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Winning Start Maintained In Style: United 3 Chelsea 1

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Manchester United went two points clear at the top of the Premier League after winning an exciting and highly attacking encounter with Chelsea sending Andre Villas-Boas to his first defeat as a manager in English football.

Normally in the big-crunch games between the top 4-5 teams, the games are hard-fought affairs with few chances created. This match was the complete opposite as both teams from the very first whistle went out to win the game in the mindset of trying to get on top of their opponent as soon as they possibly could whilst giving their fans great entertainment at the same time.

Chelsea to their credit started the game well with and good play in midfield saw Danny Sturridge surprisingly picked ahead of Nicolas Anelka, have the first attempt of the game go wide. The visitors were passing the ball about well but as we’ve seen so many times at Old Trafford that counts for nothing and it was to be United who would get the game’s opening goal.

Ashley Young dusted himself down after being fouled by Jose Bosingwa down United’s left flank and sent in a brilliant delivery from the resulting free-kick into the area. Chelsea failed to pick up their markers and Chris Smalling despite being marginally offside when the set-piece was taken headed home past Petr Cech to the delight of the Stretford End. It was the defender’s first league goal and what an important one at that.

Chelsea straight away responded to going a goal down and wasted two chances before United were to double their lead. The Blues’ record signing Fernando Torres dragged a shot wide of David De Gea’s right post after Anderson carelessly gave the ball away to the Spaniard. It was a chance that the Spanish forward would have expected to have taken and straight away United’s midfielder held his hand up and apologised for losing the ball.

Not long after a tremendous ball by Juan Mata found Torres inside the area. Perhaps with his confidence low the striker decided against taking a shot himself and squared the ball for Ramires to seemingly fire the ball in.  Somehow De Gea managed to scramble himself across goal to keep out the Brazilian’s shot and tip the ball out for a corner which he collected at the second attempt much to the jubilation of United’s fans within Old Trafford.

Torres was in the thick of the action moments later but his overhead kick from just inside the area flew well wide before De Gea smartly held onto a low strike from Sturridge inside the box. A moment of brilliance from Nani on 37 minutes made Chelsea pay for their missed chances.

Receiving the ball out on the right-flank from a wonderful cross-field ball from Jonny Evans, the winger ran past Juan Mata and Raul Meireles before firing in an unstoppable shot from 25 yards that sailed past Cech in goal, before the big keeper could even think about diving for the ball. It was a stunning strike by Nani who rightfully took all the praise that he deserved in his celebration.

United were now looking confident again and grabbed a third moments before the interval. A storming run from Phil Jones was too much to handle for Chelsea. The defender played the ball into Nani inside the area who tried to flick it back into his path inside the area. John Terry under pressure from Jones failed to hook the ball clear with his clearance hitting Nani and falling straight into the path of the unmarked Wayne Rooney who comfortably slotted the ball past Cech.

With the game seemingly all but won in the first half, Villas-Boas decided to take of Frank Lampard who had been invisible and brought on Anelka immediately after half-time. The Frenchman made an immediate impact and threaded a beautiful ball through in the gap between Jones and Evans for Torres who scooped the ball over De Gea to score 29 seconds after the restart.

Suddenly Chelsea looked right back in the game. Mata who was looking more impressive as the game went on almost latched onto an Anelka cross at the far-post before forcing his fellow countryman De Gea into a smart save with a crisp shot from outside the area. United though recovered from their slack start to the half and almost scored a fourth down the other end.

Another blistering shot from outside the box by Nani after a good run was deflected onto the bar. United’s Portuguese winger was the quickest player to react to the rebound and won a penalty after being hauled down by his countryman Boswinga. Wayne Rooney looked confident of scoring, but lost his footing taking the spot-kick with the ball going wide of Cech’s left-hand post. The big Czech went the right away anyway so may well have saved Rooney’s effort had it been on target.

That miss seemed to give Chelsea even more confidence to attack. Romelu Lukaku was brought on for Sturridge and but for a terrific block by Evra may have scored within a minute after strolling onto the pitch. Evra made another crucial block moments later to deny Mata from scoring after De Gea made a smart save from another Torres shot with the Chelsea’s £50m man firing a rebound well over the bar.

Down the other end Rooney missed another great chance to seal the game but dragged a shot from inside the six-yard box against the post from a tidy ball in by Evra. Javier Hernandez reacted quickest to the rebound but fired over from a tight angle. As the Mexican shot over the bar he was recklessly injured by Ashley Cole lunging in with his studs. Referee Phil Dowd booked Cole for his foul but couldn’t award United a second penalty as the ball had gone out of play before Hernandez was fouled. Work that out if you can?

With the game still well open there was still time for Chelsea to hit back. Somehow though they failed to score a second with seven minutes left thanks to a horrible miss by Torres. After rounding De Gea after latching onto a Ramires pass, the former Liverpool man somehow managed to fire wide a chance from just outside the six-yard box. It was an embarrassing chance wasted and the fans all around Old Trafford joyfully began to taunt the striker who was once loved at Anfield.

There was still time left for United to grab a fourth but Berbatov saw a scuffed-shot cleared of the line after being set up Rooney and the game somehow finished only with four goals being scored. With Noisy Neighbours Manchester City drawing 2-2 at Fulham after being 2-0 up, it capped a great day for everyone within Old Trafford. It’s been a terrific start to the season. Can it get better though?

United: De Gea, Evra, Evans, Jones, Smalling (Valencia), Young, Anderson (Carrick), Carrick, Nani, Rooney, Hernandez (Berbatov)

Star Man

Nani was the star of the game. Aside from his fantastic goal he was outstanding in the game and was the ‘go-to man’ for all of United’s attacks. He ran Ashley Cole ragged and that’s not an easy thing to do for a left-back who has had Cristiano Ronaldo in his pocket on several occasions. Yes, there were times when Nani lost the ball yesterday but his work-rate and hunger in the game was second to none and he is beginning to look more of a world class player with every week that passes by.

By Adam Dennehey  @ADennehey87