Michael Carrick said Manchester United targeted Chelsea’s service to Jorginho and lauded the pressing of their forwards after their creditable 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Caretaker manager Carrick recalled Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to the attack, while Nemanja Matic replaced Donny van de Beek in midfield to counter Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation.
United appeared to line up with a midfield diamond with the same quartet of players that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first trialled in a 1-1 draw at Everton in March 2020, however United’s system changed shape depending on whether they were in or out of possession.
Scott McTominay dropped deep to counter Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi’s runs infield and United headed in goalless at the interval. Five minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho pounced on Jorginho’s error to score his second goal in as many games to put United ahead with their first attempt on target.
Jorginho atoned by converting a penalty carelessly conceded by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Carrick admitted United set up to counter the Italian midfielder, partnered by Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
“It’s part of football, you’ve got to dig in in both sides of the game,” Carrick said of Sancho seizing his opportunity after a laboured first-half. “We’ve talked about how you have got to earn your luck at times, it’s the kind of run of results and the situation we’ve found ourselves in.
“It’s not an easy place to come to, a place like this. Chelsea are playing well, things are going for them at the moment, they have the momentum and confidence to certainly take the ball and dominate the game, I was aware of that.
“We came here to do that, we tried to do that, we tried to hide the ball and dominate in that way but, at the same point, we were realistic.
“The front three, Marcus, Jadon and Bruno did a terrific job, a real disciplined job, of picking the moments to jump and press, but picking the moments to block the middle and give a platform for the seven behind to work off and spread the spaces so we weren’t chasing too much. I was really pleased with the effort today.
“We came here with a plan. I kind of knew how Chelsea would play and stopping the little passes they thread through to Jorginho and Loftus-Cheek through the middle of the pitch, so we were conscious of that.
“A little freshness to the team too, two or three changes, tweaks and changes with tactics, it was just what we decided to go with today and we nearly pulled it off.”
United recorded 34% possession despite fielding more central midfielders than Chelsea, who had only failed to win three of their previous 12 Premier League matches this term.
Carrick has selected McTominay and Fred, a partnership derided by a section of the United fanbase, in both of his games in charge over the last week and was impressed by how they and Matic restricted Chelsea’s creativity.
“I thought the three [midfielders] were fantastic, it came from the front three… second-guessing where the ball is going to go, they’ve got extra spaces to cover, so we tried to make it as predictable as we could to force them into certain spaces and avenues we could adapt to and I thought Nema, Scott and Fred were top drawer.
“Scotty at times had to drop into the backline and [Callum] Hudson Odoi was pulling into little areas, pulling wide at times, and once inside off the line. They put five and six across that frontline, so we needed Scotty to drop in and the three of them were terrific.”