The win on Wednesday night should be seen as another crucial step in building momentum for a potential revival of our season. It contained some fantastic individual displays, all contained in a resolute tactical structure which contained Chelsea to an exemplary level in the first half in particular. Even once the tactical approach altered after Batshuayi scored the equaliser for the blues, the side managed to regain its composure and keep Chelsea at arms length once again. There were many good performances in a crucial win for us, but I have highlighted three of the standout players that deserve extra praise.
Talking about possible revivals, the return to form for Rashford after a barren couple of months is extremely promising for United. It was the 25th minute when Alonso brought James down and immediately there would have been understandable apprehension from many reds about whether the recent penalty misses from Rashford would have affected him. There was no need to worry in the end as he showed enormous character to dispatch his penalty with conviction to Caballero’s right. The most impressive part of Rashford’s recent performances for me his character in being able to bounce back from enormous criticism and perform once more.
The free kick has not even been mentioned yet. Rashford has been under intense scrutiny from certain fans for a long time over his failure to perform from set piece situations. Well again, how wrong a lot were. It was baffling me I must admit when he placed the ball with a purpose from that distance. The technique was very typical of him in terms of the knuckleball effect, but his execution was different class. Caballero was helpless. A beautiful, beautiful free kick. This will hopefully be a catalyst to allow him to kick on now, although a potential injury scare could scupper this hope somewhat.
This was my favourite performance from McTominay for Manchester United. He was top drawer, containing a strong Chelsea midfield and was breaking up play in a manner akin to a certain Frenchman absent from his opponents. This season he has played with such authority. Tonight, his early booking could have been a problem for him but if anything it spurred him on to win the ball back even more. He was not just breaking up play in his own half, but he would be pressing high up to win the ball back. The only concern for him may have been a potential second yellow card in light of calls from Chelsea, but it would have been a soft second yellow card given the circumstances. McTominay is really proving people wrong with every game. Keep it up Scott!
Tonight was an important moment in Williams’ budding career. It was arguably his biggest game of his career to date and it was admittedly not without its share of issues. First half, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi were managing to get in down that side on many occasions, luckily for United the delivery was poor. It must be said though that his performance wasn’t the only factor in creating this issue, as the system of a narrow front three has the knock-on effect of allowing an overload down the sides. However, the sign of a promising young player is how they can recover from a tough situation. Second half, Brandon Williams did just that and more. He made at least two crucial recoveries where it seemed Chelsea’s attack were breaking through our lines with ease during our shaky period in the second half. It will be an important experience for his development and there is certainly an argument for him to be considered by Solskjaer for a place in the squad for the trip to Bournemouth this coming weekend.