Why Manchester United players were convinced they would thrash Chelsea
Manchester United players were convinced they would ‘blow away’ Chelsea due to their enhanced speed on the counter-attack.
United recorded a resounding 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea in their Premier League opener, with three of the goals coming in the final 25 minutes and two of them breakaways.
The MEN understands United players were so bullish about steamrollering the Chelsea defence because of their improved fitness levels. United believe teams will underestimate how much quicker they are and the players feel their conditioning is the best in years.
There were 16 seconds between Harry Maguire’s challenge on Tammy Abraham on the edge of the United area and Anthony Martial’s scrappy goal inside the Chelsea six-yard box for the game-killing second on 65 minutes.
Marcus Rashford struck twice and the 21-year-old has claimed the most fast break goals in the Premier League (three) this calendar year. Rashford’s second involved a swift four-second transition from middle to final third thanks to Paul Pogba’s perfect pass.
Goalscoring debutant Daniel James finished a move that was dominated by the imperious Pogba charging from the United third to Chelsea’s third. There were nine seconds between Pogba receiving Anthony Martial’s lay-off and James’s deflected effort bouncing in. Former Swansea winger James recorded the third-highest breaks per 90 minutes in the Championship last term.
Goals on the counter became a theme of Solskjaer’s caretaker tenure as United manager and they ended last season with the joint-highest number of fast breaks (21) in the Premier League.
Although United are arguably over-reliant on counter-attacking goals, the players are more durable following a rigorous pre-season and Solskjaer was delighted with how strongly United ended their contest with Chelsea.
“You take a win because it’s about points first game,” Solskjaer said. “Then again, the performance second-half was very pleasing, that was the big plus.
“Coming into half-time, we were a bit lucky. They pinned us back, created chances but we settled a few nerves and a couple of things at half-time and second-half played really well.
“We’ve had six good weeks but it’s still a work in progress. We still know we’re not anywhere near the finished article. I think we’ve got loads of improvement to be made, first-half was an example of that.
“Then we settled down a couple of nerves and straightened out a few things. And second-half you see the confidence grows, and we kept the ball miles better, especially after 3-0.
“The boys have been excellent since July 1, they have been excellent since before July 1, because they have been fit enough to implement what we wanted to, and we know it is just the start.
“There are relationships to be worked on, the more we understand each other, the more we get to play with each other and show we’re a team that’s going to improve.”