CHRIS SUTTON: Chelsea will have the possession in Wembley showdown but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t mind… stopping Bruno Fernandes is the only way Frank Lampard can throw a tactical spanner in the works
- Manchester United and Chelsea will lock horns in the semi-final of the FA Cup
- The two sides meet behind closed doors at Wembley on Sunday evening
- United are in strong form and have not lost a match since football returned
- Frank Lampard must break down Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes
The likelihood is Chelsea will have the majority of the ball at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. But it is also likely that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not mind that.
His Manchester United team have had less than 50 per cent possession 10 times in the Premier League this season and lost only once – to Liverpool at Anfield in January. They beat Manchester City home and away with 28.1 and 27.7 per cent, along with Chelsea home and away with 46.3 and 38.8 per cent.
So United don’t mind letting you have the ball because they know how to win that way. They have players who can do real damage on the break, and a No 10 in Bruno Fernandes who has added an extra edge to their attacks.
Frank Lampard has much to ponder ahead of his side’s FA Cup semi final clash at Wembley
Opta revealed in March that Mason Greenwood was clocked at 23.4mph, making him United’s fastest player this season, while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial aren’t exactly slow movers either. These aren’t bad players to have on the counter, especially against a Chelsea defence that has its faults.
Frank Lampard was sensible enough to sell the error-prone David Luiz to Arsenal at the start of the season. But he hasn’t been able to nail down his preferred centre back pairing. We’ve seen Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen start together this season. We’ve seen Christensen and Kurt Zouma.
We’ve seen Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. And so on. No club in the top 10 have conceded more goals than Chelsea’s 49. That’s their Achilles’ heel, and they need protection.
Bruno Fernandes has helped United play through the lines and raised others around him
Solskjaer has now started to rely on Nemanja Matic as the solid base of his midfield unit
N’Golo Kante has missed their last three matches because of a hamstring injury. He’s set to miss this semi final, too, and you worry for Chelsea in midfield because of that.
Not only must they try to contain Greenwood, Rashford and Martial, they have Fernandes raring to become a pain in their backsides, too. The standards of United’s play have increased since the Portuguese playmaker’s arrival. He’s raised the bar.
Special players can have that impact – it’s as if their talent is infectious. On Sunday he will be feeding United’s forwards with through-balls while also looking to test Kepa Arrizabalaga himself, most likely from outside of the box.
Chelsea will want to plan for that, but this isn’t Jorginho’s forte. Nor is it Mateo Kovacic’s. This is a job for Kante, but he is not fit enough to play the part. So while Lampard has a problem to solve there, Solskjaer seems to have found a promising combination in his own midfield.
Jorginho returned in the absence of N’Golo Kante, but may have his work cut out at Wembley
Ross Barkley is also set to be in for a busy shift as Chelsea try to nullify United’s counter-attack
The partnership between Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic is thriving. The latter’s contribution might fly under the radar, but he is vital to Solskjaer’s way – hence why he was recently rewarded with a new three-year contract at the age of 31.
Often you will see Matic drop so deep that he is in between centre backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. But when on the ball in this position, watch his passes.
He looks to break through the opponent’s lines and often manages to do so, direct into the feet of Fernandes. Solskjaer has found a formula that is working for him at present. It is up to Lampard to throw a tactical spanner in the works.
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