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Lee Dixon's tactical view

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Match of the Day 2 pundit

Sometimes a scoreline can flatter the winning team but that was not the case at Old Trafford on Sunday as Manchester defeated Chelsea 3-0.

Indeed, the only team it flattered was Chelsea as United could easily have won by four or five goals.

Chelsea's strength is normally their midfield and in the opening 20 minutes of the game they enjoyed plenty of possession.

There were lots of precise short passes and plenty of neat triangles but they were not really going anywhere, they frequently got to the edge of the box but did not have any penetration.

This was because Chelsea did not play with any width. Or more to the point, United did not allow them to.

Chelsea had a fairly central midfield trio of Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Deco, while Jon Mikel Obi sat slightly deeper and Joe Cole, in theory at least, was more advanced.

The key to this succeeding is Chelsea's full-backs - they need to supply the missing threat in wide areas.

Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole were not able to provide that against United and that is because the champions got it right tactically.

Left-back Cole spent large periods of the match pinned back by Cristiano Ronaldo while Ji-Sung Park did an excellent job against Bosingwa.

Park sometimes looks a little lost when in possession but he is a willing worker, who makes tackles and tracks back.

If you are the full-back playing behind him then you absolutely love a player like Park because he does a lot of your work. On Sunday the solidity that Park gave United's left side allowed Patrice Evra to break forward and further limited Bosingwa's attacking opportunities.

Instead, Chelsea were forced to play plenty of short passes through the middle and United were quite happy to let them do that because the Blues were not hurting them.

Didier Drogba repeatedly came short to try to pick up the ball. Nicolas Anelka did this as well after he came on at half-time. Several times the ball was played in to him and he lost possession.

Chelsea were a huge disappointment and you have to ask - where do they go from here?

By repeatedly coming short they were making it easier for United's central defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Johnny Evans.

An attacking side needs to put a defender in two minds but Chelsea very rarely attempted to spin or turn a United defender and get in behind.

Lampard, who had a poor game, normally makes forward runs. He often plays the ball into Drogba and bombs forward looking for a return pass but I did not see him doing that.

I cannot really remember Vidic and Evans having to run towards their own goal. As the match wore on they knew the ball would be played in to the feet of Chelsea's forward players and that allowed them to get tight knowing they would not be spun.

If you are not threatening or moving the back four then you will struggle to create chances and we saw that at Old Trafford.

United played with discipline and their two banks of four were too good for Chelsea to break down.

Ryan Giggs was especially impressive in the centre of United's midfield.

I was a little bit surprised when Sir Alex Ferguson selected Giggs alongside Darren Fletcher in the centre of midfield. I thought Michael Carrick might start but the midfield duo were outstanding.

I used to play against Giggs when I was the right-back at Arsenal. Back then he was a tricky winger, quick and difficult to mark because of the quality of his movement.

Paul Fletcher - BBC Sport

Now he is a different sort of player. His tracking back and defensive awareness was outstanding on Sunday but he showed that he still knows how to eat up ground in attack. We saw that a few times at Old Trafford when he picked up a loose ball around the half-way line.

As a former winger he knows the threat of running at a defence. It forces them to retreat and allows his whole team to move higher up the park.

United quite happily absorbed what Chelsea had to offer and then showed that they had better options in attack.

They had pace and intelligence but, above and beyond that, they had desire and a determination to go that extra yard.

Chelsea were a huge disappointment. A few of their players looked like they did not want to be there.

Besides the tactical considerations it was a huge result because of the way Chelsea lost. They allowed their heads to drop.

You have to ask - where do Chelsea go from here?

Lee Dixon was speaking to BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher

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see also
Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea
11 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
11 Jan 09 |  Football
Scolari admits to title 'damage'
11 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
22 Dec 08 |  Premier League

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