Ole Gunnar Solskjær staked a further claim to be made Manchester United’s permanent manager come the end of the season with a historic and crucial win against Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round.
The Red Devils have notoriously struggled at Stamford Bridge, managing to record only three wins in the last 17 years, but Solskjær’s men showed a compact and concise game plan that utilised their strengths and exposed Chelsea’s weaknesses.
Here are four talking points from Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United:
Marcus Rashford doesn’t stop
What has been ever so impressive about Marcus Rashford’s game since the Norwegian took charge in late December is his relentless, non-stop energy when pressing the opposition. Playing through the middle, the England international consistently put the Blues’ centre backs under heaps of scrutiny, which was forcing Chelsea back deep inside their own half.
Even with the game sealed and Man United into the next round, Rashford did not neglect his duties and continue to harass the Chelsea defence. From every corner the Blues had, Solskjær’s men would turn it into an opportunity to go down the other end through Rashford, who kept showing his desire to take on the men in front of him with his ferocious speed.
The Englishman’s finishing has improved drastically under the management, while his crossing ability has too. Rashford showed great patience when waiting for Paul Pogba to make his darting run into the box and picked him out expertly in between two Chelsea defenders.
Rashford can lead the Manchester United line for many, many years.
Ander Herrera’s leadership qualities
One player who has really risen under Solskjær is Ander Herrera. A peripheral figure under José Mourinho in his final year in charge, the Spaniard has become one of Man United’s most important players.
The ever-reliant Spaniard has been in sensational form, constantly breaking up opposition’s defences while also providing aplenty in attack. Against the Blues, he was incessant in making sure Jorginho did not have the time to play his game, as well as being in the right place at the right time to fend off any crosses that would come into United’s box.
Herrera has shown his leadership qualities through his own performances, but it is clear to see how much of an effect he has on the players by motivating them vocally, just as he did when Alexis Sánchez entered the fray.
The Spanish midfielder has to be tied down to a new contract and should arguably be given the captain’s armband – there are few who deserve it more than he does.
Victor Lindelöf has come of age
Manchester United’s fans are now seeing the true Victor Lindelöf. The one who is a ball-playing central defender that also has the capabilities of outmuscling his opposition.
Once again, the Sweden international was utterly superb in defence, making sure that Chelsea’s Gonzalo Higuaín was quiet throughout and clearing any danger that presented itself inside the 16-yard box.
There was a chance in which Eden Hazard had clear sight of the goal and hammered it towards Sergio Romero, only for Lindelöf to come out of nowhere and get in the way of the forceful shot, causing it to go over the bar and out for a corner. The Swede’s positional awareness is sublime and fans have been delighted to see what great progress he has made since Solskjær took to the dugout.
Given he has not yet reached his prime years, there is still plenty to come from Lindelöf.
Romelu Lukaku’s worrying lack of movement
The only downside to Manchester United’s performance against Chelsea was the performance of Romelu Lukaku, who watched as the game passed him by.
Once spearheading the United attack, now used as a secondary centre forward to supplement Marcus Rashford. The Belgian has lost his place as the main striker in the team and does not appear to be anywhere near to reclaiming it.
Contrasting Lukaku to that of Rashford, there are stark differences in their overall input into the game. When the Englishman was chasing ball after ball, even if they were a lost cause, Lukaku would watch aimlessly on and fail to press his man, standing in no man’s land watching the ball go from side to side.
It is clear to see that Lukaku does not fit into this Man United team, and so will be very interesting to see what the Red Devils’ management decide to do with him come the summer months.
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