Chris Smalling vs Chelsea

Another good performance from Manchester United, another disappointing result. Manchester United had their best game at Stamford Bridge in recent memory on Sunday afternoon yet could only manage a draw after Diego Costa’s injury-time equaliser.

It was a game in which once again the Reds started strongly, creating chances and dominating play even against tough opposition. Anthony Martial went close with a fine strike that forced Thibaut Courtois into a top class save, while Chelsea struggled to cope with the United’s left-hand side of Martial and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

It was like a half of two halves as Chelsea eventually came back into the game, creating their own chances that were arguably better than anything Manchester United created.

In a way the first half summed up Manchester United’s problems at the moment.

When the play was fast and exciting, Van Gaal’s side lacked a real killer instinct in attacking positions which meant they couldn’t take advantage. Time and time again, we seem to get into positions in the attacking third of the pitch and suddenly look like we’ve run out of ideas.

Compare that to when Chelsea dominated the latter part of the half, the chances they created were clear cut and only the sheer excellence of David De Gea kept Manchester United in the game.

The second half was a bit more of the same, too. United came out brightly but this time they did take advantage of their pressure through Jesse Lingard’s wonder goal. More good work down the left flank saw the impressive Borthwick-Jackson whip in another of his fantastic crosses to Wayne Rooney, who laid it back to Lingard to tee himself up and smash the ball into the top corner on the half-volley.

After that however, Van Gaal’s men seemingly decided that 1-0 was enough and they retreated into their own half.

For the final 25 minutes, United seemed to have a back five and a midfield four block on the edge of the 18 yard box and begged Chelsea to try and get through them. De Gea made countless saves to deny Chelsea, including a stunning one handed save from Ivanovic’s volley.

Eventually, despite good defending for the most part, United did concede as young Borthwick-Jackson played Diego Costa onside and Daley Blind was caught of position to allow the Spanish striker to slot into an empty net at the second attempt.

A draw was probably a fair result in all honesty but United fans feel that their team really should have taken all three points. While there were without doubt positive signs to take from the performance, it’s probably all too late.

After the weekend’s results, Manchester United are now 7 points off the Top 4. While they will have a chance next weekend to close the gap as they travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland, confidence will surely be ruined after a good run of performances.

Van Gaal will have to find the balance between killing a game off and being exciting during that game, while hoping that his rivals slip up so he can sign off in the summer on a slightly more positive note.