In this series, I review my in-ground experience throughout the season, this time for Manchester United away. It’s split into two columns, one for home games and the other for away days. I run through various topics from atmosphere to an overall match review and give my thoughts on my match-day experience at the stadiums I visit.
Journey to the game: Manchester United away at Old Trafford
This was just my second away day as a Chelsea fan this season – the first was on Boxing Day as I saw Chelsea win 3-1 away at Aston Villa. The journey on Thursday was a lot less stressful than against Villa as I just had to make the short drive from my student accommodation in Manchester. However, it turned out to be a little longer than the expected 15 minute journey, due to traffic.
Although I arrived at the ground around three hours before kick-off, the nerves were expectedly starting to kick in.
I think United fans would agree with me when I say that the quality of the Old Trafford stadium is lacking despite the history and tradition it holds. Similar to other Premier League grounds, the facilities and technology is certainly not as advanced as the likes of the Etihad Stadium and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. However, it can be argued that the ‘older’ stadiums are preferred by match-goers due to the traditional feel and atmosphere that will never be taken away from stadiums like Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park when the crowd gets going. The history and memories that will never be lost in those type of stadiums.
Considering the wealth of the Glazers, I am quite surprised that investment into the stadium hasn’t been publicly announced considering the statements that they released after the Super League about listening and acting upon the feedback of their fans. It’s a stadium that definitely needs refurbishing/redecorating considering the size and stature of Manchester United.
Moving onto my seat, it was an amazing view as it was against Aston Villa. I was again very lucky to get two tickets where I was able to sit next to my brother. The view was perfect and I was able to clearly see action at both ends of the pitch from the away end which is known as the ‘Bobby Charlton Stand’. Sat in the Upper Tier, the atmosphere was as great as the view.
Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea: Match Review
It was another one of those games where Chelsea really should’ve won despite the Blues’ poor record at Old Trafford over the years. Considering how poor Manchester United have been this season, especially at home, I really expected us to turn up and pile on the misery.
It was a good start as we asserted our control from the very start. We sustained pressure very well, at a fairly high tempo with defensive discipline and in aerial duels. United didn’t really have any clear-cut chances in the first half. However, we really should’ve gone into half time one or two nil up. Kai Havertz had a chance one on one which he definitely should’ve scored, considering the form he’s been in throughout the season. James also put in a lovely cross which Havertz could only head at David De Gea. The chances were there but it was just the same story of not having the clinical touch.
The quality of Reece James’ crossing ability eventually came to fruition in the second half as he put in a good cross which Havertz headed onto Marcos Alonso who volleyed into the bottom corner. Credit must be given to the Spaniard, not only did he have the tendency to pick up spaces in the final third, but the composure and technique to pull the finish off was incredible.
However the lead didn’t last for long. N’Golo Kante’s sloppiness in being unable to retain the ball led to former Chelsea player Nemanja Matic picking the ball up and playing a lofted pass to Cristiano Ronaldo who never really looked like he was going to miss. The touch and finish was pure quality.
The rest of the second half spelled more Chelsea dominance as we looked to find the winner and we came close with Mason Mount’s layoff which saw James hit the post. Lack of chance creation was not an issue this game. Chance conversion however, has been a problem for a number of seasons now.
Tactically, Tuchel got it spot on as we were the better team in possession, in transition and out of possession. The substitutes he made didn’t really manage to make an impact unfortunately and on another day, Havertz would’ve buried one of his chances and this would’ve been a fairly straightforward win for Chelsea.
Things you don’t see or hear on TV
It was a brilliant atmosphere. You couldn’t really hear United fans throughout the game up until the Ronaldo goal. The concourse before the match was amazing and Chelsea fans away from home especially are incredible, it must be said.
We went through the whole playlist of chants from ‘Oh Roman do you know what’s worth’ to ‘John Terry’s won the double’, to ‘Champions of the World.’
Something that I saw quite closely was Tuchel’s frustration throughout the game which you only see snippets of on TV. Every half chance, every clear cut chance and sloppy mistake would provoke a reaction from Tuchel on the touchline. He’s usually animated in the dugout, but this was a match like no other where his frustrations were clearly evident. He was waving his arms around, shouting at players and arguing with officials over fouls.
There aren’t many better away days than going to Old Trafford for an evening kick off. The atmosphere and vibes in the away end were incredible and it would’ve been the perfect away day if we picked up the three points.
Written by Vik (@CFCVik)
Edited by Luka Foley (@UOGLuka)
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