an eye out for, someone who dictates the play deep in his own half and is able to pull out the much needed passes to the his teammates on the flanks and through the middle. The Italian deep-lying playmaker has been proving his critics and the English media wrong since moving from Serie A to the Premier League, as he has shown the class and composure in playing as the deepest player in the midfield trio, which is not a straightforward job for a player like him who lacks the required physicality and acceleration or pace.

Man Utd: Why the winter break has come at a perfect time for the club and the manager

With the new rule of the winter break kicking into place within the Premier League, Manchester United are one of the many clubs that will have a two week rest and a recovery period until their next league game. Given the side’s results in January, picking up only three points out of a potential 12, majority of the United supporters would agree that this break has come as a blessing in disguise.

With the league defeats to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley as well as being kicked out of the EFL Cup semi-finals to the noisy neighbours in Manchester City, there hasn’t been many enjoyable moments for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last month. However, the arrivals of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo will have some people excited and looking forward to the final months of the season, as the side are still in the FA Cup, Europa League and six points away from top four.

Focusing a little bit on Bruno and Ighalo, this 14-day break will give them a lot of bonding and connecting time to get to know one another as well as the rest of the players in the dressing room, who will be more than glad to see that they have a new playmaker and a new striker to work around for the rest of the season. Having only scored four goals in their last five league games, with all of them coming at home to Norwich, the side’s creativity and goals have instantly dried up since the unfortunate injury to Marcus Rashford.

As the first week of the two-week winter break has come to an end, Solskjaer and the full squad have spent a number of days doing intense training in the warm weather in Spain as they look to improve their concentration and focus levels before they take on the final months of the season. And on top of that, the good news is that Scott McTominay has returned from injury whilst Paul Pogba is taking small steps to recovery.

The break should give the manager some time to think of a more effective plan as well as a useful backup idea, as the current system and tactics are simply not working at all, with the side in eight place within the Premier League and are six points behind fourth-place Chelsea. They actually take on Frank Lampard’s men straight after the winter break is over, and if they do not take the three points away from the Stamford Bridge, then they should consider their hopes of finishing in the top four completely over.

To be brutally honest, the side’s chances of achieving Champions League football for next season through a top four finish is very, very low, as the team have already dropped a lot of points away from home and still have the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur to play from now till the end of the season. However, the team have their only hope of success through the Europa League, a competition they have previously won in the 2016-17 campaign under Jose Mourinho.

Then again, the quality in the Europa League has increased massively in recent years, as well-known teams such as Ajax, Inter Milan and Sevilla, are in the knockout stages of the competition and are hoping to do their all to get to the finals. Also, the quality and squad depth that United had when they previously won the Europa League compared to what they have now is a massive decline itself, as the lack of options in the squad leaves the manager with no choice but to use the players from the academy setup.

Overall, if the players and most importantly the manager, are not able to turn it around, then it will be another a difficult summer for everyone that is at the football club, as Manchester United continue to fall further and further behind from their main rivals in Liverpool and Manchester City. And not only that, but another season without a top four finish and another year where a managerial change has to take place, will have the Old Trafford faithful questioning what is actually happening to the club and when will the decline come to an end.

Man Utd 0-0 Wolves: The Red Devils drop points at home again as they move down to sixth place

With both Chelsea and Leicester City dropping two points each in the early kick-off on Saturday afternoon, it gave Manchester United some hope as well as some wishful thinking that a potential victory over Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves would allow them to close the gap on the top four positions. However, that was not the case, as the match at Old Trafford ended in a boring stalemate.

The match was expected to be quite a slow-moving and dull fixture on both sides of the pitch, mainly because of Wolves and their pragmatic setup in a back-three system whilst United simply do not have the quality to create the key chances and also convert them. In the end, none of the sides were able to take the game by the scruff of the neck as the points were equally shared by both teams.

This was actually United’s fifth league game of 2020, as the side ended up achieving only four points out of a potential 15 ahead of the winter break, which does raise the question on if the Red Devils are good enough to push for a top four finish. Meanwhile, Wolves are on level for points with United but are just lower than them due to goal difference, as they continue their season in pure silence.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Bruno Fernandes produces a bright performance on his Old Trafford debut

For sure, there was no goals or assists produced to complete his performance, but Bruno Fernandes was showing off his quality on and off the ball, as he went onto show his intelligence tactically whilst proving to be a dangerous threat going forward. Although he was playing in a much more deeper role than what he was used to in his days at Sporting Lisbon, he had clearly saw the difficulties the side had with progressing the ball with intensity and decided to take matters into his own hands.

With the likes of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba expected to return from suspension or injuries after the winter break and towards the end of the month, it would certainly allow the Portuguese international to play high up the pitch and focus on creating chances and scoring from distance, which is what he naturally specialises in. Once the midfield options come back, United will definitely be expected to control and dominates games with ease and no problems.

Lack of intelligence and movement in the attacking department lets United down

When you dominate the possession of the ball by 64%, complete 15 shots in 90 minutes, despite creating only one big chance, the ongoing issues have to be raised on the lack of attacking combinations and patterns that the Old Trafford faithful are witnessing. Sometimes, it feels like the players in the team are playing with one another for the first time, as they are unable to create or complete a progressive rhythm of passes, in order to help the side to build the play up effectively.

United’s go-to-man has been Marcus Rashford this season, someone who has the pace, dribbling ability and movement on and off the ball to cause a number of defenders massive worries, no matter if he is playing on the flanks or through the middle. However, since he has been on the sidelines, the other attackers within the squad have been unable to step up and rise to the occasion, as individuals such as Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira and Daniel James have been below par.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-game management has to improve or he will not last long

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the double substitution of Diogo Dalot and Jesse Lingard for Daniel James and Juan Mata, there were quite a bit of groans and moans around Old Trafford as well as from the Manchester United supporters on social media, purely because of the fact that it took the manager until the 88th minute of the game to make the changes and push for the win. Despite the lack of quality and depth in the squad, Solskjaer has to have a backup plan for him to rely on, and has he does not have a plan A or plan B, it is high unlikely that he will succeed at Manchester United.

Since the arrival of Solskjaer on a permanent basis, there has not been that many players that have actually improved or been taken to the next level, besides the individuals that have been promoted from the youth academy. Not only that, 25 league games into the season, the side have only been able to pick up nine wins and eight draws, as they are currently experiencing a season of a low tally of points, which has not been witnessed even under the likes of David Moyes or Louis Van Gaal.