David Moyes was courageous in his tactics today attempting to take the game to a Chelsea side that has never lost a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho. The tactics that led to an open game were not typically what we see from a Moyes side away from home, but with the Red Devils excellent recent record on their travels, they could have been fancied to get something today.
But Moyes’s tactics, which looked so bright in the first 15 minutes, were never given a fair chance to work because of repeated mental errors and lapses in concentration by his defenders. Phil Jones made a critical error in misplaying Samuel Eto’o on the Blues initial breakthrough, which was unfortunate for United who had largely controlled the tempo of the match to that moment. The remainder of the first half saw the Red Devils comfortable in midfield but ever so shaky at the back.
Right before halftime, United’s set-piece defending was shredded in a terrible let-off allowing Eto’o to record a second and Chelsea to go into the dressing room two goals to the good. Perhaps halftime is when Moyes should have made some tactical changes, dropping Ashely Young for Javier Hernandez instead of waiting until a third Blues goal to do so, and possibly also inserting Shinji Kagawa or Darren Fletcher to reshape the midfield.
The third Chelsea goal came similarly to the second off poor set-piece defending by United and particularly Jonny Evans who completely lost sight of both ball and Gary Cahill who set up the goal scorer Eto’o.
Moyes’s tactics were only going to be as good as the players he set out to implement them. Severely hamstrung by injuries and perhaps responding to critics who feel he cannot play positive and progressive football, he sent his side out with instructions to attack and control the midfield. What he could not have envisioned was three defensive lapses that were reminiscent of the type of soft goals that were often conceded by opponents of Manchester United in past seasons.
While the cries for Moyes to be sacked will intensify from impatient, often front-running Manchester United supporters, it is players he inherited from the previous manager that have let him down. It is also players bought on a tight budget imposed by distant American owners who have plunged the club into financial mire that have let the manager down.