Premier League round-up: Manchester United beat Chelsea to give Spurs a chance

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Marcus Rashford scored as Manchester United beat Chelsea
Marcus Rashford scored as Manchester United beat Chelsea

Surprise of the weekend… Manchester United win

There were so many surprises in Manchester United’s performance against Chelsea. They took the chances that were presented to them. They scored for first 20 minutes in a league game for the first time since 1927. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others were rested.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Ander Herrera was given the job of being energetic and irritating, and still kept his discipline for the whole game. He was instrumental in keeping Eden Hazard quiet, and the best Chelsea could come up with was more chippy combat from Diego Costa (admittedly, that part is no surprise).

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There was invention showed by Mourinho, as he prepared his United side with different tactics from the last 20 league games, and benefitted from it. Additionally, he rested some of his most important players and demanded that players such as Ashley Young hound Chelsea across the pitch. Marcus Rashford was considered and strong, a totally different player than the one on Thursday night against Anderlecht.

Then there was another, enormous surprise, that Manchester United finally kept a clean sheet, they did not fall apart under pressure in the last 10 minutes, and they kept everything calm and sensible. This was a typical Mourinho performance, but it’s just a shock that we’ve finally seen one again.

Disappointing weekend for… Antonio Conte

When you are a man in a business suit, wearing a baseball cap to protect your hair plugs, you have to wonder if you have not already lost. Contrast Conte’s self-consciousness with Mourinho’s self-confidence, and for this match alone, you can tell why one has twice won the Champions League and why won has not (yet).

The biggest question is whether this actually matters or not. Chelsea struggled to assert themselves on the match, which can happen to any team, but to have no shots on target in over a decade is a slight worry. Costa is in the middle of a goal drought, relatively speaking, and Mourinho has now given the opposition a blueprint to keep Hazard at bay. Sit back, keep your shape, and mark their best player out of their match.

They have now just a lead of four points. They have a quiet manager, all of a sudden, and one with a stitched-in wig. If you have to look to him for leadership, then you need more than he offered today.

Most important goal… Ross Barkley

It may ultimately be credited to Ben Mee because of a hefty deflection, but that hardly matters in the context. Ross Barkley started last week by getting boshed in the kipper, which is never a pleasant experience.

It was then made much worse when Kelvin MacKenzie decides to smugly rail at Barkley, Everton and Liverpool, close to the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, with an undercurrent of racism, and overt class hatred, thrown in.

It is no surprise that Everton, like Liverpool, lost their patience with the newspaper, and we can only hope everyone else takes a similar line.

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Barkley wasn’t cowed though. For all his weaknesses, he doesn’t appear to hide, and he has steadily improved under Ronald Koeman.

It might not have been his first, second or last choice, but the embrace he received from fans and his teammates after he put Everton 2-1 up might transform his career for the better.

Playing for a move to Real Madrid… Harry Kane

Harry Kane gets back to scoring goals for Tottenham
Harry Kane gets back to scoring goals for Tottenham

Harry Kane continues to show the variety with his goals that mark him out as a potential great. He is neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo, but he is a man who has now scored 20 league goals in each of the last three seasons.

It would be no surprise if that starts to creep up towards 30, as he and Spurs improve each season under Mauricio Pochettino. Kane doesn’t have the glamorous face or flair to ever shift shirts by the million in order to pay his way on the commercial side for the biggest clubs in the world. But what he does have is the ability to contribute a flood of goals throughout the season.

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Kane talked of belonging at the club after the match against Bournemouth, and on Match of the Day Alan Shearer said that now was the time to match his achievement of 30 goals a season, for the next three years.

Kane’s body seems likely to carry him through this period easily enough, and support from Vincent Janssen, Dele Alli, and Heung-Min Son takes the pressure off him. While it is fanciful to talk of a move to Real or Barcelona, if Spurs do not claim the title next season, he will probably take the leap to one of the more established clubs.

Best goal of the weekend… Leroy Sane

Leroy Sane slowly adjusted to the Premier League, as any young player might do, regardless of talent. Germany is an objectively better country than Britain in almost every respect, so no doubt Sane would have had to adjust his expectations accordingly.

However, after that, his improvement on the pitch has been remarkable. In 16 shots this season, he has nine goals. That is a scoring ratio that is only slightly worse than John O’Shea’s fabled 4-goals-in-5-shots season.

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The move from City to go two up, making use of space, quick control and passing, and clever movement, was nothing world-changing, but it was a clinical effective attack from a position of defence to a successful attack in seconds.

They have left it too late for this season, but Sane has shown, along with most of City’s players, that there is plenty more to come after another summer transfer window for Pep Guardiola.

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