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Lee Dixon's tactical view

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Match of the Day 2 pundit

Despite letting a 1-0 lead slip at Chelsea on Sunday, I thought it was a brilliant point for Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have been conscious that they were facing a rampant Chelsea side away from home and that they got battered by Liverpool last week.

Owen Hargreaves shepherds Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge
Hargreaves helped cut out the threat of Ashley Cole

They could not really afford to lose and go nine points behind their title rivals so a draw was a must and he set his team out accordingly.

Chelsea's strengths are down the wings, with their full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole bombing on.

They are not conventional in that a full-back normally only goes forward when the ball is on his side, while the full-back on the other side stays back.

Chelsea are so dangerous at home because both full-backs are prepared to get forward and they really push teams back.

Normally Chelsea's full-backs will get in behind at least two or three times a half and put some crosses in.

So Ferguson put Owen Hargreaves and Ji-Sung Park nice and wide to stop them coming and he flooded the midfield.

I thought Park was in for a torrid time, but he stuck to his task and it meant Patrice Evra did not have to be drawn out to the wing to deal with Bosingwa.

That meant that the United back four could stay as a back four. Their full-backs Gary Neville and Evra were not pulled out wide, which is when you end up with gaps in your defence.

Park will run all day long and on the other side Hargreaves worked his socks off to provide great cover for Neville.

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I was very surprised at how deep both back fours played and it meant there was a lot of space in midfield.

But Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher cancelled out Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack in the centre and by cutting off the flanks, Jon Mikel Obi was left as the free man.

Basically, United were happy to let Mikel have the ball and he did not really use it.

He had plenty of possession but was picking the ball up quite deep and his passing was off - he did not really do anything decisive with it.

It played into Ferguson's hands that Deco was ruled out after getting injured in the warm-up.

He is the sort of player that goes everywhere and is a nightmare to mark.

You would have seen him getting a lot of the ball and he has that ability to unlock the defence that Mikel does not and they missed him badly.

I thought Ferguson got it spot on. Obviously leaving Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, and playing with just Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney up front, cut his attacking options.

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In general they did not have that forward threat and were relying on their front men to do something special. Berbatov is not the hardest worker and Rooney was quiet.

But before the game Ferguson would have settled for a draw with the hope of nicking a goal.

When they went 1-0 ahead he will have been thinking it was going to be their day, but it was not to be.

In the end a point was probably a fair result for both teams.

Lee Dixon was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew McKenzie

see also
Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd
21 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Ferguson defends booked players
22 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea Player Rater
22 Jul 08 |  Live Text
Alan Hansen's tactical view
14 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Lawro's tactical view
09 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Lee Dixon's tactical view
26 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
18 Aug 08 |  Premier League

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