Van Gaal given some breathing space: Five things we learned from Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Lingard is a clinical finisher
When the Manchester United academy graduate broke the deadlock with a superb half volley on the turn that gave even the excellent Thibaut Courtois no chance, it was the third goal he had score from his last four shots on target in the Premier League. In the early stages of his top-flight career, Lingard has demonstrated a real eye for goal as well as a clinical tough. His nine league starts have yielded four goals and given the team a much-needed added attacking threat.
Van Gaal given some breathing space
It will take more than four points in two matches to disperse the storm clouds from Old Trafford. But after being booed off in the wake of United’s miserable 1-0 defeat to Southampton a fortnight ago, Van Gaal’s side have not only beaten Stoke and come within a whisker of winning at Chelsea but also delivered an upturn in performances. This was more like the kind of football United’s fans expect to see and if they keep playing this way, there is a chance that Van Gaal will get his wish and remain at the helm until the end of the season. Jose Mourinho is seemingly on his way come what may but Van Gaal has earned himself some breathing space.
Borthwick-Jackson is the real deal
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Given his age – he turned 19 in midweek – his unexpected elevation and the situation he stepped into, the local lad has made a mightily impressive start to his United career. For the second match in a row, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s low, fizzed cross set up an opening goal for Jesse Lingard. A virtual unknown when Van Gaal promoted him to the first team squad at the start of November, Borthwick-Jackson has emerged as the real deal.
Mata wins battle of Spanish playmakers
Handed his favourite central playmaking role for the third consecutive match, Juan Mata was everything his former adoring faithful at Stamford Bridge remembered him to be. Drifting into pockets of space, he created, crafted and cut open his former team with some eye-of-the-needle passes. Used to being almost exclusively a wide boy during his two years at Old Trafford, this was more like the Mata of old. His countryman Cecs Fabregas, deployed in the No10 role by Chelsea, was less effective although he became more involved as the match wore on and set up Diego Costa for the equaliser with a precise pass.
Zouma pain could be Cahill gain
Chelsea have turned their back on the John Terry-Gary Cahill partnership in recent months as they have given an extended chance to the impressive Kurt Zouma. But the serious-looking knee injury sustained by the young Frenchman in this match gives Cahill the opportunity to renew the partnership that was the bedrock of Chelsea’s title triumph last season.