Chelsea 3 Man United 3: Lessons learned from a dramatic draw

What did we learn from Manchester Untied's stunning comeback against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday?

Premier League, 5 February 2012, Stamford Bridge
team1
Chelsea
3 - 3
team2
Man United

A glance at England’s future

Two of England’s brightest prospects, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, were in sparkling form in a pulsating encounter at Stamford Bridge. For the first 58 minutes, it looked like Sturridge would be the happier of the pair after he created the Blues’ first goal with a darting run and cross, which Jonny Evans inadvertently turned home. But his afternoon soon turned sour after his foolish challenge on Patrice Evra handed Wayne Rooney the chance to land a counter-punch from the spot. Meanwhile, Welbeck looked a threat throughout. His runs ensured Chelsea new-boy Gary Cahill and David Luiz were kept on their toes, creating space for Rooney to add some magic to United’s display.

Penalties given and not given

Howard Webb will spark debate over when he should and shouldn’t have pointed to the spot in an action-packed game. The 40-year-old referee waved away United’s protests in the first half after Jose Bosingwa grabbed hold of Ashley Young’s shirt in the area, causing the midfielder to tumble. Minutes later, Gary Cahill was fortunate to escape punishment after tangling with Welbeck. Webb was less lenient after the interval. Sturridge’s reckless tackle on Evra rightly gave Rooney the opportunity to pull one back and 10 minutes later, the visitors were presented with another spot-kick – albeit very soft award – when Welbeck’s momentum was halted by Branislav Ivanovic, allowing Rooney to emphatically complete his brace.

Fernando Torres still needs a goal

Andre Villas-Boas offered his support to Chelsea’s out-of-form striker Fernando Torres in midweek, insisting the 27-year-old offers the Blues more than just goals. And Chelsea’s record signing highlighted his other attributes when he provided a delicious cross for compatriot Juan Mata to rifle his effort past David de Gea moments into the second half. Torres should have ended United’s resurgence in the 77th minute, but typical of a player lacking confidence, he looked for too many touches instead of shooting first-time when in front of United’s goal. But despite his barren run continuing, Torres’ work effort epitomised a player desperate to improve.

United’s ageing defence exposed

The elder members of United’s defence were ruthlessly exposed by a rampant Chelsea in a 15-minute spell either side of half-time. Sturridge simply shifted to his left and shook off the attentions of Red Devils captain Evra with alarming ease and the forward’s resulting cross was deflected past De Gea by Evans. Chelsea’s third came from Mata’s dangerous free-kick, which Luiz met ahead of Rio Ferdinand – the United centre-half’s lack of pace was evident. And while Rooney’s inspiring second-half performance helped rescue United, Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen to get Chris Smalling and Phil Jones back in action to bolster his defensive options ahead of difficult games against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

“That point could win us the league”

An elated Wayne Rooney declared that Sunday’s comeback and subsequent point could end up being the difference in the title race. And while Manchester City’s last-gasp penalty winner against Tottenham a fortnight ago highlighted the mental strength of Roberto Mancini’s side despite their lack of title winning experience, the Italian must be concerned by the never-say-die attitude United displayed in the second half at Stamford Bridge. The visitors looked shell-shocked after Chelsea’s purple patch but the Red Devils fought back as only they know how to snatch a point.

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