The picture that sums up Manchester United’s coaching chaos

Three Man Utd players point at the unmarked Cole Palmer but do nothing about it

Manchester United vs Chelsea turned out to be one of the games of the season, both teams tactically all over the place which made for entertaining viewing for the neutral.

Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag have come under scrutiny for their tactics and set-up this season, and it was more apparent than ever during Thursday night’s Stamford Bridge chaos. Here, we look at where it went wrong, tactically, and why it made for such a great watch...

4th minute – Dalot wandering into midfield

We’ve all heard of full-backs moving into midfield in attack, but not really in defence. Diogo Dalot took it upon himself to leave his position at left-back to press Cole Palmer in midfield.

The United defender was successful at first, but found himself out of position when Chelsea won the ball back seconds later. Enzo Fernandez played the ball into the space that he had left behind, before Malo Gusto’s cross was turned in by Conor Gallagher. Manchester United were 1-0 down after four minutes in what was the start of a torrid night for the visitors.

30th minute – Attack and defence, but no midfield

One of the most important positions on a football pitch is centre midfield, but United and Chelsea weren’t interested in it. The back-and-forth action in the 30th minute was just an example of the events across the entire game. Both teams committed men forward leaving huge gaps in midfield, resulting in wave after wave of attacks that can normally only be seen on a basketball court. This is a familiar story for both teams this season – both have struggled to control games, scoring just as many as they’ve conceded.

34th minute – Caicedo’s clumsy back pass

Chelsea’s troubles started when their £115 million midfielder Moises Caicedo opted to play the ball square across the line to Benoit Badiashile rather than a simple pass back to Djordje Petrovic in goal. Badiashile was left flat-footed and Alejandro Garnacho latched onto the loose ball before slotting it past the helpless Petrovic, halving the deficit to 2-1. The error showed a clear lack of understanding and communication across the backline. Mistakes happen in football, but Chelsea are failing to learn from theirs. The Ecuadorian has done this before, too, making a similar error against Wolves earlier in the season.

67th minute – Anthony in acres of space

More and more is expected of central defenders in modern football, but bringing the ball down in the opponent’s third is a bit of a stretch, even for Pep Guardiola. But that’s exactly what Chelsea defender Badiashile attempted before United’s third goal. The defender miscontrolled a high ball, surrendering possession and leaving yards of space behind him for Anthony to run into and have time to play the ball perfectly to Garnacho. The Argentine didn’t even have to jump to head his effort home as Gusto had lost his man before the winger had even crossed the ball.

111th minute – Marking Palmer

Seconds after just conceding a penalty, perhaps the biggest tactical error of the match was the marking of Palmer on the corner that he subsequently scored from. Not only did United fail to pick up Chelsea’s star man, but nearly every player in the box noticed he was unmarked and demanded someone else sort it. United captain Bruno Fernandes has struggled this season, coming under criticism for his leadership and conduct. There was no leadership or communication on display when defending the corner, with United’s players ignoring their captain’s demands, hoping someone else would deal with it... but nobody did. Palmer picked up the ball in acres of space and got his shot away before anyone could get there, with Scott McTominay deflecting the ball into his own net.

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