It’s remarkable what can happen when Paul Pogba plays left of a midfield three, Anthony Martial adopts a position on the left wing and Alexis Sanchez is allowed to roam, isn’t it?
For the first time in what feels like months, United played attractive and daring football. Not all the time, it must be said, but against Chelsea there was at least a hint of verve, vigour and vivacity to their forward play.
The ‘Pogba Problem’ refuses to die, but in a 4-3-3, with two defensively minded midfielders sat beside him in Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay, the Frenchman showed glimpses of what he can bring.
On numerous occasions he picked the ball up from deep, drove with it and carried United forward. This ability to run at the Chelsea defence wrought joy on the counter-attack, with Martial’s incision complementing the craft of Pogba.
While it is imperative Jose Mourinho coaxes the best out of his £89 million man, he also faces conundrums in Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
In deploying Sanchez in a liberating role, drifting between Martial and Lukaku, he was able to drop deep to collect the ball and drift into unmarked territory; from these positions, the Chilean is dangerous and his probing was an indication of what United fans can expect in the future.
Lukaku, too, was instrumental when United burst into a counter-attack.
He held the ball up well and materialised as an effective focal point from which to spring an insurgency. His goal was well-taken and now that the ‘Top Six’ hoodoo is over, the Belgian will have renewed confidence and push on.
A man of the match performance, which also included a deliciously whipped cross for Jesse Lingard to score the winner, could be the catalyst for Lukaku to be a greater authority in this high-stakes matches.
In Victor Lindelof United possess a player who punctuates the first line of defence with purposeful passing and on various occasions, United’s attack started with his vision; his defensive frailties continue to be exposed, but his mistakes are nothing Mourinho – the arch defensive tactician – cannot iron out.
4-3-3 works, Mourinho. Pogba on the left, Martial ahead of him, Sanchez floating and Lukaku as a spearhead works, Mourinho.
United’s victory over Chelsea provided a glimpse into the future, a portent for what could become; an exhibition of their potential to be a deadly counter-attacking team with the guile and gumption to overcome top-quality sides.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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