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Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United: Three things we learned

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More penalties, deadly Rash, and better subs

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United got the best of the 2019 Carabao Cup runners up Wednesday night, edging out league rivals Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Both coming off wins in the Premier League over the weekend, it’s the Red Devils who will advance to the quarterfinals thanks to two goals from academy graduate Marcus Rashford.

As we await who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will face next, here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-1 victory against Chelsea.

Death, taxes, Manchester United penalties

United have been gifted enough penalties this campaign that it’s almost expected for them to be awarded one each match. Unfortunately, they’ve failed to convert on several occasions from the spot.

Thankfully, Wednesday showed signs of a turnaround. At the Bridge, summer signing Daniel James was brought down by the Blues’ Marcos Alonso. Like clockwork, United were awarded a penalty and Rashford assumed the position. Given United’s track record with penalties this season, it’s natural for supporters to quiver at the sight of any player tasked with this responsibility. Rashford, different from Sunday, was able to find the back of the net on this attempt.

It would be hasty to conclude that all of United’s penalty problems are solved based on this performance, but it does restore some much-needed confidence in the first team after missing two straight against Norwich City.

The wrath of Rash

There’s been considerable debate around Rashford’s definitive role at Manchester United. He sports the number 10 shirt, but often plays in other positions. If Wednesday proved anything, the only place the Englishman belongs when his side is awarded a free kick on a goal-scoring opportunity is behind the ball.

Despite the score being level, Chelsea were in clear control of the match, finding momentum following Michy Batshuayi’s low finish from 20 yards out. In the 73rd minute, United found themselves with a chance to retake the lead, and it was a strike no supporter will forget anytime soon. The birthday boy’s free kick curved over the wall and settled into the back of Willy Caballero’s net, and there was nothing the ‘keeper could do to save the shot.

The screamer was very reminiscent of the David Beckham years, when United were almost always guaranteed a goal from a free kick in range. This memorable one, against a Big Six opponent no less, should silence any Rashford cynics for the time being.

OGS becoming more tactical with subs

The Norwegian still struggles in making substitutions earlier in matches, but he has improved on the strategy behind the changes. Following Batshuayi’s goal and prior to Rashford’s second, the boss sent on Anthony Martial for Victor Lindelöf, a move to strengthen his side’s attack. Andreas Pereira replaced Jesse Lingard at the same time, relieving the Englishman of his mediocre duties on the pitch. Six minutes later, United would find themselves with the advantage on goals, and so Solskjaer deemed it necessary in the final 10 minutes to focus on defense. In came Ashley Young for Man of the Match Rashford and for the remaining time, the Red Devils just held off pressure at the back until the final whistle blew.

With each match and subsequent victory, Solskjaer gradually reverts to the tactics that earned him the permanent managerial role. Starting the likes of Rashford and Harry Maguire, even while benching David De Gea, it’s clear Solskjaer is determined to win silverware this season. After all, winning the Europa League and the Carabao Cup in his first full year in charge could help Manchester United’s in next year’s summer transfer window and retain some of the current players in the process.