It was a huge clash between two Premier League heavyweights that took place on Sunday evening at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea went into the game knowing that they needed to win to end a run of bad form after a humiliating thrashing in Rome in midweek. Manchester United desperately needed a win against one of the title rivals to show that they do have what it takes.
It was Antonio Conte who extended Chelsea’s unbeaten run against United at Stamford Bridge, dating back to 1998, thanks to a header from Alvaro Morata, after he had previously seen a goal disallowed after he was adjudged to have pushed Phil Jones into volleying into his own net.
Here are three key talking points from the game…
Alvaro Morata showed Jose Mourinho what he is missing
We may never know what truly happened regarding Morata’s potential summer move to Manchester United, but instead Mourinho opted for Romelu Lukaku and Morata ended up at Stamford Bridge. On Sunday, the Spaniard got his revenge with the winning goal coming from a trademark header.
To simply consider his winning goal would be overly simplistic. For the full 90 minutes Morata was a thorn in United’s side, causing Phil Jones and co. numerous problems with his movement and skill. Romelu Lukaku, on the other hand, faded into anonymity as he so often does in big games. The last laugh on this occasion belongs to the Chelsea centre forward.
Don’t rule out Antonio Conte just yet
It’s been a rocky few weeks for the Italian coach. Up against his predecessor in the Stamford Bridge dugout, many were beginning to speculate that a poor result could only send Conte further down the path towards Roman Abramovich’s office to receive his P45. Instead, the Blues produced a performance reflective of their status as reigning champions.
That had a lot to do with the return of N’Golo Kante. His presence had a huge impact on the Chelsea back three, with the likes of Andreas Christensen looking calm and collected, and he organised the midfield, easing the pressure on Tiemoue Bakayoko. It may be hard for Conte to turn things around enough to persuade the Russian owner he is the right man for the job, but he shouldn’t need to.
Jose Mourinho has no plan B
Defend deep. Sit tight and hope for an opposition mistake. Bring on pace and creativity with players like Anthony Martial late on against tired legs. Add in Marouane Fellaini and the long ball if it gets desperate. It has served Jose Mourinho and Manchester United well of late, but in recent weeks there have been signs that opposition managers are beginning to figure out how to beat the Red Devils.
Mourinho dully followed his plan, with a few kickings for Eden Hazard added in for good measure, but was outsmarted by Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s defence, so leaky against Roma, stood firm and avoided mistakes, and Alvaro Morata was ten times the striker Romelu Lukaku was and scored the goal to make the difference.
Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments
The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.
The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.
“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”
Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.
And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.
Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages
The owner may have to sell shares in the club.
Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Times.
Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.
The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.
His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.
Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.
England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics
England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments
Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.
The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.
“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.
And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.
The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.
The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.