United set to challenge Chelsea

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The eruption follows next season.

Van Gaal revealed that he had 11 disappointed faces looking up at him in the dressing room, with the sunken eyes of United’s players pleading with him to explain how they had come to be beaten.

They dominated possession, completing nearly three times as many successful passes than the champions-elect, yet they were unzipped by a goal in the 38th minute from Eden Hazard. Life can be cruel.

Despite United’s defeat there were signs on Saturday that the battle lines have been drawn ahead of a proper title race next season. Van Gaal’s team are coming for Chelsea and this is what English football needs.

This year undoubtedly belongs to Chelsea, winning the Capital One Cup in March and sitting 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League with six games to play.

Should Chelsea win at the Emirates on Sunday and beat Leicester three days later they will be champions. This used to be United territory.

In the summer Van Gaal’s side will spend serious money again, intent on assembling a squad to threaten Chelsea, a re-energised Manchester City and possibly even Arsenal.

Van Gaal will prioritise centre backs (Mats Hummels and/or Marquinhos), an attacking midfielder (Paul Pogba) and a winger (Memphis Depay).

For now he can reflect on a promising performance, with Ander Herrera dictating the tempo of the game so impressively in front of the back four.

Luke Shaw, who has missed United’s last four Premier League games, returned at left back because of an injury to Daley Blind. He looked solid, if short of fitness.United still need to address a problem in attack, where Radamel Falcao plays without confidence and lacks sharpness. He will not be staying.

But Van Gaal’s regime, brutal as it is at times, is having a positive effect on most of this squad.

The captain Wayne Rooney, playing in a deep-lying midfield position because of injuries to key players, spoke of ‘dominating the match’.He said: ‘In terms of the way we moved the Chelsea players about, making them work, it was excellent. Over the last few months it has all started to click and the players understand what the manager wants. ‘I’ve rarely seen a team come to Stamford Bridge and dominate so much. All that was missing was the goal.’

Mourinho negated the threat of Marouane Fellaini, one ofUnited’s scorers in their 4-2victory over Manchester City the previous weekend.There was doubt whether he would be playing when his lookalike brother Mansour arrived at Chelsea’s team hotel on Saturday morning to collect tickets from Eden Hazard.

‘I had to Google him,’ explained Mourinho after a bum steer from the doorman.

In any event, he had a plan to keep the United midfielder quiet.

‘Zouma played to stop Fellaini playing in the box,’ added Mourinho. ‘He is doing amazing jobs for us. Mentally he is very strong. He has learned a lot from a tactical point of view. He is 20, so we can imagine Chelsea will have him for 10 years.’ This win extended Mourinho’s undefeated run against top-four teams to 11 games since returning to England. ‘Louis is my friend but we had them in our pockets,’ he claimed. Next season, though, promises to be very different. – Daily Mail

Original source: United set to challenge Chelsea

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