And you’ll be able to sit there all night time, enjoying together with your foolish machines. By the top of this taut and thrilling match, the iPads and the techniques boards had been stashed away. Graham Potter and Erik ten Hag stood on the touchline, considering this 1-1 draw, trying drained and maybe even a bit of concussed by the expertise. It had been a sport of stratagems and counter-stratagems, plans made after which remade, two coaches attempting to regulate the area on the pitch with the area of their heads. However finally that is additionally a contact sport, a factor of guts and loins, of inches and millimetres, of who can win the grapple and who can summon the braveness to leap highest when the whole lot is on the road.
There have been extra consequential video games between Chelsea and Manchester United over time. Louder video games. Higher and extra thrilling video games. However maybe by no means a sport that has felt like extra of an mental train, that has been so unashamed of its personal erudition. As Potter and Ten Hag traded blows on the touchline, the night started to splinter a bit of, not a lot a single sport of soccer as a number of distinct campaigns, a ceaseless and gripping battle for supremacy by which each groups most likely bought what they deserved.
Maybe there was a sure bitter poetry in the truth that it was the late substitute Scott McTominay who gave away Chelsea’s penalty with an unpleasant wrestle, and Casemiro who ended up getting him off the hook with a hovering 93rd-minute header. This can be a quickly altering United workforce, and nowhere is the transition extra dramatic and noticeable than in midfield. Likely McTominay will nonetheless have a job to play within the coming months, and Fred’s sensible show in opposition to Tottenham in midweek was additional proof of his personal private evolution. However the period of “McFred” – in tone and intent – feels prefer it has already gone.
Casemiro. Christian Eriksen. Bruno Fernandes. For the primary time because the days of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, it is a United midfield you’d willingly pay to observe. And when it does work, the whole lot else works a bit of higher too. The total-backs have the safety to get ahead. The entrance three could make runs figuring out that they’ll get service. David de Gea has extra choices. The centre turns into a spot the place United need to funnel the ball, fairly than – as was so usually the case within the final decade – an engine for funnelling the ball someplace else.
This can be a shift in tradition as a lot as in personnel. United had 53% of the possession right here, however extra necessary was the ambition and tranquility on the ball. You could possibly pinpoint the second when Casemiro took possession underneath strain, 20 yards from his personal objective, dealing with the flawed manner, and easily clipped a go of the purest silk, curling 30 yards over the top of Raheem Sterling, and into the trail of Diogo Dalot to launch one other assault. Are you able to think about McTominay or Nemanja Matic or Marouane Fellaini even trying such a go, not to mention pulling it off?
Or the second on the half-hour, when Eriksen burgled the ball from Ruben Loftus-Cheek excessive up the pitch, Casemiro got here away with it, Fernandes made the run off him, and for a second the three of them have been jetting off in tandem, like a bit of lightspeed triangle, creating an opportunity that Kepa Arrizabalaga saved from Marcus Rashford. With Jorginho and Loftus-Cheek getting swamped, Potter needed to act. The introduction of Mateo Kovacic and the swap to a 4-3-3 led to Chelsea’s finest spell of the sport. On the touchline, Ten Hag frowned at his miniature techniques board, engaged his assistant, Mitchell van der Gaag, in deep dialog, plotting his response.
Early within the second half, it arrived: seeing Chelsea’s third central midfielder and elevating them a fourth, Fred changing Jadon Sancho. Briefly we have been confronted with the arresting prospect of ten Hag and Potter merely loading increasingly midfielders on to the pitch, till lastly all 20 outfield gamers have been enjoying a livid rondo within the centre circle whereas the 2 goalkeepers idly watched from afar.
That wasn’t fairly the way it turned out, however the impact was largely related. For half an hour the 2 sides continued to commerce drained punches, hopeful crosses, aborted counterattacks, and at last two scruffy late objectives. And even amid the late drama, it was doable to glimpse how Ten Hag’s facet are nonetheless creating, nonetheless coaching their instincts, nonetheless not fairly the completed article. However lastly they’ve a nice coach, an outlined model of play, a balanced buildup, a mix of youth and expertise, and most of all a useful midfield. Welcome to trendy soccer, Manchester United. We’ve been anticipating you.