Chelsea 1 Man United 0: Three talking points as Eden Hazard stars
Three talking points as Eden Hazard scores a first-half winner to edge Chelsea closer to the Premier League title
Hazard – the next PFA award double winner?
Andy Gray in 1977 was the first. Cristiano Ronaldo repeated his feat three decades later, before Gareth Bale emulated both recipients in 2013 and became the third winner of both PFA awards – senior and junior. Thursday’s announcement came as little surprise to many people as Messrs Kane and De Gea joined Eden Hazard on both lists. The Belgian has become one of Chelsea’s integral talents since his arrival in 2012 and his third year at the Bridge has been his most significant yet. Hazard won last year’s PFA Young Player of the Year Award and the 24-year-old is on course to win at least one, if not both awards. Admittedly he is not as unplayable as Lionel Messi or the aforementioned Ronaldo but his importance to Chelsea is as similar to the giants from La Liga. His interplay with Chelsea’s other creative talents appears telepathic at times but never shirks a challenge for his side. His manager Jose Mourinho suggests Hazard needs to continue to work if he wishes to enter the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo, but he is not far away. A first English league title, twinned with double PFA awards could be the start of something special for the former Lille player.
Man United and fallacy of possession
Possession is nine tenths of the law and possession statistics are wheeled out far too often in football. Over the course of the match, Manchester United held the lion’s share of the ball but in reality, did very little with it. Of course long-ball-gate has finally removed itself from public consciousness but the truth is that Chelsea had the visitors exactly where they wanted them for the majority of the game. Had Wayne Rooney scored within the first 10 minutes, Chelsea would have had to amend their game plan but Louis van Gaal showed tactical naivety in contrast to his Portuguese counterpart. Perhaps born from fear of reprisal, although one may argue that the Iron Tulip is unaware of the feelings associated with fear, Manchester United never threw everything at Chelsea, like they did at West Ham on a previous trip to the capital. The former Scottish overlord of Old Trafford, in attendance at Stamford Bridge, would not have stood for such passiveness.
The difference between the two sides is more than 11 points
As Chelsea march onto what seemingly is their fourth Premier League title, a decade on from their first, the difference between the two of the most successful sides in this era seemed to be at its most noticeable. Many cynics quip that Chelsea’s success is built solely on the billions that Roman Abramovich bought into the club but lest one forget that the Glazer family are hardly skinflints. United look firmly on course to return to the level that is expected of English football’s record champions but suggestions that they can win the title next season seem, on this latest instalment, wildly off the mark. Chelsea’s central five – John Terry, Gary Cahill, Kurt Zouma, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregasn – in contrast to Manchester United’s – Chris Smalling, Paddy McNair, Rooney, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellani – highlight the weakness in the Mancuanian side. Gone at the days of strength in depth. The underbelly of United has never been so exposed following injuries to Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and others.