After the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club gave the interim manager position to Michael Carrick. Immediately after the devastating 4-1 defeat to Watford, the last game under Norwegian management, Manchester United faced two even tougher tests. First was an away examination against Villarreal, and a win would guarantee a way to the last 16 at Champions League. Then it was a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, the current leaders of the English Premier League. Despite their current place, the team is only the second favourite, so anyone can go now and profit from the bet if they believe that Londoners would get the title, not Man City, as the bookmakers think.
In those games, Michael Carrick made some impressive decisions that helped them beat the Spanish club, secure the round of 16 place, and take one point from Thomas Tuchel's side. We will talk about what allowed the coach to get a positive result in this article.
Already in the game against Villarreal, Carrick showed his original view on selecting the starting line-up. Van de Beck replaced Bruno Fernandes; Martial came on the left in attack and Telles in defence. None of these players got that many chances from the previous manager, Ole Gunnar Soskjaer, and such significant shifts in the first game for the new coach are pretty surprising. With the possible exception of the left-back position, Carrick explained this decision because the English defender suffered a slight concussion against Watford and decided to preserve him.
The 0-2 win shows that the choice of the squad for the game was correct.
Hardly anyone would argue that the game against the Londoners is one of the most important in the season for any leaders. Against Chelsea, arguably the most expertly constructed team in the Premier League, Manchester United's new manager planned a few surprises in store too.
Having judged his chances against a team that blew out Juventus 4-0 in the Champions League at the same stadium in midweek, Carrick decided to switch to a defensive model. It was only the second time this season that Cristiano Ronaldo had been named a substitute, which had previously only happened in early October against Everton. The third defensive centre-back replaced the forward. While Manchester was without their main duo of defenders - Varane due to injury, Maguire was serving a suspension after a red card in Watford match - and judging the strength of the opponents, this decision was not questionable.
The manager fielded a Matic-Fred-McTominay trio in the centre of the pitch to contain the opponent's attack. Above them was Fernandes, who, after interceptions from the defensive midfield, had to run into the attack with two speedy forwards: Rashford and Sancho.
The containment plan worked primarily thanks to David De Gea: the goalkeeper was confident in the game and made five saves. In addition, the opponents only took six shots on goal in 22 attempts, which is a very low figure.
After a series of slip-ups and weak performance, the team had shown some glimpses of bright play. The points might give players the confidence to get to the level they can deliver in every tournament.